MUMBAI: Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Friday said the fire incident at a private hospital in Virar, which killed 13 COVID-19 patients, was "not a national news".
However, the minister later made it clear that earlier in the day when he was speaking to reporters about the issues he would be discussing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he was suddenly asked a question related to the Virar fire tragedy, to which he had responded.
Talking to reporters earlier in the day, Tope said, "We will be speaking about oxygen, Remdesivir. The Virar incident though is not a national news."
"We will provide all the support and financial assistance to the families of victims who died in the accident. The way we have extended similar help to the Nashik victims, we will do it here as well," he said when asked about the incident.
"The municipal corporation and the state government will extend Rs five lakh each to the families of victims in the Virar fire accident. There will be fire audit as well as structural and electrical audits of the hospital," the health minister said.
"If the audits were not conducted properly, the implementing persons will face strict action. We will seek an in-depth report on the incident in the next 10 days. Those persons responsible will definitely face legal action," he said.
Later, while speaking to reporters, Tope appealed that his comments about the Virar tragedy should not be distorted and taken out of context.
"I was asked about what topics I will be discussing with PM Narendra Modi. It was already decided that oxygen supply, Remdesivir and vaccine availability will be the topics of discussion from the state side.
As I was completing my answer, I was interrupted by the question related to Virar fire tragedy.
" "The Maharastra government has taken all the necessary decisions regarding the incident, including announcement of inquiry, hence I was explaining this part.
Everyone has seen my work, even when there were some personal losses, I never shied away from my duty," he said.
He was apparently referring to the death of his mother in August last year, who was bed-ridden for several months when Maharashtra was heading towards its first peak of COVID- 19 cases.
"It is not possible that one person is sensitive one day and insensitive the next day. I should be judged on my track record of the last so many months," he said.