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Mystery Unsolved: Sunanda Pushkar’s death case stirs fresh controversy

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Sunanda Pushkar’s death stirred another controversy on Tuesday, as All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) sought permission from Delhi High Court to replace its forensic department head Dr. Sudhir Kumar Gupta. The doctor had alleged that he was pressurized to give a false report on the death of Sunanda Pushkar as directed by Dr M C Misra, director of AIIMS.

On May 28, 2015, Gupta had written a letter to Union Health Minister, J P Nadda, alleging that the forensic team was asked to declare the death of Sunanda Pushkar as natural, adding that the team had taken principled and professional stand in the autopsy and not succumbing to pressure.

“I was asked by Dr. Misra to give a postmortem report of late Sunanda Pushkar as natural death, which was contrary to the findings,” he said in the letter, as reported by Times of India.

He also alleged a “tacit understanding” between AIIMS director Dr Misra and former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor to fabricate a “tailor-made” postmortem report.

The newspaper reported that Dr Adarsh Kumar, a member of the board of doctors which conducted the postmortem (of Sunanda Pushkar), has also written to the health minister supporting Dr. Gupta. He reportedly claimed that the board was asked to state the manner of death as “natural.”

However, AIIMS has rejected the allegations stating, “The institute would like to categorically state that there was no extraneous pressure ever on Dr. Gupta with regard to his medical opinion for any case. Allegations being leveled against the institute in the media by Prof. Gupta in this regard are baseless and denied.”

On Tuesday, the AIIMS administration sought the permission of the High Court to appoint Dr. D N Bhardwaj as the new head of its Forensic Medicine and Toxicology Department, replacing Dr. Sudhir Gupta.

The High Court on March 25 had issued an order directing AIIMS to take its permission before replacing Gupta.

As per the newspaper’s report, the decision was taken, considering Gupta’s plea challenging a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order rejecting his charge that Dr. O P Murty was promoted after purging his seniority with the purpose of obtaining a “tailor-made report” in the Sunanda Pushkar case.

CAT rubbished Gupta’s claim and rejected the allegation of interference made against Tharoor. It said the “email sent by Shashi Tharoor, then Union Minister, to Dr. Rajiv Bhasin, on January 26, 2014, and the notice dated June 2, 2014 issued by Dr. Adarsh Kumar, member secretary, Medical Board, AIIMS, do not reveal anything to show that any pressure was put on the applicant to submit a tailor-made autopsy report in Sunanda Pushkar’s case.”

Here is the timeline of the events that unfolded since Pushkar’s death:

January 17, 2014: Sunanda Pushkar, wife of former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in Hotel Leela Palace in New Delhi.

January 19: The doctors who conducted postmortem at AIIMS stated that it appeared to be a case of “sudden, unnatural death”, and that she had “certain injuries on the body.” The autopsy board included Dr. Adarsh Kumar and a senior resident in the department, Dr. Shashank Puniya.

January 21: The Subdivisional Magistrate (SDM) Alok Sharma who was heading the enquiry, had said in his report that Pushkar died of poisoning and had asked police to probe into the cause of poisoning.

January 23: Investigators were believed to have found that she died of “hidden poisoning” as traces of two medicines, Alprazolam and Excedrin, were found in her body.

July 01: Dr. Sudhir Kumar Gupta, who headed the panel that conducted the postmortem filed an affidavit before Central Administrative Tribunal, challenging an order to remove him from the post of head of forensic medicine. He alleged bias against him for succumbing to pressure from “top officials of the institute and then senior Congress ministers” to fabricate Pushkar’s post mortem report.

July 2: The then Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan sought a detailed report on the specific allegations leveled by the doctor.

October 10: The latest post mortem report submitted to AIIMS was leaked that stated the cause of death as “poisoning.” Delhi police was asked to ‘re-examine’ the case, following the revelation.

January 6, 2015: A year after Sunanda Pushkar’s death, Delhi Police confirmed that she was murdered, with the medical board calling her death ‘unnatural.’

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AIIMS Prepares Research Project on Air Pollution’s Impact on Health

"People with respiratory problems are increasing. Apart from asthma patients, there were fresh cases who visited AIIMS owing to pollution,"

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AIIMS launches research project on air pollution's impact on health.

As the National Capital Region (NCR) battles poor air quality during winter, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has started a research project to study the effects of air pollution on public health.

“Delhi’s air quality deteriorates every year during Diwali owing to multiple reasons like stubble burning and bursting of crackers. However, last year, when the air pollution level escalated, we noticed a surge in patients visiting AIIMS,” Dr Karan Madan, Associate Professor, Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep Disorders, AIIMS, who is part of this research programme, told IANS.

So the country’s premier medical research and referral hospital decided to conduct empirical research on the impact of air pollution on health.

For the study, titled “DAPHNE” (Delhi Air Pollution Health And Effects), AIIMS researchers have developed an air pollution sensor technology.

“This sort of study has not been earlier conducted in India. The device has been developed in a belt format which is very light and it gives clear continuous pollution data. The belt can be wrapped around the waist or on the arms,” Madan said.

air pollution, Pollution, pollutants
In this Sept. 19, 2018 photo steam and cooling towers of a lignite power plant are reflected in a pond in Peitz, eastern Germany. VOA

He explained that the device is wireless and directly sends data to a monitoring system through a Global Positioning System (GPS). AIIMS is primarily focusing on children suffering from pulmonary diseases like asthma, bronchitis and other breathing troubles — as well as pregnant women.

The device, which is to be worn by children suffering from asthma or bronchitis, will give an idea of the exposure level of air pollution when one is travelling in the school bus, at home, when in school, or outdoors while playing.

“On pregnant women, we are trying to see how pollution might affect the unborn child. We are also trying to figure out the birth rate issue from this study owing to poor air quality,” Madan noted.

Funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, and Medical Research Council, Britain, the project is a collaborative effort of the the two nations.

In India, apart from AIIMS, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, IIT Delhi and GTB Hospital are also associated with the research.

India, air pollution, WHO, diwali, Pollution, Delhi, egypt, air quality
A man walks in front of the India Gate shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India. VOA

“While the data on asthma in children will be compiled at AIIMS, GTB Hospital will be following the cases of pregnant women,” Madan said.

The research process, initiated last year, began on a pilot basis two months ago. Dr Madan stated that around 10 children have been given this belt across Delhi NCR.

“So far, the project is going good and the readings have come accurate. The study will conclude next year and the report will be released,” he added.

Also Read- Actress Alia Bhatt Wants People To Wait For Her Marriage

Talking about the rise in health hazards among residents in the National Capital Region and its surrounding areas, Madan said that AIIMS has witnessed an increase of 15-20 per cent in the number of patients with cases of respiratory problems like coughing, heavy breathing, asthma symptoms, and burning sensation in throat and nose.

“People with respiratory problems are increasing. Apart from asthma patients, there were fresh cases who visited AIIMS owing to pollution,” he stated. (IANS)