Odisha Health minister resigns, Opp ask Naveen to follow

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Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s Health and Family Welfare Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak today resigned in the wake of death of 23 people in a hospital fire tragedy, while opposition parties asked Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to follow suit on moral grounds.

“Mr Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak has sent me his letter of resignation. He has resigned on moral grounds. I have accepted it and sent it to the Governor,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters here.

The minister, who was also holding Information and Public Relations portfolio, put in his papers as police began interrogation of the arrested SUM Hospital owner Manoj Ranjan Nayak.

Manoj Nayak was arrested and sent to jail yesterday. He was taken by police on a two-day remand today.

Sources said the minister’s resignation came barely a few hours after police began grilling Manoj Ranjan Nayak.

The opposition had accused the health minister of shielding the owner of the fire-ravaged hospital.

Opposition parties, which had been demanding the Minister’s head to roll since the fire tragedy took place on Monday evening, also alleged that Atanu’s wife was an employee of Sikshya O Anusandhan University, headed by Manoj Nayak.

This apart, it was alleged that both Khurda District Collector Niranjan Sahoo and Director, Department of Medical Education and Training P C Mohapatra failed to take action against SUM Hospital because of the minister’s close proximity with Manoj Nayak, who also hailed from Kendrapara district as the minister.

However, the minister had for the first time yesterday admitted that there were lapses in fire safety measures in SUM Hospital where the blaze killed 23 people. The hospital had violated fire safety norms and other guidelines.

The hospital was also accused of overlooking a 2013 advisory of the government to improve firefighting apparatus.

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