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Chunks of ceiling fall on Presi girls

Chunks of concrete coming off the ceiling at Presidency University’s historic but crumbling Baker Building fell on two postgraduate students having tea in a canteen after a laboratory session on Thursday afternoon.

The duo, second-year students of molecular biology, were in a group of four to five classmates chatting over tea when two pieces fell on their heads around 1pm. Luckily for them, the largest chunk fell on their table.

“It could have killed us,” said a student who did not want to be named.

Injured Shreya Sengupta and Chandroma Majumder were taken to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital and shifted to Ruby hospital on the Bypass around 4pm.

A friend said Chandroma was bleeding from her forehead while Shreya had a bump on her head.

Both girls underwent CT scan at Ruby, after which Shreya was released. Chandroma will be under observation for a day.

“Chandroma has a deep cut and needed a couple of stitches on the left side of her forehead. Her condition is stable. The CT scan did not show any internal injury, but she is under observation,” said S.B. Purkayastha, CEO of Ruby General Hospital.

She was also advised an X-ray of the spinal cord to rule out injury.

The incident inside the 100-year old Baker Building that houses the physics, physiology and zoology departments reflects the neglect of an institution where stalwarts such as Meghnad Saha, Jagadis Chandra Bose, Prasanta Chandra Mahalonobis and Satyendranath Bose worked and taught.

Metro had highlighted on January 29 how teachers and students were working in the physics laboratory with a latticed net hanging under the ceiling to stop chunks from falling on them (see picture). Several other rooms of the building, in an equally poor condition, do not even have the protection of a net.

“Shreya and me were sitting side by side when suddenly a chunk fell on me. Blood immediately trickled down my forehead,” Chandroma recounted to Metro from her hospital bed.

“The doctors have said it will take seven days for the stitches to heal, and though I want to resume attending classes as soon as possible I don’t know how feasible it will be for me to travel from Kanchrapara to College Street until I fully recover,” she said.

Chandroma’s father Gautam Majumder quoted her as saying that the piece of concrete falling on her head felt like “someone hit me hard”.

A friend who was in “Sukumarda’s canteen” with Shreya and Chandroma said the “consequences could have been far more serious had the largest of the chunks fallen on anyone. “It missed me by a whisker,” she said.

Classmates of the injured girls informed their parents about the accident.

Chandroma’s father said he was aware of the dilapidated state of Baker Building but it had never occurred to him that his daughter might be injured by a falling chunk someday.

“During her admission test, I did notice a net hanging from the ceiling of a classroom to prevent chunks from falling down on people. But I never thought that my daughter would be hit by one,” Majumder said.

Presidency has been pleading with the government for funds to renovate the building. The government has given the university Rs 4.1 crore for renovation, which a source termed “grossly inadequate” given the condition of the campus infrastructure. “The renovation of Baker Building requires Rs 50 crore, whereas the government has given us only Rs 4.1 crore for repairs across the university,” he said.

Some repairs have been carried out in Baker Building but Thursday proved that much remains to be done.

The small canteen is located along the ground floor corridor of Baker Building. The authorities claim that opposition from students to their plan to shift the canteen is preventing them from carrying out repairs.

“We are unable to start repairs because of the canteen there. A section of the students has opposed the removal of the canteen from that location, without which repairs are not possible,” said an official of the university administration.

Jagadis Chandra Bose, Presidency’s second non-European teacher after Prafulla Chandra Roy, had inaugurated Baker Building on January 20, 1913, and taught there for four years until his retirement. Since then, many stalwarts have walked the corridors of the building that now cuts such a sorry figure.