Delhi Lt Governor Takes Swipe At Arvind Kejriwal, Orders Corruption Probe Into Hospital Fire

The AAP has not yet responded to Mr Saxena's statements, but Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj has ordered a mandatory audit of safety equipment in every city hospital.

Delhi LG VK Saxena and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (File).

New Delhi:

The fire in a Delhi children's hospital last week - in which seven infants were killed - has prompted a swipe from Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, who declared himself "disappointed" that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj had "paid only lip service and given sound bites (to the press)... and shirked responsibility" since the gut-wrenching incident.

Mr Saxena said he had been compelled "in public interest" to order an anti-corruption probe into possible lapses in registration and regulatory management of private nursing homes in the city.

"... ACB has been directed to undertake a comprehensive inquiry into the registration of nursing homes in the city, to assess how many nursing homes are functioning without valid registrations and if those that have a valid registration comply with prescribed norms..." Mr Saxena said.

Alleging "absence of ministerial oversight... criminal neglect, and connivance of government officials in granting or renewing licences for nursing homes", he proclaimed he had been "forced to step in... on account of lack of seriousness on (the) part of authorities entrusted with these responsibilities".

The AAP has not yet responded to Mr Saxena's statements. However, Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj on Monday ordered a mandatory audit of safety equipment in every city hospital.

READ | After Delhi Hospital Tragedy, Minister's Big Order On Fire Safety

Mr Bhardwaj has also vowed "strictest punishment" against those guilty.

And the Delhi government has instituted a magistrate-level inquiry into the fire.

Lapses In Delhi Hospital Fire

Serious lapses have been flagged in the aftermath of the blaze, including the hospital not having an emergency exit system in case of a fire and that it did not have a valid no-objection certificate.

There were also 10 beds more than the hospital was allowed, meaning there was an unfortunate rush when the fire broke out, and panicked staff, patients, and caregivers tried to escape.

READ | Doctor On Duty Not Qualified To Treat Babies: Delhi Police

And finally, at least two of the doctors on duty at the time were not qualified to treat new-born children in need of intensive neo-natal care; perhaps most shockingly, the doctors held only BAMS, or Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery degrees.

The two, including hospital owner Dr Naveen Khichi, have been arrested.

"Have Taken Serious View", LG Says

"I have taken a very stern view (of) the matter. Although this is a transferred subject (under the sole jurisdiction of the Delhi government), I am forced to step in, in the larger public interest, on account of the lack of seriousness of authorities entrusted with these responsibilities," Mr Saxena avowed.

In a letter to the Delhi government's Chief Secretary (shared with NDTV via sources in the Lieutenant Governor's office), Mr Saxena said the Anti-Corruption Bureau had been directed to find out how many nursing homes are functioning without valid permits, including those related to fire safety.

READ | Delhi Hospital Where 7 Babies Died Not New To Controversy

"I am given to understand there are 1,190 nursing homes (in Delhi), of which over a quarter are operating without a valid registration," he claimed in his letter. "Also, there are many nursing homes that never applied for a registration but are operating nonetheless. Even those that have a valid licence may not meet safety and regulatory standards in the Delhi Nursing Homes Registration Act."

Mr Saxena - who has had frequent and acerbic run-ins with Arvind Kejriwal and his colleagues - accused the Delhi government of "brushing such serious matters under the carpet".

"The existence of such nursing homes, which serve the poorer sections, speaks volumes about the severe lack of public health infrastructure... this is a larger neglected issue..." he said.

On Sunday Mr Saxena "directed" the Chief Secretary (who reports to the Chief Minister) and the city's Police Commissioner (who reports to the Union Home Minister) to "institute an inquiry".

Delhi Children's Hospital Fire

Earlier this month Mr Saxena also ordered a NIA probe against Mr Kejriwal over allegations he received funds from the banned Sikhs For Justice group led by wanted terrorist Gurpatwant Pannun.

READ | NIA Probe Against Kejriwal? Lt Governor's New Claim, AAP Replies

Mr Kejriwal's party hit back swiftly via Mr Bhardwaj, who dismissed the probe call as a "conspiracy" against the party and its leader. "LG sir is an agent of the BJP... This is another big conspiracy against Chief Minister Kejriwal at the behest of the BJP," he said in a brief statement.

READ | Delhi LG Backs Swati Maliwal, AAP Says It Proves Her BJP Link

In recent weeks Mr Saxena has also stepped into the Swati Maliwal row; the Delhi LG, as many would have predicted, came out in support of Ms Maliwal, who has accused Mr Kejriwal's aide of assault. The LG declared himself "deeply distressed" by the whole incident.

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