The NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) issued a notice to the Rajasthan government today, following the deaths of more than 100 new-borns at a state-run hospital in Kota district; according to the commission 10 deaths were recorded in a 48-hour period starting December 23. The notice has been sent to the Chief Secretary in Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's government and a detailed report has been sought within four weeks. It is expected to include steps being taken to address the issue and ensure such an incident does not recur due to lack of infrastructure and health facilities.
In a statement released to the press the NHRC has claimed that media reports say that over 50 per cent of gadgets at the hospital were defunct and that the facility lacked basic hygiene and infrastructure, including oxygen supply in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Noting the media reports the NHRC also reminded Rajasthan's Congress government the deaths could amount to a serious "violation of human rights".
"The painful deaths of children in such a large number is a matter of concern for the commission. The state is duty-bound to provide basic necessary medical care to its citizens," the statement said.
The NHRC had taken suo motu cognisance of the deaths after media reports.
The NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights) has also sent a summons - to the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital.
"We summoned Chief Medical Officer to appear today but he did not. We have issued summons to him again asking him to appear on January 7. We are going to request state Chief Secretary to ensure it is complied with," Priyank Kanoongo, the NCPCR Chairperson, told news agency ANI.
On Thursday Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted to suggest that the number of deaths was good news given that more than 1,110 babies had died at the same hospital - the JK Lon Hospital - in 2016, when the BJP was in power.
"Govt cites figures to say child casualties in JK Lon Hospital in Kota have reduced to 963 this year from 1260 in 2015 and 1193 in 2016 when the state was ruled by BJP. In 2018, 1005 children lost their lives here," Mr Gehlot said.
Earlier the state government had appointed a three-member team, led by the Medical Education Secretary and including two senior doctors, who visited the hospital in question on December 27. The team found lapses in the incubation unit of the neonatal unit - these were found to be malfunctioning and, in one instance, the hospital had placed two infants in one incubator.
The committee also claimed that the extreme cold weather made it tougher for babies already fighting for their lives. Kota district recorded minimum temperatures between 3 and 12 degrees Celsius in the final week of December.
The Congress government is under attack over the Kota tragedy from political opponents like Yogi Adityanath and Mayawati. The state has, however, been assured support by the centre. Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said a high-level team, including experts from AIIMS Jodhpur, had been dispatched.
With input from ANI