New Delhi: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Saturday asserted that the death of 63 children in Gorakhpur was "due to lack of oxygen" and demanded that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath apologise to the deceased's families and the dismissal of state Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh.
"The UP government says the deaths were not due to lack of oxygen. It was 100 per cent due to lack of oxygen. This is the state government's responsibility. The deaths took place due to the negligence and mistakes of the state government," Azad told reporters.
"The Chief Minister was an MP from Gorakhpur. If he is not aware what is happening in his constituency, then he should apologise to the families of the deceased and the families must be given financial compensation. Just suspending the principal of the college and announcing an inquiry is an 'eyewash'", he added.
Demanding that the inquiry be initiated under the supervision of a sitting Supreme Court judge, Azad said: "If a parliamentary all-party delegation is formed, then I can prove it in four days the deaths took place due to the lack of liquid gas. The administration knew about it but still did not take action."
He added: "We spoke to all the staff of the hospital. The doctors had alerted the administration about the shortage of oxygen. It was being reported for 15 days but neither the hospital administration not the state government took any action.
"This was not doctors' fault. The administration was responsible for this," he said.
"The central and state government completely failed. The state government must ensure that no deaths occur in future due to lack of oxygen," Azad added.
On being asked that the state government was not willing to admit that the deaths were due to lack of oxygen, Azad said: "They have already given judgement. I urge the media that this issue should not be brushed under the carpet.
Azad visited the Gorakhpur Medical College along with other Congress leaders including Raj Babbar, Pramod Tiwari and Sanjay Singh.
"I express my condolences to the families of those children who died, on behalf of party president Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi," he said.
He also said he visited the medical college thrice as the Union Health Minister. "If I have given money to any medical college in the country, the highest amount was given to Gorakhpur Medical College."
"During my tenure of five years as minister, senior health officers visited 14 times. Many facilities which were not available were provided to the hospital. A 100-bed child hospital was also set up," the minister said, adding that in 2013, Rs 150 crore was given for a super-specialty hospital.
Youth Congress and NSUI workers on Saturday organised a candle light march at Gurudwara Rakabganj Road near Adityanath's residence.