A child is taken to the health centre of a premier institution for emergency care and first aid. He is refused treatment, and he dies while being taken to another hospital.
Why was he denied emergency medical assistance? He was just a construction worker's child. In other words, he was not "officially" associated with the institution, so he was not 'entitled' to treatment at the health centre.
The following mail (which I received through an anoymous tip, but Mridula has confirmed the events described in it) is truly devastating, and needs no further commentary. Read on:
A Tragic Death at IIT Kanpur
Students of IIT Kanpur were shocked to receive a mail on Monday forwarded by the President of the Students' Gymkhana. The mail is attached below and a brief description of the later developments are given after the mail.
This is to share an incident which reflects the state of affairs for the disenfranchised in our Institute of excellence. I suspect this incident could not be reported by anybody in authority in the Institute and hence would not reach most of us. In this case too we got to know of it just by chance, as would be evident from the account, which makes us believe that occurrence of such incidents may not be a rarity after all, but that is just not shared with the community. A similar incident happened a month ago and the sequence of events are much similar. This account is to inform the community of this incident, acknowledge a feeling of collective shame that this could occur in an Institute which claims to be the best, and hopefully to evoke some collective action to prevent such occurrences in future. I am sure of the facts, as I got to know of it from a first person account and yet would not name anybody to avoid unnecessary personal vilification. This is the system and not the individuals involved.
On Sunday morning at about 4.15 am one of the canteen owners of one of the Halls was going back after work when he chanced upon a crowd of migrant workers at the security crossing near the Motor Transport/Air-Strip road. Apparently a boy, whose family had been employed in the construction site of the Environment Engineering building had been bitten by something poisonous (they were not sure whether it was a scorpion or a snake), in his sleep. The workers including the family consisting of the father a brother and a younger sister (his mother is no longer alive) had come to the SIS (institute security service) for help. The boy who was around 12-13 seemed to have been bitten around 3 in the morning and was alive though unconscious. The SIS guards (there were around 20-25 of them there) kept urging the workers to take the boy to the city hospital but refused to extend any help. The group of migrant workers did not know anything about the city, and this is usual because they are brought from far of places like Malda and Chhattisgarh by the contractor and are herded back at the end of their term. The canteen owner requested the SIS to lend their jeep for transporting the boy to the Health Center. The SIS guards refused to ask for their jeep (though several of them had their walkie talkie) and instead told this man that the boy would not be treated in the institute Health Center and hence has to be taken to the city. At this point the Canteen Owner decided to take the boy in his motorcycle, along with another worker to hold the inert form, to the Health Center.
At the Health Center, the person at the desk refused to entertain the case, when he came to know that the boy was not related to an Institute employee and was neither a student. The canteen owner tried to impress upon the person that the case was very serious and the boy may just survive if only the hospital intervened and the formalities and the expenses could be handled later. He also volunteered to get the health card of his father who is an Institute employee, as treating guests is routinely done in the HC. The attendant at the desk refused to comply but conceded to give the phone number of the doctor on duty. He told the canteen owner that he may call up the doctor to check if she would treat the boy, but not to mention that he was calling from the HC, but tell her that he was calling from one of the hostels.
The canteen owner called the doctor, who when she realized that it involved the child of worker, was extremely annoyed and said that this facility was not available to them. When the canteen owner pleaded that the case was serious and may turn fatal she apparently shouted 'which language do you understand?' and slammed the phone down. After that the canteen owner decided to take the child to the city and requested the hospital attendant to provide the services of the ambulance so that he could be taken as soon as possible and anyway it is extremely difficult to negotiate the GT road with an unconscious person. But he was refused even that. The boy was still alive till that point.
The rest of the story in short - the canteen owner took the boy to a nearby nursing home in Kalyanpur (about 2 kilometers from the institute) but that setup was not equipped to handle snake bites. Then he drove with the unconscious boy all the way to the Hallett (medical college) - the doctor on duty was much more prompt and immediately attended to the boy, but unfortunately he had already died. Then this canteen owner drove all the way back to the campus with a dead child in the pillion. As he ended his account 'bilkul kuch achcha nahin lag raha hai tab se - health centre hote hue ek chote se bachche ko marne de sakten hain - kyun ki woh ek mazdoor ka bachcha hai sirf isiliye?'
Students have investigated the reported event and their representatives are in possession of the names of all the people who are involved in this incident. The students arranged a condolence meeting yesterday evening and marched to the Health Center to demand an explanation from the Chief Medical Officer. After a long standoff and hours of deliberations with the authorities the CMO met the students but failed to answer many of the questions students had about the issue. Students are presently planning to get the whole campus community involved in the protest. What saddens the entire student community and me is the reluctance of the institute administration letting the entire campus community know and the tax-payers know about the incident. The reasons they give are beyond any sane argument. Witnessing a few incidents during my stay at IIT Kanpur has led me into thinking that this time too, the incident and related issues shall be buried to bask into what I feel is vacuous feeling of glory.