What follows below is a comprehensive look at the events of the 22nd of March 2009 and it’s possible outcomes. This website will be updated as and when new information comes in. Keep checking back for more.
This Sunday, the 22nd of March, shall go down as a black day in the history of IIT, Kharagpur. It was with great sadness and considerable anger that the residents of the campus received news of the demise of one of its own; third year Electrical Engineering student, Rohit Kumar. A resident of the LLR Hall of Residence, Rohit had been visiting the hospital since Friday, the 20th of March, complaining of headaches. On Sunday, the headaches became increasingly painful and it was on his way back from the doctor that he fainted and fell from the rickshaw, resulting in major injuries. Following this, he was taken to BC Roy hospital by two students of LLR. The doctor on duty (who was present at the time when Rohit was taken to the hospital), Dr. N.K. Som, recommended that he be taken to Apollo Hospital, Kolkata and shown to a neurosurgeon. He stated that BC Roy did not have facilities to handle such cases and that it was best to take him to Kolkata as soon as possible. However, problems (such as filling of petrol) and the extensive paperwork involved in arranging an ambulance caused a delay of 2 hours during the course of which nothing much could be done.
He was finally sent on his way to Kolkata with 2 students for company and an untrained attendant. En route it was realized that though the oxygen mask had been placed over his mouth, the tank had still not been turned on. Soon after this, Rohit started coughing up blood. The students who accompanied him had the attendant call up Dr. Som and the students followed his instructions; pumping out blood without any help from the attendant. At the time, it was decided to take Rohit to the Spandan Hospital in Midnapore since his condition was deteriorating rapidly. In spite of asking the BC Roy officials to call ahead and inform Spandan of the impending arrival, there was no one there to receive them. By the time a doctor was found, Rohit had passed away and the hospital declared him dead on arrival. At present, his body lies in the mortuary at Midnapore medical college.
Questions and Answers
There are a lot of questions being asked and a lot of unfounded rumours flying around. Some of these questions can be answered and some of the rumours quashed. One of the major questions being asked is about the absence of a trained medico in the ambulance. The rules of BC Roy stipulate that no doctor can accompany a person in the ambulance. Unbelievable but a possible reason for this is that since there is only one doctor on duty, such action would mean that the hospital is left unmanned.
Another confirmed fact is that the doctor was present when Rohit was taken to the hospital. All delays were entirely due to the unavailability of an ambulance. The problems with the ambulances were apparent a week earlier when Mithun Madhusudhan, a 4th year student had to be taken to Kolkata for an operation after he fractured both his hands. At that time, the ambulance broke down and could move only in reverse gear. This is a very serious problem that hopefully will be corrected at the earliest.
An incident such as this, calls for the strongest possible reaction, and it was with this intent that the students on campus walked out of their hostels in protest. A crowd started forming with about 100-150 people gathered in front of the Directors Bungalow demanding an audience and a strong reaction from the man in charge. Unfortunately, he delayed addressing the gathering, which had by then grown to nearly a 1000 people, all of whom were getting angrier and more restive by the minute. The Directors subsequent equivocation about committees and looking into the matter only made matters worse, as students understood these to be standard bureaucratic responses that were ineffective. Convinced that the authorities had still not correctly gauged the frustration and anguish of the students, they took matters to the next level. As tempers ran high and numbers swelled, an already dark day became uglier as the students resorted to destruction of property in a bid to demonstrate their anger. At all times, however, there was a strict student-enforced cordon around the officials, to pre-empt possibilities of physical assault. Such student conduct, while admittedly regrettable, seemed to be what caused the authorities to realize the gravity of the situation.
The raw emotion displayed by the students finally convinced the Director to step down after prolonged protests from the students. This came after nearly four hours of deliberation during which the students took to ransacking the director’s residence, smashing window panes and his car. Soon after at about 8 p.m., the Deputy Director convened an emergency meeting of all the Heads of Departments, Deans and student representatives to work out an immediate action plan to resolve the crisis. The points decided upon in the meeting are as follows:
- An independent commission composed of doctors from AIIMS/Apollo and other such medical institutions of repute must be setup to examine the current state of affairs and issue recommendations that must necessarily be followed.
- An external independent enquiry commission composed of civil servants (possibly members of the judiciary and IPS officers) must be setup in order to fix responsibility.
- B.C. Roy Hospital is to have better trained staff henceforth.
- The Institute will procure 5 new state of the art ambulances and these should be allowed to transport patients without waiting for the requisite paperwork to be completed.
- A database of all specialists in and around Kharagpur should be maintained and freely accessible.
- The Institute must pursue tie-ups with medical NGOs and nearby hospitals so that students can avail emergency medical care when needed.
- Deputation of central government doctors to Kharagpur must be looked into.
- The facilities must be upgraded so as to handle emergencies and at least 2 qualified emergency doctors must be present at all times (including weekends, off hours and night time).
- There must be greater transparency in the hospitals operation. A review committee made of students, professors and one emeritus professor nominated by students, must be formed with the authority to review the progress at BC Roy every 15 days,
- Revision of pay scales for doctors in employ of BC Roy so as to attract better doctors.
- Adequate compensation for Rohit’s Family
The points put forward by the student representatives regarding the improvements in medical facilities at B.C. Roy Hospital were read out in an unprecedented jam-packed open session held at the Tagore Open Air Theater. Unfortunately, here too emotions were running high and the lack of discernible strong action and resolve on the part of the administration did nothing to help the situation. The situation spiraled rapidly out of control into one where the nearly 4,000 strong crowd demanded the resignation of the Dean of Student Affairs and the Chairman of the BC Roy Hospital, which turned out to be the Deputy Director. All this was in spite of the fact that the Deputy Director agreed to all suggested changes. In the end, the Dean of Student Affairs, in principle, resigned and the Deputy Director has also resigned from his post as the Chairman, B.C. Roy Hospital.
A meeting with student representatives from all halls of residence will be held on Monday morning at 10.00 a.m. to implement the proposed action plan. The deliberations and outcome of these committee meetings will be made public and available for everyone to view (on notice boards and on The Scholars Avenue). This committee will be meeting every 15 days in order to review progress and these progress reports shall also be made public. Such a move towards greater transparency is indeed heartening. Classes on Monday, the 23rd of March, have been cancelled in mourning as a mark of respect for Rohit. Monday shall also witness a candle light procession from the Gymkhana to the Main Gate at 6 p.m.
While many resignations were demanded and many tendered in the heat of the moment, the long term implications of the day will only become clear once the dust settles. The details of violence at the Directors residence will eventually take precedence in this topic in the national media, taking focus off its cause the complete absence of effective protocols and facilities at the B.C. Roy Hospital. This might have thus squandered an excellent opportunity to draw the attention of the national media and force the authorities at the highest level to implement concrete steps to make B.C. Roy a place to get better, not worse.
It was indeed heartening to see the entire student community come out in unison to protest the death of a fellow student. However, there is an urgent need to channelize this spirit in the right direction so as to achieve what it set out to do. We need a better hospital on campus, not mass resignations from officials and destruction of public property. We need positive action from the authorities, not negative action from the students. Rejoicing at the suspension of classes is downright despicable in a situation such as this. A serious question that must be asked is, Have we become what we condemned the most; the stirs and protests that plague Bengal?
The urgency of the problem is now amply clear to the authorities, and now it is time to work constructively with them to resolve the issue. Each one should play his part by informing the authorities of the improvements he has in mind through his respective hall representatives. It is imperative that any pictures or videos depicting violence or people engaged in such acts be suppressed. Negative publicity, especially in the national media, can only take us away from the goal of standardizing the systems for medical aid. Non-violent methods of protest are the need of the hour and it is best to refrain from mob behavior in the coming days. They will truly define how we KGPians, as a student community, respond to a crisis of such an unprecedented magnitude. Let us not forget that we are torchbearers of a premier institute of the country and that our duty to maintain the dignity of the institute is as important as our right to proper healthcare.
We, at The Scholars’ Avenue will continue to bring updates as the story unfolds. We urge all the faculty and alumni who are reading this to put pressure on the administration, via their own channels, to help improve medical facilities on campus. Let Rohit not have died in vain.
All information contained in the article above has been verified from people who were at the scene. This is the true version of events.