The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Death shadow on yoga camp
- Boy had history of cardiac disease

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 3: Death of a teenager while doing breathing exercises this morning cast a cloud over the yoga camp being conducted by the new age guru, Baba Ramdev (in picture).

Manoj Das (13), claimed ayurvedic doctors at the camp, had come to the stall for treatment but was shifted to a city hospital in view of his serious condition. The hospital said that the young boy was brought dead.

A cousin of the deceased, Sarbeshwar Das claimed volunteers informing him that Manoj had fainted while doing breathing exercises. He was first taken to the ayurvedic stall and then shifted to the hospital in an auto-rickshaw in the absence of an ambulance.

Manoj suffered from rheumatic heart disease and cardiac problems, and had undergone treatment earlier, conceded the cousin. In fact, Sarbeshwar claimed that he had advised the deceased’s father, Narahari Das, a farmer from Panchapalli village in Jagatsinghpur, to send Manoj to Bhubaneswar to benefit from the yogic exercises.

“I received him at Cuttack yesterday morning. He was fine till this morning and was excited at the opportunity to attend the camp,” recalled the stunned cousin at the hospital. Sarbeshwar, who has been staying at Bhubaneswar to prepare for various competitive examinations, admitted that he had informed the deceased’s family about Ramdev and his camp. “I believed that asanas and pranayam might help in curing him,” he added.

Reacting to the incident, Baba Ramdev said: “Yoga and pranayam are for longevity and good health, and certainly not for death. We have never imparted any practice that could lead to the death of a person.” S.S. Adhikari, a member of Patanjali Yoga Samiti, the organiser of the camp, said: “We are not sure if the boy attended the camp or not.”

Recalling the sequence of events, Sarbeshwar said Manoj had accompanied him to the camp early in the morning. Sarbeshwar had handed over the ticket worth Rs 500 to him at 4.45 am and had asked him to reach the parking lot at 7 am when the camp was expected to end. There was a huge rush and Sarbeshwar estimated that about 20,000 people had converged there.

He got alarmed when Manoj failed to turn up at the designated parking lot even after the camp had dispersed. Believing that Manoj might have spotted some relatives inside and left with them, he began calling up friends and relatives in Bhubaneswar. One of them, Gangadhar Pradhan, who was present at the Capital Hospital, told him that he had seen some volunteers from the yoga camp arriving at the casualty ward with a teenager and overheard doctors declaring that the teenager was no longer alive.

While Sarbeshwar rushed to the hospital and identified the deceased as Manoj, the chief medical officer at the hospital, Sugat Kar, said the body had been sent for post-mortem and an “unnatural death” case had been lodged with the police. Kar said: “The tragedy could have been averted if the boy had first been tested for blood sugar and subjected to cardiological tests, including the treadmill. They would have indicated whether he was fit to undertake the exercises.”

A Class VIII student of Grameshwar high school, the deceased had earlier been treated at SCB Medical College at Cuttack. But once his condition improved after undergoing treatment at Satya Sai Baba’s hospital at Puttapurthy, said Sarbeshwar, the boy had stopped taking medicine and injections prescribed to him. The decision possibly proved fatal.

But the family has demanded an inquiry.

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