Elgar Parishad accused Varavara Rao tests positive for Covid-19
Poet and activist Varavara Rao, who was lodged at Taloja Jail as an undertrial in connection with the Elgar Parishad case, tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday. Rao, 81, is asymptomatic but will be treated with symptomatic drugs. His family has alleged criminal negligence by state authorities.
Dr Ranjit Mankeshwar, dean of Sir JJ Hospital, confirmed on Thursday that Rao was Covid-positive. “He is asymptomatic and stable. From Sir JJ Hospital, he will either be shifted to Gokuldas Tejpal (GT) hospital or St George’s Hospital. His oxygen saturation is above 95%. He will be treated with symptomatic drugs,” said Dr Mankeshwar.
Rao’s family issued a statement on Thursday expressing concern regarding Rao’s treatment and alleged Rao had been kept in “pathetic condition” at Sir JJ Hospital, “having to lie in urine-soaked clothes for hours, and with very little nursing aid available at the hospital”.
Refuting the family’s claims, Mankeshwar said, “These are fake allegations made against the hospital. I have taken all the required care of the patient.” For further comment, he told HT to speak to the hospital medical superintendent, Dr Sanjay Surase. Despite repeated attempts, Surase was unavailable for a comment.
The family’s statement also said, “The Covid finding highlights the criminal negligence of the state jail authorities, who have been repeatedly warned about the danger of Covid in Taloja Jail, and the fragile condition of the Hyderabad-based poet-writer. It is a matter of concern too that the trial court handling the Bhima Koregaon/ Elgar Parishad case turned a deaf ear to pleas for medical bail seeing the poor health condition of VV Rao and the danger of Covid.” The statement said Rao’s fellow inmate and co-accused in the Elgar Parishad case, Vernon Gonsalves, was also at risk of contracting Covid-19 as Gonsalves had been caring for Rao in jail.
Rao’s family expressed doubts about Rao being shifted to St George’s Hospital, which is a dedicated civic-run Covid hospital. “This is again bad news as St George’s, with its poor health care record, may hardly be the place where Rao has a chance to recover. The only way VV stands a good chance is if Bombay high court (HC), hearing the matter tomorrow, gives him medical bail, and is shifted to decent private speciality hospital,” read the statement.
Rao had moved HC, appealing against an order of a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court that rejected his interim bail application on June 26. The plea will be heard today.
Rao is one of 11 people booked in the Elgar Parishad case, on charges of conspiring to organise an event in Pune that has been linked to the violence at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018.