Five infants, born on Thursday at the district hospital in Motihari in Bihar, died on early Friday morning, as they were left with their mothers out in the open to brave the winter chill.
The reason being cited by the hospital authorities is that there were no beds or accommodation inside the hospital building.
Civil surgeon Dr Dharmadeo Singh, however, said the toll was four, and not five. Of them, he said, two died soon after birth, the third passed away due to injuries sustained in a fall from a rickshaw and the fourth was not even entered in the register of the hospital.
While Kanti Devi of Bariyarpur, Anita Devi of Belwa, Hasina Khatoon of Rarhiya and Gayatri Devi of Pipra are the four women who have lost their children, the fifth one is still unidentified.
But even though the civil surgeon tried to refute the allegation that the children were left in the open, he formed a four-member team of doctors to probe the incident and submit its report in 24 hours. Curiously, one of the points that the enquiry committee was asked to focus on was whether the patients were given blankets.
Meanwhile, the family members and the people in general accused the hospital staff of sheer negligence. East Champaran district magistrate Narmadeshwar Lal said, “The report of the medical board constituted by the civil surgeon is yet to come to me. We will set up another probe panel to fix the responsibility.”
Union Minister of State for Agriculture Akhilesh Prasad Singh, who is the local member of Parliament, said the deaths happened due to the “criminal negligence” of government officials and demanded another inquiry to be instituted by the state health secretary.
District RJD president Arun Kumar Yadav termed the death of the infants as “cold-blooded murder” and demanded action against the civil surgeon.
“Such incidents are inhuman and shameful, especially when a huge amount of money is being spent by the Centre and the state government on the health sector,” he said.