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West Bengal: Death calls often at IIT-Kgp

EducationWorld April 09 | EducationWorld

The tragic death of Rohit Kumar (24), a third year electrical engineering student of the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur (estb. 1951), on March 22 prompted unprecedented violence on the placid campus of the institute, the resignation of its director, and has dealt a heavy blow to the global reputation of this internationally-respected IIT.According to IIT-Kgp student spokespersons, on March 21, Kumar, a student with an epilepsy history, was attended as an outpatient for a severe headache at the institutes seven-bed B.C. Roy Technology Hospital named after IIT-Kgps founding father and former West Bengal chief minister, Dr. B.C. Roy. On the way back to his hostel he fell off a rickshaw and hurt his head. Fellow students rushed him back to hospital where he lay unattended for three hours.
Subsequently a doctor prescribed neuromedical attention and a CAT scan. Despite the 1,200 hectare IIT-Kgp campus hosting a population of 9,200 students, faculty and staff, elementary medical facilities were unavailable locally and nor was there an ambulance. Moreover as neither a doctor nor nursing attendant was on call, some students hired an ambulance and raced to Kolkata — a 120 km distance. However Kumar died en route.
When news of Kumars death reached the campus at 2 p.m, students anger hit explosion point and a horde stormed and ransacked the bungalow of director Dr. Damodar Acharya, and demanded his resignation. Acharyas description of the rampage during which his car was smashed is laconic. We tried to make them understand that there would be a proper enquiry to ascertain the cause of death, and if there is any negligence on anyones part, action would be taken. I also told them that I would try to improve the infrastructure at B.C. Roy Hospital. But they insisted on my resignation. Therefore I have resigned, he informed media personnel adding that he had faxed his resignation letter to the Union human resources development ministry at 4.30 p.m. on March 22.
However student spokespersons reveal that IIT-Kgps Dr. B.C. Roy Hospital has an infamous track record of negligence. They say that a few weeks earlier the hospital treated a fifth-year student for jaundice and typhoid. When his condition worsened, his Meerut-based parents flew him to Delhi where malignant malaria was diagnosed. Likewise last December, when a second year student suffered a cardiac arrest, and was rushed to hospital, oxygen could not be administered because a gas mask couldnt be found, resulting in his death. In yet another case, a fourth year pupil fractured an arm while playing football. The hospital could not treat him and dispatched him to Kolkata. It took five hours to hire an ambulance.
Meanwhile deputy director Madhusudhan Chakraborty — currently officiating as director — informed newsmen that a retired Supreme Court judge will probe the entire episode that led to Acharyas resignation. Moreover he announced several measures to improve the quality of medical services available to IIT-Kgps 7,000 students. Among them: commissi-oning a 24/7 pharmacy, establishing a modern diagnostic centre and retaining the services of a helicopter ambulance to shift seriously ill students from Kharagpur to Kolkata. In addition, land will be allocated to an unidentified private sector medical services group to establish a super-speciality hospital.
The sheer negligence of the IIT-Kgp management to provide basic, minimal facilities for the countrys brightest and best students — only 6,000 of 320,000 students who write the IIT-JEE exam countrywide, are admitted into the seven IITs — has shocked the West Bengal intelligentsia. The tragedy showcases the failure of the medical profession, indeed the collective lapse of the IITs board of governors. Any inquiry must focus on why Rohit had to succumb to sheer negligence. Specifically, why no action has been taken despite repeated proposals on an upgrade of facilities… An IIT, anywhere in the country, has never been known to be short of funds. The authorities in Kharagpur have consciously suffered sub-standard medical facilities. Even within the limited radius of the campus, it direly lacks the wherewithal to treat emergency cases… The B.C. Roy Technology Hospital calls for a drastic overhaul. The forced resignation of the IIT director will not address the fundamental issue, thundered The Statesman in an indignant editorial (May 25).
Sujoy Gupta (Kolkata)

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