Covid hits AMU; 50 serving, ex-staff die
At least 50 current and retired staff at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) have succumbed to Covid-19 in the past three weeks, officials said on Monday, rejecting allegations that the administration of the prestigious Uttar Pradesh institution were lax or negligent in dealing with the pandemic.
At least 15 serving faculty members, 25 retired teaching faculty, 15 staff members and two schoolteachers from AMU have died in the past three weeks of Covid-19, said people aware of developments.
“In all, 18 serving faculty members have died, out of whom 15 died because of Covid-related reasons. The cause of three other deaths was non-Covid. There are more deaths, which include retired faculty members and staff at Aligarh Muslim University,” said Dr Rahat Abrar, the public relations officer of AMU.
“These deaths have taken place in the last 20 to 25 days. Concerned by this, the vice chancellor of AMU has written to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for genome sequencing of the virus active on the campus,” Dr Abrar said.
There are about 5,000 non teaching staff and around 1,700 teaching staff at AMU.
On Sunday, AMU vice chancellor Tariq Mansoor wrote to ICMR director general Balram Bhargava, requesting a study to find out if a particular virus variant was circulating around the Civil Lines area of Aligarh, in which AMU and many adjoining localities are situated.
“Two serving faculty members who died because of Covid-19 — professor Qazi Mohammad Jamshed and associate professor Iqbal Qasim— were residing in the medical colony within the AMU campus,” the university spokesperson said. The other resided in areas adjoining the sprawling campus.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMC) is affiliated to AMU and situated on the university campus. The head of the medicine department at JNMC, Prof Shadab Ahmad Khan, is among 18 serving faculty members of AMU who died.
The deaths have triggered allegations of negligence. Faizul Hasan, former president AMU Students’ Union, demanded a high-level inquiry. He claimed that at least 45 serving professors, 15 to 16 retired faculty members and more than 50 employees linked with AMU died in 20 to 25 days. Other students and teachers said there was widespread panic in the campus and a shortage of doctors at the medical college.
But JNMC principal Prof Shahid Ali Siddiqi rejected the allegations and said Covid was playing havoc all over the nation and the medical college was no exception. “There are various factors for deteriorating cases of Covid-19 and (they) include diabetes, hypertension and obesity. We appeal that Covid-19 patients should be brought in time as often the patients reach hospital when much is lost,” he said.
The Aligarh administration and health officials said they had no information about the deaths. “We were not informed about the deaths of faculty members at AMU,” said Aligarh district magistrate Chandra Bhushan Singh.
Aligarh chief medical officer Bhanu Pratap Kalyani said he came to know of the deaths through newspaper reports and samples being sent by JNMC to ICMR.