Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Saturday finally made a statement about the 63 children who died at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital since August 7 in his constituency of Gorakhpur. While reports alleged that the children had died after a shortage of oxygen supply to the hospital, the Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister linked the deaths to encephalitis.

Adityanath described the deaths as unfortunate and said that not all the deaths were caused by a shortage of oxygen supply, News18 reported. “I will get a detailed report on the cause of deaths soon,” the chief minister said. Minister of State for health Anupriya Patel will visit Gorakhpur on Sunday to assess the situation and a panel led by the chief secretary will investigate the oxygen supplier’s role, Adityanath said.

The chief minister said encephalitis has been a challenge since 1978. “The disease has increased because of unhygienic conditions and open defecation in Uttar Pradesh,” Adityanath said. “Sarkaarein samasya nahi ho saktin, agar sarkar swayam mein samasya hai to sarkar ko phir rehne ka adhikaar nahi. [Governments are not the problem. If they are, then they have no right to exist.]”

The state’s Medical Education Minister Ashutosh Tondon had said that the government had dismissed the institute’s principal, Rajiv Mishra, for his “negligent behaviour” in the Gorakhpur deaths case. The principal, however, claimed that he had submitted his resignation before the submission order and accepted responsibility for the deaths.

Opposition members had demanded the resignation of the state’s Chief Minister and Gorakhpur MLA Adityanath over the deaths. The state government assured the public of stringent action against those found responsible for the deaths at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur, ANI reported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences over the loss of lives.

Government denies shortage of oxygen reports

“The children did not die due to a disruption of [oxygen] gas supply,” Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh told reporters. Uttar Pradesh’s Medical Education Minister Ashutosh Tondon said a high-level investigation into the matter will be conducted.

While the state administration acknowledged that the hospital operated with oxygen supply for two hours on Thursday night, it said not all the deaths occurred during that time, NDTV reported. Authorities conducted raids at the Lucknow-based oxygen suppliers premises.

Officials at the oxygen plant had written to the Chief Medical Officer on Thursday morning informing him about the depleting stock of oxygen, which would last till evening. Fresh cylinders were brought in at around 1:30 am on Friday after the supply was disrupted at 11.30pm on Thursday, NDTV reported.