Infant mortality in December was India’s deepest tragedy as 2020 unfolded, one that has cruelly neutralised the nationwide ha-ha over the Unicef projection that 67,385 babies would be born in India on New Year’s Day. From Kota in Rajasthan to Rajkot and Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the adult has let the newborn down, not to forget the crib deaths in Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh some time ago.
It strains credulity that the Chief Minister, an ascetic from Gorakhpur, had attributed the deaths to a scarcity of oxygen cylinders. In the immediate aftermath of the deaths of 100 babies in the span of a month in the Rajasthan government’s JK Lon Hospital in Kota, two hospitals in Gujarat have reported no fewer than 219 deaths in December. Ergo, the two neighbouring states account for 319 infant deaths in the span of a month.
The mortality graph has reached a heartrending curve. While as many as 134 infants perished in Rajkot, 85 casualties were reported in Ahmedabad. The enormity of the tragedy in Gujarat and Rajasthan would have been inconceivable in any civilized set-up. Negligent nonchalance on the part of the hospital authorities would appear to be the thread that links the public health network between the BJP’s UP, the Congress-ruled Rajasthan, and again the BJP’s Gujarat, a state that has fared commendably in the human development index.
Which is not to forget the record of crib deaths in Kolkata’s children’s hospitals. Altogether, it is a blot on India’s HDI in general. The scenario in Gujarat is frightful, even without the rough-and-ready prognosis of “underweight babies”. Of the 455 children admitted to the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital in December, as many as 85 died in course of treatment. Beyond the mere statistic, there has been little or no attempt to formulate a reasonable prognosis, indeed to get to the bottom of the malaise.
A pie-chart of the Rajkot Civil Hospital would indicate that 269 babies died in October, November and December. The why and wherefore of such tragedies remain ever so fogbound. Sad to reflect, the according of precedence has turned out to be yet another inhibiting factor. Not that “referral patients with serious ailments” should be ignored, but a Government hospital in a state as developed as Gujarat is expected to have the wherewithal to treat the referral case as much as the newborn with equal urgency.
It is hard not to wonder if Gujarat’s primary healthcare system is teetering when contextualised with the mortality rate ~ a minimum of 30 deaths per 1,000 newborns. In Rajasthan, the BJP, which had ruled the state till not too long ago, cannot cover its tracks. The adult has let down the newborn, and mortally so.