Ready to join back if Yogi revokes my suspension, says Dr Kafeel
Dr Kafeel Khan, who received bail after languishing for eight months in jail in connection to the Gorakhpur tragedy said on Wednesday that he is ready to join back to serve in BRD Medical College if Yogi –led Uttar Pradesh government revokes his suspension.
“If not, I will open a state-of-art centre in Gorakhpur to fight the scourge of encephalitis which has killed close to 25,000 children in the past 25 years. In the centre, there will be no shortage of doctors, oxygen or other services. My soul resides in India, I will not leave Gorakhpur or India,” Dr Khan said addressing the media in New Delhi.
After completing his post-graduation in Paediatrics, Dr Khan had received an opportunity to pursue a fellowship in Neonatology in Australia along with a handsome salary of Rs four lakhs a month. “If I had to leave this country, I would have left it long ago. Instead after studying in Manipal, I returned back to Gorakhpur on insistence of my family and started serving in the children’s ward of BRD Medical College,” he said.
Of his days in jail, Dr Khan reminisces, being packed in a small room with 150 to 180 prisoners, while the capacity was merely 60. Dr Khan used to read and write for up to 18 hours in jail. For the first two weeks, he was in a state of shock and disbelief. Eventually he started tending to prisoners who were drug and alcohol addicts. “I started maintaining a stock of paracetamol and antibiotics. Addicts used to get seizures, where they could choke on their own saliva, if it were not cleaned. I tended to them, cleaning their saliva, providing antibiotics to prisoners who had diarrhea,” he said.
Manish Bhandari, oxygen cylinder supplier of Pushpa Sales who was languishing with Dr Kafeel told the latter that in spite of serving up to 19 reminders to UP government; his payment up to Rs 70 lakhs was not cleared. Also, Dr Khan said, “I had nothing to do with procurement of oxygen cylinders. I got to know that the supply has diminished through whatsapp. I was on casual leave. Instead of choosing to relax at home, I attended to the call of duty. And I was incarcerated for that.”
Dr Khan who worked as a lecturer, a junior-most position in the hospital, when the tragedy struck, he and his colleagues worked for 48 hours straight to arrange for 250 oxygen cylinders to save babies, as oxygen supply was cut off for three hours straight from 11.30 pm onwards on August 9 last year. Rubbishing allegations that he was siphoning of cylinders for his private practice, he said that he had quit his private practice on August 8 in 2016.
“The liquid oxygen tank is stationed at a height of 200 feet with a capacity of 300 liters. Am I a superman to refill oxygen cylinders climbing that insane height and manually transporting them?,” Dr Khan asked.
On visiting the hospital, Yogi Adityanath confronted Dr Khan and asked him, “Tum Dr Kafeel ho?Tum car se cylinder laye the? Main dekhta hu, tum cylinder laake hero kaise bante ho?.” (Are you Dr Kafeel? Did you bring cylinders from the car? I will see how you become a hero by getting cylinders.)
The government did not know how to react back then as they were in a state of denial, said Dr Khan. While on a daily basis close to eight children die in the ward, on the fateful days of August 10 and 11, up to 30 children died on each day. “We did not conduct post-mortem of babies. While there were deaths due to oxygen depletion as the amount of deaths drastically rose, we were trying to save each and every baby. I am sorry we could not save all children,” Dr Khan said remorsefully.
“When I was released, parents whose children had died were standing outside the jail with placards, along with a thousand others who had gathered for support. They know I tried to save their kids and had done no wrong.”
After the tragedy, Dr Khan was forced to flee, as threats to arrest him increased, he later surrendered in Lucknow after his brother and sister were picked up by police. “After I surrendered, I was taken to Hydel guest house and kept there for up to eight hours. I was verbally abused. I was threatened with abuses like the National Security Act (NSA) would be slapped on me. I spoke back to the police. I told them I will take to the media and raise a hue and cry if they dare touch me. They did not hit me then,” said Dr Khan.
The UP police had slapped charges of Indian Penal Code 308 – attempt to commit culpable homicide on Dr Khan. “They had no shred of evidence to produce in court. They could not prove a thing. But we had to wait for eight months to get bail. I had lost all hope. Inside the jail, I was told I should lose hope of release before 2019 elections,” stated Dr Khan.