Shocking Irregularities at Delhi hospital

The Asian Age.  | Bhaskar Hari Sharma

India, All India

Taking cognizance of the hospital fire, the Delhi government has directed a magisterial inquiry into the incident.

Baby Care Hospital after a fire broke out that killed seven newborns, in east Delhi, Sunday. (Image: PTI)

New Delhi: At least seven newborns died after a massive fire engulfed a children's hospital in east Delhi’s Vivek Vihar area late on Saturday night. The owner of the baby care centre, Dr Naveen Kichi, who had been on the run since the fire outbreak, along with Dr Akash, who was on duty at the time of the incident, were arrested on Sunday.

The Delhi Fire Services (DFS) said the blaze broke out at the Baby Care New Born Hospital at around 11.30 pm on Saturday and soon spread to two other adjacent buildings as the oxygen cylinders kept in the two-storey building exploded, due to which the adjacent buildings were damaged. Sixteen fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the blaze.

Twelve newborns were rescued from the facility, but seven of them died, while five babies are undergoing treatment at another hospital and are said to be out of danger. Out of the seven infants, one was reportedly dead before the fire broke out.

Taking cognizance of the hospital fire, the Delhi government has directed a magisterial inquiry into the incident.

DFS chief Atul Garg said, “The initial cause seems to have been an electrical pole igniting, which then set fire to a parked vehicle, eventually causing the oxygen cylinders to catch fire.”

"Twelve newborn babies were rescued from the hospital with the help of other people," deputy commissioner of police (Shahdara) Surendra Choudhary said in a statement, adding that when they reached the medical centre, seven were dead. The bodies have been shifted to the GTB Hospital for a postmortem. One infant reportedly died hours before the fire broke out. However, the post-mortem will be done to determine the exact reason.

Choudhary said the owner has been booked under Sections 336 (act endangering the life or personal safety of others) and 304A (causing death by negligence) at Vivek Vihar police station. It has been learnt that the police might add Section 304 against Dr Kichi, who reportedly owns several other baby care centres as well.

The police said the neonatal hospital was operating despite the expiry of its licence. It also did not have qualified doctors and had no clearance from the fire department.

Locals and members of an NGO, Shaheed Seva Dal, were the first to rush to help. Some residents climbed the building from the backside and rescued some of the newborns.

Neighbours claimed that unauthorised oxygen refilling cylinder work was being carried out in the building. It was also learnt that there was no fire extinguisher installed in the hospital for any emergency in case of a fire. Besides, there was no emergency exit in the hospital in case of any untoward incident.

After the incident, district magistrate, Shahdara, Ritisha Gupta, who reached the GTB Hospital, faced the anger of grieving family members who shouted "hume insaaf chahiye" (we need justice). The Delhi government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the fire tragedy.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has also initiated a probe into the matter. In a post on X, NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said the commission has taken cognizance of the fire incident and the newborns' deaths. An NCPCR team will visit the hospital to investigate the incident.

Expressing grief over the Delhi fire tragedy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to X and wrote, “The fire tragedy at a hospital in Delhi is heart-rending. My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this incredibly difficult time. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest.”

The Prime Minister also announced that an ex gratia of `2 lakhs from PMNRF will be given to the next of kin of each deceased. `50,000 will be given to each of those injured, the PMO said.

Condoling the deaths of children, President Droupadi Murmu prayed for strength for the bereaved parents. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said those responsible for negligence will not be spared. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi described the incident as "heart-breaking" and prayed for the early recovery of the injured children.

Firefighters battled the inferno for three hours, during which time the challenges of locating and rescuing the infants added to the difficulties.