Monday, March 23, 2009

Death of an IIT Kharagpur student: Issues with media

I just came across this news of the death of an IIT Kharagpur student, Rohit Kumar due to alleged 'negligence' by hospital authorities. A follow up post was written by Ashish Gourav, another resident Kharagpur campus. He mentions that Director has resigned from his post. He goes on to mention that the internet services were down and no media were allowed, alleging deliberate sabotage of external communication by IIT authorities.

Before I proceed, I must express condolences to the student's family and the entire student community of IIT Kharagput. It is an unfortunate incident and everything should be done to avoid it in future.

The truth is that there was no deliberate sabotage of external communication from the campus, as PTI did publish this news about 15 hours ago. Several other publication followed suit and this made to the front page of The Telegraph today. Other major publications of Kolkata like Indian Express, Times of India and others did publish it today.

This is an interesting case of improper use of media by enraged students, misquotes by media, and following rage by Students across the country. Also, about a typical passive follow up by media on the issue of construction of a hospital at IIT Kharagpur.

I also spoke to Arnav, VP of IIT Kharagpur's Technology Students' Gymkhana. Here is the official line:

  1. Internet services were not brought down as a reaction to this incident, but happened due to another failure in computer center.
  2. The doctors in their campus didn't have neurologist among them. That's why they didn't act further than stopping external injuries.
  3. Rohit did not have any history of epilepsy as suggested by news media.
Here is the official press release:
Rohit Kumar, a third year student of IIT Kharagpur, was regularly visiting the institute hospital since the last three days on account of chronic headaches. On his way back to the hostel on the third day he fainted and fell off a cycle rickshaw and sustained serious injuries.

He was again rushed to the hospital, upon which it was decided that he should be taken to Kolkata. However, on the way, his situation deteriorated and he was instead taken to Midnapore, where he was unfortunately declared brought dead.

This incident triggered off strong emotive response from the students as they felt that the medical facilities were inadequate. The students immediately met the authorities and lodged their strong protest. The institute has expressed its condolences to Rohit's family and friends. The administration took note of the issues and met the student general body and assured them and laid out a plan in which they would work together with the students towards improving on campus medical facilities.
Note these:
  1. No mention of Director's resignation on this issue
  2. Overturning a car at Director's residence and breaking window panes is just "Strong Emotive Response". Grow up, people!
As you can see, everyone's playing with media. Media itself is playing with itself. Kharagpur is no Mumbai to have three super-speciality hospitals within 2 kms of campus. But so has been the condition of most population of India. Do the 'elite' students of IIT might have a bigger need of medical facilities than an average Indian citizen?

I say, No. Everyone should have better facilities. What do you say?

Update: I had no idea that what I am getting into by expressing my opinion in public. A section of students from IIT Kharagpur has forgotten debate and started a scathing personal attack on me. For the moment, I have enabled comment moderation. I hope that can keep the discussion on this blog a little sane.

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