Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said on Sunday that exemplary action would be taken against those found responsible for the scores of deaths since last week at a state government run hospital in Gorakhpur.
The Union government also announced the setting up of a regional medical centre at a cost of Rs 85 crore in Gorakhpur for research into children's diseases.
"We have formed a high-powered committee under the state chief secretary to probe the reason of the deaths of children in the BRD Medical College and the supply of oxygen. Stringent action will be taken against the guilty, whether in Gorakhpur or elsewhere," Adityanath said.
The punishment will 'set a standard', I assure you, the UP chief minister, who was addressing a joint press conference with Union Health Minister J P Nadda, said.
The committee led by the chief secretary will also probe the role of the oxygen supplier and give its report in a week, he said.
Meanwhile, tragedy continued to descend upon Gorakhpur's BRD Medical College as another child succumbed to encephalitis on Sunday, taking the death toll over 70.
As many as 11 children had died on Saturday and until Friday the death toll stood at 60.
According to officials, since August 7, 60 children had died in the hospital due to various diseases.
Nadda said that a regional medical centre would be set up in Gorakhpur for in-depth research into children's ailments.
"During the last parliamentary session, I assured Adityanath ji that a full-fledged institute will be set up. Before coming here, I approved the establishment of a regional medical research centre in Gorakhpur, at a cost of Rs 85 crore. This institute will conduct research into the infections of children and their possible reasons," Nadda said.
Speaking before him, Adityanath had made a strong pitch for the establishment of a 'full-fledged virus research centre' in Gorakhpur.
"The geography of east UP is such that we cannot win the war against vector-borne diseases until and unless we have a full-fledged virus research centre. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given AIIMS, we have started it. But, there should be a full-fledged virus research centre in Gorakhpur," Adityanath told the press conference.
The chief minister said that he was waging a war against Japanese encephalitis since two decades.
"I have witnessed children of east UP dying. We will not allow this to happen...Who can be more sensitive on this issue? I raised this issue from the streets to the Parliament...No one can understand the pain and agony more than me," Adityanath said, his voice choking with emotion.
The chief minister said that in 38 districts of the state, intensive vaccination had been initiated for more than 90 lakh children.
Referring to the media, he said that wrong reports should be avoided and the facts must come out.
Nadda said that Adityanath used to raise the issue of Japanese Encephalitis during every session of the Parliament.
This was the first time that the issue was not raised as Adityanath was not there, the Union health minister said.
He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed concern over the deaths, and was constantly monitoring the situation.
"The government of India is extending all possible support to the state government. The Centre has taken initiatives for UP as well as for Gorakhpur, whether it is the establishment of an AIIMS or an ICMR centre," Nadda said.
The opposition on Sunday attacked the government on the issue.
The Congress demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the deaths and alleged that the state government was trying to bury the truth.
The party said that reports had emerged that the unusually high number of deaths occurred due to neglect and mismanagement.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati also attacked the state government saying that BRD college principal Dr Rajeev Mishra has been made a 'scapegoat', after he was suspended following the death of 30 children at the hospital within a span of 48 hours.
"By making the college principal a scapegoat, the state government is trying to absolve itself of all responsibility," Mayawati said.
She also termed as 'irresponsible' Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh's remarks that 'many children die' in the month of August every year at the Gorakhpur-based state-run hospital.
The SP also held protests on the issue.
Meanwhile, the state government has asked all the medical colleges to ensure that there is no shortage of medicines or oxygen, an official said today.
The Uttar Pradesh government's medical education department, in a letter to the medical colleges, also directed them to immediately pay all the outstanding dues to the oxygen suppliers (if any).
"After the Gorakhpur tragedy, we have issued a written order to all the nine government medical colleges and 12 other prominent medical institutes in the state to ensure that there is no shortage of any medicine or oxygen in the hospitals," additional chief secretary, medical education Anita Bhatnagar Jain told PTI.
"If there is any pending payment, which is yet to be made to any gas supplier, then it should be done immediately. There should be no shortage of oxygen in the institute, and adequate stock of oxygen must be maintained," Jain said.
The principals of all the medical colleges in the state have also been told to personally ensure that there is no shortage of any medicine or oxygen, and no laxity in this regard will be tolerated, she said.
"The deaths of children in Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur was not because of shortage of oxygen. The payment for gas supply in BRD Medical College was already done.
"Principals of all the medical colleges have been told to personally ensure that there is no shortage of any medicine or oxygen. They have also been told to personally monitor the gas level. There should not be any delay in making payments. If there is any problem, then it must be conveyed to the state government at the earliest," Jain said.
With ANI inputs.