Lucknow, Aug 12: Issuing his first public statement on the deaths reported from Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said encephalitis is a challenge which needs to be jointly tackled by the government and society.

Yogi said the reports emerging from Gorakhpur are “saddening”, but the menace dates back to 1978. “Encephalitis is a major challenge, not from today, but since 1978. The eastern belt of Uttar Pradesh is victim to encephalitis. Government and society need to work together to uproot it,” he added.

According to Yogi, the awareness towards cleanliness is the prerequisite towards tackling the virus of encephalitis. “There needs to be more awareness towards encephalitis among the masses. Defecation in the open should stop,” the UP CM said, while speaking at a Clean Ganga event held here.

“Since 1978, the infant and minors of eastern Uttar Pradesh are affected by the encephalitis. If the childhood would be destroyed by such a virus, what would happen to the future of the state?”

Yogi added that his government is striving towards finding solutions towards all menace faced by the people of the state. “The job of the government is to find solutions. A government, in itself, cannot be the problem. And if it is the problem, then it has no right to remain in power,” he added.

As per reports, 63 deaths were reported from the Gorakhpur-based BRD Medical College over the past 5 days. As per the allegations, the deaths occurred due to disruption of oxygen supply. However, the UP government dismissed the accusations, claiming that adequate supply of oxygen cylinders was ensured by the district magistrate.

The State Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh, while addressing the press today, admitted the oxygen supply was briefly “inadequate” between 11:30 PM on Thursday and 1:30 AM in the wee hours of Friday. “But this was not the reason for any of the deaths,” he clarified.

The Health Minister, however, announced that the government has sacked the BRD Medical College principal RK mishra, over the payment dispute with the oxygen supplier. “A magisterial probe would be conducted in the matter. If there was any negligence, those responsible would be booked,” Singh added.

Earlier in the day, senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Raj Babbar and Pramod Tiwari visited the BRD hospital. While addressing the reports, they held the ruling BJP responsible, seeking the resignation of Health Minister and State Health Secretary.

Former CM and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav raised questions on the governance of Yogi Adityanath, asking why he failed to enquire about the “shortage of oxygen supply” during his recent visit to Gorakhpur on August 9.