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SSKM intern dies, suspicion on drugs

Shahbaaz, (above) Saptarshi

Calcutta, Feb. 22: An MBBS student interning at SSKM Hospital and about to become a full-fledged doctor died today, and his batchmate is fighting for life after what investigators said could be an overdose of a cocktail of drugs.

Saptarshi Das, a popular student who played several sports, was gasping for breath and Mohammed Shahbaaz Siddiqui was unconscious in room No. 426 of the main boys’ hostel on the campus when some juniors found them around 9.30am.

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

A student has to rank among the first 650 in the state Joint Entrance Examination to get a place in SSKM’s undergraduate course. Over 45,000 students sit for the test.

Saptarshi, 24, from Sonarpur in South 24-Parganas, passed the JEE. Patna boy Shahbaaz, also 24, had cracked CBSE’s all-India medical entrance.

The two were to complete their one-year internship by March 21 and get their MBBS degrees soon after.

Interns are an integral part, if not the backbone, of government hospitals in Bengal. The undergraduates in the last year of their five-and-a-half-year course go on rounds, see patients, prescribe medicines and keep records.

Saptarshi, a junior doctor recalled, had done “a fabulous job one night when a bus overturned in Kidderpore and he was the lone doctor at the emergency”.

Saptarshi’s father is a veterinary doctor while Shahbaaz’s father works in Kuwait in an oil company. Saptarshi was the only son of his parents.

The two interns were taken to the critical care unit after repeated attempts at cardio-pulmonary resuscitation failed. Till late this evening, doctors at SSKM said Shahbaaz’s condition was “extremely critical”.

A police officer who entered the room, which some said belonged to another student who was on night duty, described it as a “dirty place” with half-eaten meals and “lots of syringes and medicine strips” strewn all around. “Two syringes contained a white milky liquid,” the officer said.

A glass containing two pinches of a black powdery substance, half-burnt silver foils used in cigarette wrapping and a burnt spoon were found.

“Most of the medicines, at a glance, appeared to be nerve stimulants available across the counter on producing a prescription. The contents of the two syringes, however, can be determined only after a forensic test,” the officer added.

Asked if he was aware of any substance abuse in the hostel of the apex referral hospital, Mitra said: “I have never heard of students taking drugs in the hostel. An intern lodged a complaint with me that the two had broken into his room. They were apparently taking drugs there. We are investigating the matter.”

Transport minister Madan Mitra, president of the Patients’ Welfare Samiti, said: “We have sought a report from the college authorities within a day about how drugs could reach the hostel. The police should raid the hostel.”

“The hostel has no warden, so there’s no question of any supervision. There is no budgetary allocation for even guards at the gates,” said a senior doctor. “We managed to deploy just one guard at this hostel from the hospital’s budget.”

Students said some medicos take stimulants during the exam season. Some medical representatives are believed to be an easy source.

Shahbaaz, the elder of two sons, had studied in Don Bosco Patna till Class X and then at Loyola High School. His mother has arrived from Patna and his father is on his way. Shahbaaz’s brother, an engineer, works in Delhi.

Saptarshi, a former student of Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya, Narendrapur, was cremated by his family.

“He was one of our brighter students who topped all sports competitions,” said an SSKM batchmate. “Yesterday, I asked him whether he would play cricket with us. He smiled and said: ‘Boyesh hoye jaachhey rey (I’m getting old).”


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