Gorakhpur, with a population of over 7 lakhs, is one of the major cities of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and is the headquarters of North Eastern Railways. The town is situated near the Indo-Nepal border on the banks of River Rapti and has been in news recently for being the city that has sent Yogi Adityanath to Parliament for 5 consecutive terms.
However, this article is not about the story of Gorakhpur’s history, or how the longest railway platform in the world is now in Gorakhpur, or how Premchand started his writing career in Gorakhpur or how Geeta Press, the world’s largest publisher of Hindu religious text, started. This is about the curious case of Japani Bukhar (Japanese Encephalitis), Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, and Gorakhpur. For sake of excluding the recent noise around the horrifying death of 30 kids, this article will only have links and reference to news articles and reports prior to August 1, 2017
Gorakhpur region (Deoria, Gorakhpur, Kushinagar and Maharajganj) is the epicenter of Japanese Encephalitis disease in India (Though the disease is widespread across the country with cases being reported from North East and West Bengal. Since the first case which was detected in 1978 in this region, over 40,000 cases have been reported with around 15,000 deaths. The first major study on the topic for Gorakhpur was done by P.C. Kanojia, P.S. Shetty, G. Geevarghese from National Institute of Virology (ICMR) in 2002 which stated how the cocktails of subtropical climate, frequent floods, canal system, massive paddy cultivation among other things are responsible for the outbreak every year.
Japanese Encephalitis is a deadly disease that is transmitted via mosquitoes during the peak monsoon season. The virus usually attacks children below the age of 15 and is deadly for children below the age 5. The disease is such that even if the kid survives it, there is a 30-50% chances the virus will cause permanent damage to the brain and the kid will be left with partial paralysis or seizures or speech problems or cognitive disabilities for the rest of his life.
This seasonally epidemic was somehow always a lower priority for the Delhi media – mostly because deaths in Eastern UP won’t get the required TRP and the state was under the secular rule of Mayawati/SP for the last 10 years. This epidemic was never discussed even when the MP from the region – Yogi Adityanath has represented Gokharpur since 1998 – raised it regularly both inside and outside of the Parliament.
Let us look back at the efforts Yogi Adityanath took as an MP and then as a CM to highlight and control the Japanese Encephalitis menace:
As an MP
- Yogi raised this point in Parliament in 2014 where he describes how the disease spreads, how ill-prepared Indian hospitals are to tackle the problem and what govt agencies can and should do. He highlighted how the centre of excellence for research on the disease was opened in Lucknow when the problem is in Eastern UP
He mentions how Gorakhpur has been ignored by successive govt when it is an epicenter of major water and vector borne diseases like Malaria, JE, Dengue and et al
- Yogi Adityanath has been raising this issue since 1998 and it was something he mentioned in his farewell speech also. It was Yogi Adityanath efforts that got AIIMs campus in Gorakhpur after NDA government was formed in 2014. (Watch after 7:21minutes)
- Yogi took out a march to get the attention of the state Govt over this issue in 2013
- Yogi raising the issue in 2011 in Parliament where he requested the disease to be declared an epidemic (of course it was not declared an epidemic even after this)
- Yogi Adityanath has kept Japanese Encephalitis as one of his top priorities. He started a massive vaccination drive in the first 3 months of his tenure with a target to vaccinate 88 lakh children.
- In May 2017 Yogi’s speech requesting people to take the vaccine against Japanese Encephalitis and the importance of hygiene in protection against diseases
30 deaths on August 10th and 11th that caught the Media’s attention!
As per the UP Government/BRD Hospital records, the number of deaths during the monsoon season is represented in the chart below:
The stat shows a shocking average of 19 to 25 deaths every day during and post the monsoon!
There is no defense for the death of these kids. It is a preventable disease which has a vaccine and the only thing that stops the vaccine from reaching the kids is a broken administration and lack of empathy by the bureaucracy. However, it is important to check the series of events around the death of the 30 kids before solely blaming Yogi Adityanath.
As per the reports, there was a pending bill of some 65 lakhs by the vendor of the oxygen cylinder and the hospital had failed to pay it even after 40 reminders. Imagine the complete lack of empathy by the hospital staff that they ignored 40 reminders. The hospital was aware that it was running short of the oxygen and it did nothing. As per another report, the fact that vendor was not paid was kept hidden from the CM during his visit.
Is it a case of complete incompetency on part of the bureaucracy or a conspiracy is something Yogi Adityanath needs to find out quickly?
As the news of deaths gathered a life of its own, another angle has come up – The deaths did not occur when the hospital ran out the oxygen, instead all the deaths were either due to Japanese Encephalitis or natural. The press conference by Siddharth Nath Singh (Between 20:00 to 31:00 in the video) states the causes behind each of the deaths and how none of the deaths were during the 3hrs period when the hospital ran out of the oxygen. Do check this where he explains the reason behind each of the death.
Since the news broke out, the Delhi based media has run a massive campaign where all the facts were ignored and the news was presented as if this disease was discovered yesterday and Yogi Adityanath himself cut the oxygen supply to kill the children. Some of the comments were not only silly but very offensive!
The first step to solve any problem is to recognize it – Yogi Adityanth’s past records tells us that he knows the problem first hand and he is probably the only person who can work to solve it. It is important for the state Government and the central government to declare Japanese Encephalitis as a national emergency and a team of top doctors and Virology experts must be put into task to develop a plan for vaccination and prevention of the disease next year. India won the war over Small Pox and Polio and there is no reason why the country can’t win this war over Japani Bukhaar!