Inquiry ordered into death of student

CONTROVERSY: Principal of Modern School, Vasant Vihar, Goldie Malhotra (holding the mike) addressing the media on Aakriti Bhatia’s death while the victim’s mother, Vani Bhatia, protests, in New Delhi on Thursday.

CONTROVERSY: Principal of Modern School, Vasant Vihar, Goldie Malhotra (holding the mike) addressing the media on Aakriti Bhatia’s death while the victim’s mother, Vani Bhatia, protests, in New Delhi on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: - Photo: V. Sudershan

Parul Sharma

17-year-old Aakriti Bhatia died on way to hospital after an asthma attack at school

NEW DELHI: Under pressure from the parents and students of Modern School in Vasant Vihar, who levelled allegations of “negligence” against the school authorities for the death of young Aakriti Bhatia, the institution on Thursday ordered an inquiry into the matter. The Delhi Government too has asked the school authorities to file a detailed report on the tragic incident within three days.

Seventeen-year-old Aakriti, a Class XII student of the school, died of an asthma attack two days ago while being taken to hospital.

The Managing Trustee of the school, Ashok Pratap Singh, said that an investigation would be conducted by a “suitable committee”.

“The objective of the committee is to see whether whatever happened (in Aakriti’s case) can be attributed to neglect. We will determine the composition of the committee in the next couple of days. It should submit its report in a week,” he told reporters.

“We are in the process of up-gradation of our medical facilities. There will be a faster and easier access to an ambulance. We would be placing a doctor in the school. We had one who retired a few months ago,” he added.

Mr. Singh maintained that there was “no delay in the movement of the child” to the hospital.

Giving Principal Goldy Malhotra a clean chit, he said: “There was no lack of responsibility on our part.”

Earlier, the protesting parents and students disrupted a press meet organised in the school auditorium in the afternoon.

As soon as the Principal walked into the auditorium to address the gathering, allegations and counter-allegations flew thick and fast inside the hall.

Speaking to the audience, Ms. Malhotra narrated the sequence of events: “At 10-20 a.m., Aakriti met her class teacher and told her she was not feeling well. Prior to that, she had informed her parents from her friend’s phone. The nurse Lily Kutty got her a cylinder. All this while, the parents and the teacher were in touch with each other.”

“Aakriti’s mother asked the teacher to send her to her aunt’s place as their house was under construction. The nurse felt she should not be sent anywhere in that condition. The parents’ car was outside when we were about to take her to the hospital. The nurse put her in the car. I followed them to the hospital in another car. She was taken to the emergency ward where the doctors tried to resuscitate her but she died,” said Ms. Malhotra. Some Class XII students sitting in the auditorium shouted and contradicted the Principal’s version.

It was a divided house with some parents siding with Ms. Malhotra, while several others accusing her of being “callous”, resulting in a major chaos with everyone wanting to grab the mike.Some parents even chose to blame the media for “maligning” the institution and “sensationalising” the issue.

Later, two students came forward to challenge the Principal’s version.

“Why was the oxygen mask removed when she was being taken to the hospital? Why did they not order an ambulance? Initially the nurse refused to come down to attend to Aakriti,” claimed one student. Another student who accompanied Aakriti to the hospital in her car along with the nurse said she had collapsed outside the hospital.

Several students raised slogans demanding justice for Aakriti. Some of them also alleged that the Principal had gagged and threatened to rusticate them if they spoke to the media.

However, the Managing Trustee claimed no such threats had been issued.

“There is no question of any victimisation of any child. There will be no disciplinary action against students. We recognise that feelings run high in a situation like this,” said Mr. Singh.

On the cylinder issue, he said: “The nurse felt that it was not necessary. Also there was discomfort felt by the child, so she decided not to take the oxygen cylinder. We are not going to ask anyone to resign without being convinced by the committee.”

Aakriti’s parents demanded Ms. Malhotra’s resignation.

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