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?

Need to enhance medical competence to handle crisis

Ever since Mumbai was hit by terrorists on November 26 last year, there have been many steps taken to improve the security and to counter similar situation in the future in a better way. There has been no denying that there was security lapse due to which terrorists were able to create mayhem in the city. But, it is the time to introspect the weaknesses in our system and try to plug the same to avoid such occurrence again in any part of the country.

This post is basically to attract the attention of readers and administrators on the incapability of our medical staff during such hour of crisis. There is a report that 70 people died in the carnage at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). Out of these 70 people, 30 who were hit on hands or legs lost their lives due to non-availability of treatment at the right time. So, we should learn some lessons and try to step up the emergency handling capability of the administration.

It is thus very essential that our administration tries to ponder on the following points which I and few of my doctor friends felt should be implemented:

  • We need to have concept of ‘triage’ in this country. This concept needs to start from the place of disaster itself. Triage is a process of prioritising patients based on the severity of their condition. This rations patient treatment efficiently when resources are insufficient for all to be treated immediately. The term comes from the French verb trier, meaning to separate, sort, sift or select.
  • Then we need to place ambulances at the strategic locations throughout the city. The staff with the ambulance should be well trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR is an emergency medical procedure for a victim of cardiac arrest or, in some circumstances, respiratory arrest. These are the two commonest complications which person injured in such strike undergoes. There should be training of civilians as well in CPR. The situation in our country is such that even medical professionals don’t have any experience in this. Right now, staff in ambulance is just not capable to do this simplest procedure which is taught in school in many of the Western countries.
  • The infrastructure in hospitals in current scenario is not up to the standards. There are very less number of beds in casualty and operation theatre. A hospital was just a few metres away from CST station and if it was better equipped, then few more lives probably could have been saved. Hence, it is very important to have separate wards/beds to handle any emergency situation.
  • The biggest problem then faced is shortage of blood. The blood bank and hospital coordination is also poor in our country. It takes much time for a relative of injured or a hospital staff to collect blood and then give it to the wounded. Therefore, it is essential that our blood-banks and hospitals work in tandem.
  • According to a few medical students, there should be especial training given to doctors as well. It is just because under normal circumstances, a doctor hardly treats the bullet injury.Few of them were of view that this training should be done by the army doctors, who are quite familiar with the treatment during bullet injury. There can also be the proposal of setting a separate unit of trained doctors like we have National Security Guard (NSG) or something. These doctors can be flown in the minimum time period to the place of casualty. They can work in aggregation with the regular staff of hospitals and also this can overcome the shortage of and burden on regular doctors. There is a fact that the doctors are overburdened in regular days and during emergency situation the condition gets even worse.
If there is proper team of trained medical and paramedical staff to handle any crisis then the number of deaths can be brought down. Whether the points mentioned above are feasible or not is to be decided by decision making bodies. But, I have felt that the current medical facilities are just not enough. It is thus of utmost importance that the administration thinks over this aspect as well.