Niranjan Patnaik and Prasad Hairchandan
Lucknow, Aug. 12: The principal of the Gorakhpur medical college where 30 children died in the past two days was today suspended for allegedly delaying payment to the oxygen vendor but the state government continued to insist that the halted oxygen supply did not cause the deaths.
A health department source, however, alleged thatRajiv Mishra, suspended principal of the Baba Raghav Das Medical College, had received "orders from Lucknow" to withhold the payment because the vendor had failed to grease palms in the government.
Some parents alleged that as soon as oxygen supply was snapped on Wednesday, the government flooded the hospital with police who threw out the children's relatives from the wards and, after the deaths, from the compound itself to pre-empt protests.
State health minister Siddharth Nath Singh announced Mishra's suspension in Gorakhpur but insisted lack of oxygen did not kill the children as the hospital had made alternative arrangements.
In Lucknow, chief minister Yogi Adityanath echoed the claim. District magistrate Rajiv Rautela had yesterday mentioned that the hospital had with police help managed to gather a number of oxygen cylinders on Thursday night.
Rautela had said the hospital had told him it had paid Rs 35 lakh out of Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd's Rs 70 lakh dues, but a company executive had told him the money was yet to reach the company.
Today, the health minister said the government had transferred the money to "the account of the principal on August 5" when it came to know about the dues, "but the vendor says it received the payment only on Friday, August 11".
He added that Mishra had acknowledged receiving the money on August 7. The minister did not clarify whether the full amount had been sent to Mishra.
A health department source claimed the medical college's account had a balance of Rs 3.86 crore on Wednesday, and the vendor went unpaid because he had "failed to oblige some senior members in the government".
Media reports have quoted the parents of several of the dead children as alleging that the police had "terrorised" them on Wednesday night.
"My 16-day-old daughter died in the paediatric ward. Policemen dropped me at the railway station in an auto-rickshaw and warned me not to return. I was scared," Vijay Lal of Kushinagar has been reported as saying.
Mrityunjay Singh of Padrauna, father of a newborn who died, said: "Hospital staff pushed us out of the neonatal ward on Wednesday evening. A few minutes later, a ward boy brought out my son's body. The police then asked me to leave the hospital immediately."
Amit Singh of Deoria said: "The doctors killed my daughter Pratigya, and the police forced me out of the premises."