The National Human Rights Commission, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports that ten infants were killed in a fire that swept through the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) at Bhandara District General Hospital in Maharashtra on 09.01.2021. The fire reportedly broke out at around 1.30 am and the hospital administration could rescue only seven out of the seventeen children kept in the ward. A relief of Rs 5 lakhs has been announced by the state government from the Chief Minister’s Fund to each bereaved family and a state wide fire audit has also been announced. A case of accident has been reportedly registered and further investigation is being conducted.
The Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and DGP, Government of Maharashtra calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks.
The Director-General of Police is also expected to inform the Commission about the outcome of the investigation being conducted by the police authorities. The report must contain the fire audit reports of various hospitals in the state as well as what measures have been taken or contemplated to be taken by the state against the erring or negligent officers/officials so that they cannot go with impurity.
Issuing the notices, the Commission has observed that the victim babies were in the custody of a state-run hospital where they lost life. Hence, the state cannot escape its responsibility. This is a serious issue of violation of human rights for which the accountability of the negligent officers/officials is required to be fixed, with retrospective effect. The monetary relief alone is not sufficient to compensate. Further, it is imperative to ensure that the support systems in various hospitals in the state must provide adequate care and attention to the patients for protection of their human rights.
According to the media reports, prima facie, the fire perhaps originated from the Air Conditioner and the victim babies died due to suffocation caused by the smoke. Reportedly, a committee headed by the Health Director will probe the incident and submit its report within three days. Electrical Department officials are reportedly investigating into the exact cause of the fire as reported by quoting the Superintendent of Police of Bhandara district.
National Human Rights Commission
[Press Release dt. 11-01-2021]