Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy on Saturday came under severe fire from BJP and Congress leaders who accused him of using the unfortunate death of a boy for politics.
The former chief minister, in attempting to highlight a case of alleged medical negligence in Tumakuru, posted photos of his party leaders carrying the body of a five-year-old boy atop the party’s Pancharatna Yatre campaign vehicle with Kumaraswamy on board.
Parents of the boy alleged that delay in the arrival of an ambulance and absence of a doctor at the government hospital led to the death of the child who had fallen into a water sump.
“Kumaraswamy should not have stooped to such a level and used a five-year-old boy’s death by carrying his body on his election campaign vehicle to show the audience (people) how insensitive the government is. He has, instead, ended up showing how insensitive he and his JD(S) party workers are,” said BJP leaders on Saturday.
“Our heart goes out to the deceased boy and his family members, who are distraught at this time. While we express our compassion and sympathy for the family, no one should use the death of a person for their political ambitions,” said Mahesh G, BJP spokesperson.
“The parents of the deceased boy were taking his body to the police station and for the final rites when the JD(S) leader took advantage of the situation to blame the government. This looks stage-managed and is not at all value-based politics. The people of Karnataka will not listen to or entertain such leaders,” Mahesh added.
Kumaraswamy, on Friday, was busy with his party’s Pancharatna Yatre — the JD(S) election campaign — in Madhugiri taluk in Tumkur district.
It was around 5.30 pm evening, and his campaign vehicle was near the Kodigenahalli police station in Madhugiri subdivision where he was addressing a crowd.
A 48-year-old carpenter, Shaukat, along with his wife Mallika Banu and a few others, were seen carrying the corpse of a child to the police station where they had come to file a complaint.
JD(S) party workers who inquired with the parents about what happened, learnt that the five-year-old boy, Mohammed Abu, had fallen into a sump near his house that evening.
Abu’s sister Suhana, a physically challenged girl, informed her mother about the accident.
Abu was taken to the Kodigenahalli government hospital by his parents. They had to walk all the way as they could not find an ambulance.
“When they reached the hospital, a nurse and an assistant declared the boy as “brought dead”.
The nurse, however, called up the duty doctor who was out on a field visit. Soon after the doctor returned, the body of the boy was handed over to his parents, who took it to the Kodigenahalli police station to file a complaint.
When JD(S) party workers got to know of the incident, one of them was seen taking the corpse onto the campaign vehicle where Kumaraswamy quizzed the family members about the incident and their hospital visit.
Kumaraswamy then tore into the ruling BJP government and held the state health ministry responsible for the boy’s death. He said there was no ambulance available during the “golden hour”, and that, even after reaching the hospital, there were no duty doctor present to treat the child.
As Kumaraswamy’s tirade against the state government went viral on social media, Minister of Medical Education and Health Dr K Sudhakar tweeted: “I’m deeply saddened by the unfortunate death of a five-year-old boy, who on Friday accidentally drowned in a water storage tank in Kodigenahalli of Madhugiri taluk. The parents, who found out about it by 4.15 pm, had brought their child to the Kodigenahalli PHC by around 5 pm. While the nursing officer and a Group D employee were present at the PHC, it is learnt that a doctor who was on OPD duty till 4.30 pm, had later left for a visit to the Maidanahalli area.”
“The doctor, who returned to the Centre after he was made aware of the emergency, reported that the boy was brought dead to the hospital. Since the Kodigenahalli PHC has 24/7 service facilities with two doctors on rotation basis, a doctor should have been present at PHC. A departmental inquiry has been initiated and strict action will be taken if the doctors are found to be negligent,” the health minister tweeted.
What the father said
The boy’s father Shaukat told South First: “We were taking Abu’s body to the police station from the hospital when we saw the Sir’s (Kumaraswamy’s) meeting near the police station. Sir asked us some questions and took our son’s body up and then gave him back to us after which we got an ambulance to travel from Kodigenahalli to Madhugiri where the postmortem was done.”
The boys mother, Mallika Banu, said Abu was alive when he was pulled out from the sump, but he could have died on the way to the hospital.
Superintendent of Police of Tumkur, Rahul Kumar Shahapurwad, said: “We have taken up a case of unnatural death and are investigating further. We have not received any complaints so far of any negligence by any doctors or medical staff.”
Saleem Ahmed, a member of the Karnataka Legislative Council, said the government should consider providing more ambulances to hospitals and also make sure there are enough doctors, nurses and other medical staff at PHCs.
“The government and its administration should work in tandem so that such instances are not repeated in future,” said Ahmed.
JD(S) party workers defended their action, reiterating that it was due to the government’s failure that the 5-year-old boy had lost his life when he could be saved if he was brought to the hospital by an ambulance at the right time and if the doctors were present at the PHC during their duty hours.
“JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy and other leaders interacted with the victim’s family and promised ₹1 lakh compensation to the family,” Rangothri, a JD(S) party spokesperson, told South First.