Are you aware of the details of the Gorakhpur hospital tragedy where 63 infants and 18 adults lost their lives due to a failure in oxygen supply in the Gorakhpur hospital in August 2017? If not, have a read-through at this startlingly dark, yet illuminating memoir of this grotesque incident by none other than Dr Kafeel Khan who was one of those implicated in this case, imprisoned and later released. Read his version of reality as it happened.
The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy: A Doctor’s Memoir of a Deadly Medical Crisis
You know I always feel that Covid 19 as a pandemic has been an experience which has had life-altering repercussions, especially with the way it threatened to disturb the peace and normalcy of our lives. There was a dark dance of deaths all around and the period in which people were struggling to procure and get hold of even some of the bare minimum basic health facilities and necessities, that was perhaps the worst possible period humanity has ever witnessed in a long time.
And I would say in this scenario perhaps it is activist Kafeel Khan who must have experienced the true blue deja-vu when he must have seen all of this. Why? Well, we all know of the case of August 2017 when around 63 children and 18 adults from the Baba Raghav Das Medical College’s Nehru Hospital, Gorakhpur died owing to a dearth of oxygen supply. Dr Kafeel Khan, the doctor in charge at the time, was subsequently arrested and imprisoned. He was later cleared of all charges and subsequently documented all of this in the book titled “The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy: A Doctor’s Memoir of a Deadly Medical Crisis”. This is the book I read and want to talk about with you all today.
“One day I was hailed a hero. The Government machinery changed the narrative and the mainstream media also bought into it and labelled me as a murderer.”
Said Dr Khan, asserting that all people from positions of higher power had made him a scapegoat.
The book narrates the ordeal he went through when he was imprisoned for nearly 9 months. Recounting how there was one toilet for 200 prisoners of one barrack at that time, he recounts the harrowing experience, adding that here too, money plays an important role and if one has money, one could be much comfier. Adding how in the other barrack, there was one UP minister who put forth the ugly naked truth of the sad travesty of India’s law and order.
At that time, it was widely reported that the supply of piped liquid oxygen to the Baba Raghav Das Medical College’s Nehru Hospital, Gorakhpur had run out on August 10, 2017. Whilst it was finally restored on August 13, 63 infants and 18 adults have already lost their lives. The government has since then maintained that no deaths happened due to lack of oxygen. Whilst a similar scenario ensued in 2021, during the second wave of the pandemic. This book by Dr Khan is a delving into what actually happened in these instances and also the aftermath of the same.
Yes, indeed if you ask me the truth, the first instance certainly is a sad tragedy not uncommon, many times even in our own country. What makes it worse in the second instance is the fact that all the mud-slinging, political targeting, media involvement, rebuking and apathy depicted by the administration is something which we all know but sadly not much has been done against it so far.
I was amazed at learning how Dr Kafeel Khan who selflessly strived at such critical junctures and medical emergencies, was actually perceived and typecasted as an attention seeker, when in fact he was the only one trying his level best to save lives at his own expense and risk. So, instead of being helmed as the saviour and champion of commoners at that point in time owing to his selfless pursuits towards saving lives and balancing the state’s health infrastructure machinery, he was actually “thrown under the bus”, being labelled villain in the aftermath of the tragedy.
One section of the book also recounts his life whilst in the prison, a grim picture, I would say which made me actually pause and appreciate the life we all have today. It was on the other hand, also heartwarming to read about his positive revelations of how his family stuck alongside him through thick and thin. I am sure it must have been a really trying time for all of them, having to share and at the same time, ease it out for him, especially since he was not the guilty party in the first place. It was heartbreaking to read how at one point his family was forced to sell off even their basic household items in order to be able to meet the legal expenses. I was shocked to discover how his brother was shot in Gorakhpur, again an event which has been described by some sections of the media as “staged”.
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A landmark title, simply for its uncanny ability to be able to put out a stark clear picture of the unfortunate state of Indian health systems and also the horrible travesty of Indian politics. In a country where people actually do not look upto religions as boundaries but as forces of the society such as groups of opportunistic, power-hungry media looking at government validations, trying to sensationalize Dr Khan’s religious background in the event, this is an eye opener to the distressing state we are in, in a darkly illuminating manner. Great writing, it is always another experience I’d say, to hear it from the main source and I really felt moved to be able to dip in this one, sifting through the hard realities put forth for us to pore through and debilitate as to what is the reality.
So, hope you guys liked my review of The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy: A Doctor’s Memoir of a Deadly Medical Crisis by Kafeel Khan.
This post is part of the #BlogchatterA2Z challenge