Troubles piling up for Odisha Health minister


Bhubaneswar: Troubles continue to mount on Odisha Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak as the SUM Hospital fire mishap has added to his litany of woes.

Eyebrows are being raised on his capabilities following a series of failures in healthcare services in State ranging from infant deaths in Cuttack Sishu Bhavan, Japanese Encephalitis deaths, Nagada malnutrition deaths and the Dana Majhi episode.

Doubts are also being raised on the fairness of the probe into the SUM Hospital fire mishap which has left 20 persons dead and several injured. Nayak’s close relationship with the owner of SUM Hospital is well known. In fact, the Health minister’s wife Bandana Khuntia is a lecturer in the Institute of Higher Secondary Education Plus-II science which belongs to the same group of institutions as the SUM Hospital.

“Stern action will be initiated keeping in mind all the legal options which are available,” said Atanu following the SUM Hospital mishap.

“How can the Health minister be responsible for his wife working in a company where hundreds of other individuals are working? Inquiry will follow its own course,” said BJD spokesperson Surya Narayan Patro.

Notably, the Health minister found himself in trouble last year following deaths of 60 infants at Cuttack Sishu Bhavan. In 2016, death of 19 children of Nagada village in Jajpur district due to malnourishment exposed the state of healthcare in Odisha. While the Dana Majhi story hogged international headlines, recently, the deaths of 58 children in 39 days in Malkangiri due to Japanese Encephalitis outbreak has landed the health ministry in the soup.

Such a track record has been a tune which has anything but amused the opposition.

“We demand immediate resignation of the Health minister following the SUM Hospital and Nagada incidents,” said Congress leader Pradeep Majhi.

“If the Health minister does not perform his job properly, then the accountability lies on the Chief Minister. Both the Health Minister and the Chief Minister have to either perform or step down,” said General Secretary of the Odisha BJP, Prithwiraj Harichandan.

Countering Oppositions remarks, BJD spokesperson Surya Narayan Patro said, “It has become the norm for the Opposition to criticize the government and usage of words like resign and step down have become cheap.”

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