The death by suicide of a youth in front of the Odisha Assembly on Wednesday has put the Naveen Patnaik government on the dock. Speaker Surya Narayan Patro had to adjourn the House after opposition members created a ruckus over the death of the youth during Question Hour this morning.
Dushmanta Das of Kujang area in Jagatsinghpur district slit his wrist and consumed poison right in front of the state Assembly, which is currently in session, in protest against the gross negligence of doctors and staff at the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack in treating him. “I was not given proper treatment and was forcibly discharged from the hospital by the authorities though I was yet to be cured. They also refused to entertain the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) card, which affected my treatment. I wrote to the Governor, the Chief Minister and the Health Department, but to no avail,” Das told media persons minutes before he was shifted to the Capital Hospital. He was later moved to the SCB Medical College after his condition deteriorated further and breathed his last in the evening.
Das, who had sustained serious injuries on his legs after meeting with an accident on March 22 last year, underwent two operations at the SCB, first on March 22, 2020 and then again on June 19. However, he still couldn’t walk. In his brief interaction with the media, Das said he was forced to leave the hospital on July 15 last year despite the fact that he had not recovered.
Authorities at the SCB, however, refuted Das’ allegation. “There was no negligence on our part. He was given proper treatment and was told that full recovery of his right leg would take time since he would need to undergo a prolonged stint of physiotherapy. Our doctors also did the best they could after he was brought here yesterday. But unfortunately, we couldn’t save him,” said Bhubanananda Maharana, superintendent of SCB Medical College.
While it is difficult to ascertain if there was any neglect in Das’ treatment by the SCB Medical College, the authorities showed remarkable alacrity after his death yesterday. The post mortem of his body, originally scheduled to take place this morning, was conducted late last night in what appeared to almost be an afterthought.
The local administration too showed surprising promptness after the death as the Kujang BDO rushed to the home of the deceased and handed over a cheque of Rs 1 lakh, besides promising Rs 10 lakh and a suitable job to his wife. Das’ family members have alleged that instead of handing over the body to them for cremation after the post mortem, the police took the body to Puri and cremated it at the Swargadwar crematorium in the wee hours today despite their protest. “Where was the hurry? Why didn’t they hand over the body to us? Why did they cremate the body in such a hush-hush manner?” asked one of his relatives.
The incident has raised several important questions. First, how did Das manage to die by suicide in front of the Assembly, a high-security zone manned by 35 platoons of police, including 100 senior officers?
Second, why was the BSKY card, which the Naveen government never tires of citing as justification for not implementing the Centre’s Ayusman Yojana in the state, not accepted by the authorities at the SCB, the premier government health facility in the state?
And third, why did the authorities show undue haste in first conducting the post mortem and then cremating the body in a hush-hush manner?