MUMBAI: With 41 deaths, in barely two days, reported from two government hospitals in Maharashtra’s Nanded and Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar districts, a furious opposition on Tuesday termed it “murders” and demanded criminal action against those responsible. Facing the opposition outcry, the Eknath Shinde government sent ministers Girish Mahajan and Hasan Mushrif to Nanded to assess the situation and a panel has been set up to probe the 31 deaths recorded in barely 36 hours at the Dr. Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College & Hospital there.
Another embarrassment cropped up for the ruling alliance on Tuesday with reports of at least 10 more deaths including two infants from the Government Hospital in Ghati, Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (ex-Aurangabad), triggering a fresh Opposition onslaught. Chief Minister Shinde, Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, and Health Minister Tanaji Sawant came under severe fire from the Congress’ Leader of Opposition Vijay Wadettiwar, state chief Nana Patole, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, Working President Supriya Sule, state chief Jayant Patil, Shiv Sena-UBT’s Aditya Thackeray, Sanjay Raut, Sushma Andhare, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray and spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi President Prakash Ambedkar and other parties/leaders.
Top Congress leaders from the centre including party President Mallikarjun Kharge, MP Rahul Gandhi, and General Secretary Priyanka Vadra also reacted strongly to the incidents in Maharashtra. Patole said that “the government has not learnt lessons from the 18 deaths in a single night at the state-run Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Hospital in Thane in mid-August”.
“There’s an outrage among the people… it’s evident that the Shinde-Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar government is totally indifferent and thick-skinned and all the more troubling that these deaths occurred due to lack of medicines and other essentials,” he said. Instead of spending on these much-needed medicines and requirements, “the government has money for self-glorifying events, advertisements and buying political leaders”, and the police should register “murder cases” against all those responsible, he demanded.
Sule also labelled the deaths of so many patients as “state murders” and demanded that Health Minister Tanaji Sawant must be made to resign, and compensation for the kin of the victims. Taking serious cognisance, Shinde assured that “stringent action will be taken against all those guilty after the probe” into the Nanded hospital deaths.
“On preliminary enquiry, it is found that there was no shortage of medicines, doctors or other staff, yet such a tragedy occurred. We shall investigate the matter thoroughly and take further action,” a grim Shinde told media persons. As Ministers Mushrif and Mahajan visited the Nanded hospital this evening, a large number of NCP-SP demonstrated outside the venue and demanded the sacking/resignation of the Health Minister.
Other leaders spoke on how the public health system is riddled with corruption, idling or non-functional equipment, erratic supply of medicines, inadequate medical and para-medical staff, and other problems, making them “death traps”. “Some officials demanded 40 percent commissions on deals, the government failed to procure medicines on time and funds of Rs 600 crore for 2022 lapsed. In the CM’s home town (Thane) though so many deaths took place (August), there is no progress on the probe panel set up till now…” said Patole.