The IIT incident: A result of persistent blind eyes

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur which is a premier institute of India is again in news but for wrong reasons this time. The death of the institute’s third-year electrical engineering student, Rohit Kumar, last Sunday, has rattled the students of the institute. According to first-hand account of students, Rohit had been visiting the hospital since Friday, March 20, complaining of headaches. On Sunday, the headaches became increasingly painful and he was on his way back from the doctor when he fainted and fell from the rickshaw, resulting in major injuries.

Following this, he was taken to BC Roy Hospital by two students of Lala Lajpat Rai Hostel. The doctor on duty (who was present at the time when Rohit was taken to the hospital), Dr NK Som, recommended that he be taken to the Apollo Hospital, Kolkata and shown to a neuro-surgeon. He said that BC Roy Hospital 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 two hours during the course of which nothing much could be done. He was finally sent to Kolkata with two students for company and an untrained attendant. En route it was found that though the oxygen mask had been placed over his mouth, the tank had not been turned on. Soon after this, Rohit started coughing 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 that 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 Hospital officials to inform Spandan authorities of the impending arrival, there was no one there to receive them. By the time a doctor was available, Rohit had passed away and the hospital declared him dead on arrival.
The above account is on the basis of the report filed in the online newspaper written by IITKGP students.(http://scholarsavenue.blogspot.com)

The news of Rohit’s death spread like wildfire and students gathered outside the director’s (Damodar Acharya’s) residence demanding some response from him. A callous answer of “looking into the matter” and his attitude made matters worse. As tempers ran high and numbers swelled, students resorted to destruction of property, in a bid to demonstrate their anger. They ransacked the director’s bungalow, smashing his car and forcing him to resign on Sunday.

In a democratic set up, one is free to protest. There have been numerous cases in the recent past where people have been forced to be violent and aggressive. It is very disheartening but true to a great extent that authorities just turn a blind eye to peaceful protests. Barring the stir by students against reservation in 2006, all the subsequent protests have been violent in nature. Be it Gujjar protest, Gorkhaland, Amarnath Yatra land row, Khairlanji incident, Nandigram etc. But only such protests were able to move the authorities.

In this case too, the students are justified in their protest. The reason being many such cases of medical negligence have been reported on the campus in the past few months. Given below are a few of them:


Gaurav Tomar, a fifth-year student was suffering from very high fever before Holi. He was admitted to the BC Roy Technology Hospital and treated for jaundice and typhoid. Later, in Delhi’s Apollo Hospital, Gaurav was diagnosed with malignant malaria, the actual reason behind high fever. The wrong treatment allegedly damaged his kidneys.

In December, a second-year student suffered cardiac arrest while attending an NSS camp outside the IIT campus.

He was rushed to the institute’s hospital, but doctors could not even administer oxygen, as there was reportedly no mask at hand. The student died shortly.

A few days ago, a fourth-year student had fractured his arms while playing football. It took five hours for the hospital to organise an ambulance to transport him to Kolkata.

Considering the series of the negligence cases and repeated requests from the students falling to deaf ears the students took such an action. If the authorities had taken the issue being raised seriously, a life could have been saved. Moreover, such violence would not have occurred in the campus of an IIT. But as Bhagat Singh said: “To make deaf hear, a blast is required.” Perhaps, this is the tragedy of this democratic nation. Bhagat Singh used these words for British Government which was neglecting the concerns of people. The concerns of people are still being neglected by our very own people. If the issues concerning people are not heard by the administration and government, then the meaning of democracy ceases to exist.

This incident was very visibly a result of the blinded deaf authorities. It had an implied reaction from the students in the form of very violent protests which led to self-resignations of the Director & the Dean. This and whatever post-incident action that is going to be delivered are very obvious reactive actions from the authorities, but a question that still finds an answer for itself is that when will the authorities of premier institutes and organisations take proactive measures towards the safety and well-being of their members?

Why Indian students go abroad?

Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge or Yale? A dilemma of Atlantic proportions for the Indian students for these universities not only have the patina of history and heritage attached to them but also offer a wide array of opportunities in todays world.
There has been a growing trend of Indian students going abroad for education. In the past decade whether it is America, the United Kingdom or Australia, the number of Indian students going to study overseas has risen tremendously so much so that in 2007, maximum students going to US for further studies were Indians. This was the first time that India went past China. There has been such an increase in the number of students going abroad that even international carriers are cashing in by offering special fares and packages to students. The favoured destinations of the Indian students include the universities of America, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. More than fifty percent of the students opt for US for higher studies.
But to think of it why do students choose to go abroad. To begin with there are capacity constraints in the Indian universities. More than ninety percent of the students who appear for the entrance examinations to the IITs and the IIMs do not make it through and the colleges that are now being offered to them lack in quality of infrastructure. If the Indian universities were compared with the American ones, a startling fact would be revealed. To begin with there are just 4,400 AICTE approved universities in India whereas in a country there are more than 10,000 universities and this despite the fact that India is home to the highest number of young people in the world. This is another reason why india fals to attract barely any foreign students whereas more than five lakh students from different parts of the world flock to the American universities every year. The number of specialization courses as well as scholarships and fee waivers available abroad are also high.
The students going abroad have been great advertisements for India. India has exported the most sought after commodity in the world-Talent. Winston Churchill had once said, “Empires of the future will be empires of the minds”. Brand India may not have had all its glitter if it weren’t for the list of the thousands of Global Indian achievers. How the foreign universities help the students is by transforming young talented students into world class skilled professionals. The students who choose to go abroad have several benefits. There is an emphasis on practical learning as opposed to theoretical learning thus conceptual clarity is the key in any course abroad. The foreign universities have the best in technology and infrastructure to offer whereas the infrastructure in many of the Indian universities is woeful. The world is a globalised village and hence it is imperative that students develop a global perspective. This is made possible due to interaction between students from various backgrounds. The teachers in India may not be paid enough but in foreign universities they are committed to mentoring and guiding the students. Placements and career opportunities are also better abroad. Moreover students get to study in some of the best universities of the world. Thus going overseas for education is being looked upon at as not just a harbinger of limitless opportunities for the students but also as a potent catalyst in the strengthening of the Indian economy.

When Dreams turn Nightmares

When students go to the US, they do so for good education and a better lifestyle. But the recent murders of Indian students in US campuses reveal macabre ends to the dreams and ambitions of the students as well as their grief stricken families. Continue reading When Dreams turn Nightmares