Seven newborns die in hospital blaze in east Delhi; owner arrested, police probe irregularities

The private neonatal hospital in east Delhi's Vivek Vihar was operating illegally with an "expired" licence and no clearance from the fire department obtained.
Police personnel investigate at the Baby Care Hospital after a fire broke out that killed seven newborns, in east Delhi, Sunday, May 26, 2024.
Police personnel investigate at the Baby Care Hospital after a fire broke out that killed seven newborns, in east Delhi, Sunday, May 26, 2024.

New Delhi | Seven newborns were killed and five injured in a massive fire at a private neonatal hospital in east Delhi's Vivek Vihar that was allegedly operating illegally with an "expired" licence and no clearance from the fire department, according to officials.

Police said on Sunday they arrested the hospital's owner Dr Naveen Khichi and Dr Aaksh, who was on duty at the time of the incident on Saturday night.

According to a report submitted by the District Magistrate (Shahdara) to the Delhi Divisional Commissioner, there were 12 babies admitted in the hospital at the time of the incident. While one died on the spot, 11 were shifted to a hospital in the vicinity where six were declared dead on arrival.

The deceased children included four boys and three girls. All were 15 days old except one boy aged 25 days.

The bodies have been shifted to the GTB Hospital for postmortem, the police said.

A case has been registered at Vivek Vihar police station under IPC sections 336 (act endangering life and personal safety of others) and 304A (causing death by negligence), 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide).

The initial cause of the fire is stated to be a short circuit but a probe is on, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Surendra Choudhary said.

The Delhi government has ordered a magisterial probe into the fire tragedy. In an order, Divisional Commissioner Ashwani Kumar directed the district magistrate of Shahdara to inquire into the incident.

The police said besides an expired licence, the hospital also did not have qualified doctors and had no clearance from the fire department.

"The licence issued to the Baby Care New Born Child Hospital by Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Government of Delhi, had already expired on March 31.

"Even the expired licence issued to the said hospital allowed for five beds only," DCP Surendra Choudhary said.

"During the investigations, we got to know that the doctors are not qualified/competent to treat the newborn children in need of neonatal intensive care, as they are BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) degree holders only," said the DCP.

The police said that there was no fire extinguisher installed in the hospital for any emergency in case of fire and there was no emergency exit.

Officials of the Fire Department said that the hospital did not have a clearance from the department.

"The building has no fire NOC. We will also check documents related to the NOC on Monday," an official of the DFS said, requesting anonymity.

Officials of the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) said the blaze broke out at the Baby Care New Born Hospital at around 11:30 pm on Saturday and soon spread to two other adjacent buildings.

Sixteen fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the blaze, Divisional Fire Officer Rajendra Atwal said.

Oxygen cylinders kept in the two-storey building exploded due to which the adjacent buildings were damaged, he said.

The owner Naveen Khichi, who lives in Pachim Vihar area, is an MD in Pediatric Medicine and runs this hospital with his wife Dr Jagriti, who is a dentist, Choudhary said.

President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Lt Governor VK Saxena and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi expressed grief over the tragedy.

Prime Minister Modi announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh from PMNRF to the next of kin of each deceased and Rs. 50,000 to the parents of the injured.

Chief Minister Kejriwal said those responsible for negligence will not be spared. Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj also said the strictest punishment will be given to those found negligent or involved in any wrongdoing.

Among the grieving parents was Ansaar whose daughter was born at another hospital on May 15. "She developed some health issues and was admitted to this hospital," he said.

"Allah ko pyaari ho gayi meri beti," the inconsolable father said.

For Masialam, a labourer, tragedy struck him again after five years.

"I lost my son five years ago. On Saturday, my newborn son died. What kind of facilities do they have?" he asked.

After the incident, District Magistrate (DM), Shahdara, Ritisha Gupta who

Police personnel investigate at the Baby Care Hospital after a fire broke out that killed seven newborns, in east Delhi, Sunday, May 26, 2024.
Police personnel investigate at the Baby Care Hospital after a fire broke out that killed seven newborns, in east Delhi, Sunday, May 26, 2024.

reached the GTB Hospital faced the anger of distraught family members who shouted 'hume insaaf chahiye' (we need justice).

"Every single official who is visiting here is tightlipped. They have no answer if the hospital was legal. If the hospital was having any NOC from the fire department," said Ritik, who lost his 10-day-old child.

According to eyewitnesses, locals and members of an NGO, Shaheed Seva Dal, were the first to rush to help.

Ravi Gupta, a resident, said some locals climbed from the back side of the building and evacuated children one by one.

A member of Sewa Dal claimed the hospital staff ran away soon after the hospital building caught fire.

Another resident, Mukesh Bansal, claimed that an 'unauthorised' oxygen refilling cylinder work was being carried out in the building.

"We had complained about it to the local councillor as well. But nothing was done. It was all happening under the nose of the police," Bansal alleged.

Bansal also said that he used to live next to the hospital but due to the 'illegal' work of refilling cylinders, he shifted to the next lane.

The police said they are also investigating the claim.

The police said during the course of the investigation it was also found that the 'Baby Care New Born Child Hospital' has three more such branches in branches in Delhi's Punjabi Bagh and Haryana's Faridabad and Gurugram

Another fire official said two boutiques, a portion of IndusInd Bank operating from an adjacent building and a shop on the ground floor were also damaged besides an ambulance and a scooty parked outside the building.

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