Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday visited the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur where over 60 children died in five days and said anyone found guilty of negligence would not be spared.

However, rubbishing Adityanath’s claim that the deaths occurred due to vector-borne diseases, the Congress termed them as “murders” and “massacre” and demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the incident.

Visiting the government-run hospital, which falls in his parliamentary constituency Gorakhpur, which he has been representing for two decades, along with Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda, Adityanath said the government was waiting for a report of the probe committee.

“I have formed a high level Committee under the supervision of the Chief Secretary and a thorough probe has been ordered to check the cause of the deaths in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and the supply of oxygen.

“Let the report of the Committee come… I want to assure you all that not only in Gorakhpur but in any government hospital if there has been any lapse then we will take strict action after the BRD hospital tragedy,” he said.

The Chief Minister also accused the opposition parties of politicising the issue.

“Those whose sensitivity has died are now trying to rub salt on the wounds by raising this issue unnecessarily,” he said.

The Congress, however, charged the Adityanath government of a “cover-up” in an attempt to bury the truth.

“According to evidence that have emerged till now, and looking at the comments of the officials and the kin of the victims, the unusually high number of deaths occurred due to neglect and mismanagement, and not due to any disease as being claimed by the BJP government in the state,” Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi.

“It has been proved that it was not just a tragedy but it was a murder and massacre…We demand an independent probe under the supervision of a Supreme Court judge,” he said, terming the Chief Minister, the state Health Minister, and the BRD Medical College’s Principal “all responsible for the deaths” of the children.

The UP government has denied the deaths took place due to lack of liquid oxygen in the hospital, but Adityanath has insisted that the deaths occurred due to encephalitis and other reasons.

He and Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh had contended on Saturday that there has been no death due to lack of oxygen supply, but did concede there was a problem in supply of liquid oxygen for four hours on August 10 which was made up by the system switching to cylinders.

On Sunday, Adityanath also sought the Central government’s help to set up a virology research centre in eastern UP to fight vector-borne diseases like encephalitis, which claim several lives each year.

“The atmosphere of eastern Uttar Pradesh is such that there are many vector-borne diseases like encephalitis. To stop the diseases we need to have a full-fledged virology research centre,” Adityanath said.

Nadda meanwhile announced that the Centre has approved Rs 85 crore for setting up a central virology research centre in Gorakhpur.

Union Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel and Union Health Secretary C.K. Mishra visited the hospital on Saturday to look into the lapses in the BRD Medical College.

The principal of the medical college R.K. Mishra was suspended for alleged negligence and callousness.

But the Congress mocked the actions and the probe. “How can an accused probe allegations against himself?” asked Shergill, who also questioned why autopsies were not carried out on the children who died in the hospital. “How can the government claim that deaths happened due to any disease without carrying out autopsies or any probe?”

Shergill also sought to know why no case had been registered against the hospital officials and “why has not the Health Minister been sacked yet?”

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