Asleep since 2014: How domestic press, Congress & BJP awakened to Kota child deaths only now

Asleep since 2014: How domestic press, Congress & BJP awakened to Kota child deaths only now

At the government-run JK Lon Hospital in Kota, Rajasthan, 100 children died in December. This became the big news stage with people calling to lack of equipment and attention the hygiene levels in the hospital. And with it came the blame game between Congress’s Ashok Gehlot and the BJP all week.

What many did not see was that the hospital’s previous records, which showed that 963 children had died in 2019, most of them infants. But this was the lowest figure in five years – on average, nearly 1,100 infants had been dying every year since 2014. The startling figures and the belated media policy are why Kota’s JK Lon Hospital’s baby deaths is ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

How come it caught the attention of the national media today if the present situation has persisted for at least five decades?

Care’s politics

All political parties would be wise to keep in mind that the number of deaths of children in Kota under both Congress’ Ashok Gehlot government and BJP’s Vasundhara Raje authorities have been nearly 1,100 each year on an average. Number of kids – 1,260 – had died in 2015.

No wonder many are asking the national and regional media have raised this issue of child deaths in Kota only now. Some local reporters have been highlighting issues like lack of hospital equipment, shortage of staff and overall poor hygiene levels, though some reporters have even surreptitiously donated heaters. However, the news of these deaths remained neighborhood. The media took its time to report on this.

The hospital is and facilities and the equipment are inadequate. Out of the sanctioned list of 533 equipment necessary for treating patients, only 213 are in a working condition while the remaining 320 are broken. There’s absolutely not any end to the amount of items that are wrong with the JK Lon Hospital: a single bed crammed with four patients, pigs encircling the hospital construction, wards with windows that don’t have any glass, and ventilators which do not usually do the job, each one is used for two babies.

Nearly all patients in Kota’s JK Lon Hospital have no other choice but to endure and come from poor backgrounds. Many also come in nearby districts and lose each day’s work because they are farmers, welders, and contractual labourers. They are the ones to bear the brunt of overworked and exhausted doctors and guards that are moody. More often than not, they don’t understand the treatment their children need or what they are going through, and they cannot afford private hospitals. But it is a system where everybody blames each other and passes the dollar — from doctors to the hospital superintendent to the state government and the central authorities.

The Kota child deaths are a manifestation of India’s fractured health system where children die due to lack of oxygen supply, infants die after consuming litchi on empty stomachs, and many others die daily for various other ailments.

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