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Intern critical, finger at drugs

The SSKM hostel where the interns lived. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Calcutta, Feb. 22: An MBBS student from Patna working as an intern at SSKM Hospital here is battling for life, while his batchmate died today after what investigators said could be an overdose of a cocktail of narcotics.

Saptarshi Das was found gasping for breath and Mohammed Shahbaaz Siddiqui unconscious in room No. 426 of the main boys’ hostel on the campus by juniors around 9.30am.

Saptarshi, who is from Sonarpur in South 24-Parganas, came through the JEE. Shahbaaz, from Patna, had cracked CBSE’s all-India medical entrance for a seat here.

“Saptarshi passed away at 12.40pm after all efforts to resuscitate him failed,” said Pradip Mitra, director of the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research (IPGMER). “I have been told that the two students were heavily into drugs. I have convened a hostel committee meeting on Monday to discuss how drugs could find a way into the hostel.”

Friends described both as bright students. A student has to rank among the first 700 in the state Joint Entrance Examination to get a berth in SSKM’s undergraduate course.

A police officer who entered the room, which some said belonged to another student who was on night duty, said it looked a “dirty place” with half-eaten meals, “lots of syringes and medicine strips” strewn all around. Two used syringes were seized from

the spot. “The syringes contained a white milky liquid,” said an officer. “There were at least 15 unused syringes and medicine strips.”

A glass containing around two pinches of a black powdery substance, half-burnt silver foil used in cigarette wrapping and a burnt spoon were also found. “Most of the medicines, at a glance, appeared to be nerve stimulants that are available across the counter on producing a prescription. The content of the two syringes however cannot be ascertained with naked eyes. A forensic test would determine their composition,” he added.

Junior students rushed the two to the critical care unit on the second floor of the main block around 10.30am after repeated attempts at cardio-pulmonary resuscitation failed. Das died within two hours. Till late evening, doctors at SSKM said Shahbaaz’s condition was “extremely critical.”

“An intern lodged a complaint with me that the two had broken open his room. The duo was apparently taking drugs there. We are investigating the matter and will submit our report to Swasthya Bhawan,” Mitra said.

Saptarshi, a former student of Ramakrishna Mission, Narendrapur, hails from Sonarpur’s Purbachal and was one of the most popular faces among his batchmates. Not only was he a good student, he was also into sports.

Saptarshi was the only child of his parents and was very attached to them, a cousin said on the way to Boral crematorium. His father, Satinath Das, is a vet.

“He was very good at handling patients even at emergency. One night there were no seniors at the emergency and there was a heavy rush of patients following a bus accident at Khidderpore. He handled it all,” said Aftab, one of the junior doctors.

Shahbaaz is the elder of two sons. His father works in Kuwait.

“If Saptarshi and Shahbaaz have fallen to drugs then it’s time police should raid the hostel and carry out a detailed probe,” said Madan Mitra, transport minister and president of Patients’ Welfare Samity, a body comprising MLAs and senior doctors meant to look after the welfare of the college and hospital.