Aishvarya Agrawal, a first year M. Tech. student at the School of Information Technology in Jawaharlal Nehru University, succumbed to an asthma attack on Wednesday night. In the absence of a round-the-clock health centre on the campus, the 23-year-old had to be rushed to All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in an make-shift ambulance with no equipment and no paramedics.
Aishvarya’s death has revived the long-standing demand for a 24-hour doctor on duty and well equipped ambulances on the campus. “A Maruti van doubles up as an ambulance and there is another slightly bigger vehicle that is also used to ferry the unwell, but both these are not equipped with even the bare minimum. On Wednesday night when Aishvarya suffered an attack at 10-30 p.m., the health centre was closed. He had to be taken to AIIMS in a van that did not even have an oxygen cylinder. He breathed his last during the journey and was declared brought dead at the hospital,” said Vikram Singh, a fellow student.
Aggrieved by Aishvarya’s death, the students have petitioned the University authorities to ensure 24x7 emergency facilities, an on-duty doctor at the health centre and well equipped ambulances with on-duty paramedic staff.
“The health centre closes at 9 p.m. We need a full-fledged health centre where the students and the residents of the campus can get immediate medical attention,” said Mr. Singh.
“Students are frequently referred to AIIMS in case of common medical emergencies, which is a good 30 minute drive even in the best of traffic conditions. Thirty minutes is a lot of time for a medical condition to complicate beyond control. Is it too much to ask for a five-bed hospital which can cater to the emergency medical problems of students?” he asked.
The University for its part has sought a report from the Chief Medical Officer (posted at the health centre) and the Rectors. “I have asked the Rectors and the Registrar and the CMO to submit a detailed report of the incident. I am yet to officially know what happened and once I have that report, I will be in a position to take up the issue with the authorities concerned,” said JNU Vice-Chancellor B. B. Bhattacharya.
Pointing out that the University needs approval from the University Grants Commission, Prof. Bhattacharya said: “As of now we do not have the funds and the requisite permission from the UGC to engage a full-time doctor or upgrade the ambulances.”
Meanwhile, the students have decided to peacefully protest. “We have decided that till the time the University does not accept these demands and makes provision for these essential services we will continue to light a candle near the health centre everyday”, said Mr. Singh.
A resident of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Aishvarya had joined the School of Information Technology in August. “He had rejected offers from institutes like IIIT-Allahabad and IIIT-Hyderabad. He was an extremely bright student scoring 95 per cent marks in B.Tech. from Allahabad Agriculture (Deemed) University,” said Mr. Singh.