Today I was shocked after reading the newspaper. Rohit Kumar was his name, a third year student of electrical engineering in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur. He was starry-eyed and talented, like much of our ilk. He was to go to Brussels this summer for a coveted internship, and wanted to pursue research instead of going after money. He was a basketball champ too, and practiced for long hours. He was part of the team that organises Kshitij, IIT Kharagpur’s (henceforth referred to as Kgp) annual techfest. He was a fan of Roger Federer. He was.
For the past few days, Rohit had been complaining of severe headaches, and went to the campus hospital which is supposed to cater to all medical needs of the Institute. However, the doctors there thought he was much ado about nothing, and gave him only painkillers. And on Sunday when he fell down unconscious while playing basketball, and started bleeding from the head, there was nobody there to give him any emergency treatment, simply because the hospital in Kgp is not equipped to handle emergencies. When the doctor finally arrived, he referred Rohit to a hospital in Kolkata, 60 kms away. And even in the ambulance, there was no doctor to accompany him, because hey, it’s a Sunday, and what doctor would want to lose his leave for a bleeding student? Anyway, his friends were there with him in the ambulance, but then he started vomiting blood. They changed plan and headed for the nearest hospital in the way, but it was too late. And his heart within which many a dream flourished, stopped beating.
So who would you blame for this unfortunate incident? Rohit’s fellow inmates launched a protest and forced the director of the Institute to resign. Today, they wore black bands in memory of their beloved friend. Tomorrow, a few cursory changes will be effected as a result of what has happened. And day after, things will return to normal, and the core truth will stand as it always has: in India’s best government-sponsored colleges, student healthcare is hardly looked after. Cases like Rohit’s frequently happen all over India, and serious medical lapses have occured at Kgp itself over the past few months, as this article points out.
Now you’d wonder, why wouldn’t a top-flight college like Kgp have top-flight medical facilities? The reason is simply this deep-rooted belief of a substantial number of pedagogues in India that the students exist for them, rather than in the reality, which is that they are nothing without their students. Unlike in best Universities of the world, where students are the top priority, many institutes of excellence in India have a lopsided pyramid where the students are the bottom heap. Kgp is a case in point, where the authorities didn’t do anything to upgrade the hospital even after similar incidents happened in the past. And this was the place I was impressed by when I visited it some time back. I’d thought, wow, now this is a beautiful place to spend four years of your life.
Perhaps all that excellent architecture, the perfect planning, and the overall scenic beauty was intended only to stomp the superiority of the Institute over others, rather than an attempt to provide wholesome education to the students, the best minds of India. Deep within, the problems within the Indian academic setup is a collective malaise, boosted by the obsolete mindsets of pedagogues. And then they say that the best minds don’t stay in the country. If we are to prove ourselves at par with the rest of the world in the field of higher education, we’ll need our pedagogues to open their minds and usher in a new revolution. For it has begun in certain places, and if the rest don’t catch up soon, they’ll be left behind. Far behind.
May Rohit’s soul rest in peace. And may his utimely death open the eyes of some who’ve sealed them shut.