But the university remains silent on non-teaching staff who have lost their lives during the second wave of pandemic
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
ALIGARH — The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has finally acknowledged that “18 serving faculty members” have succumbed to the ongoing second wave of Covid-19. So far the university has been blaming all the deaths on “brief illness”. The university authorities were doing this so consistently that it gave the impression that they were perhaps following a policy of not acknowledging the deaths as Covid-related.
There is also confusion over the death figure. Lists circulating on social media are varying. According to one such list, 22 serving faculty members and 23 retired faculty members have died during the last 20 days or so.
On Monday, the Chief Medical Superintendent and Principal of AMU’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMC), Prof Shahid Ali Siddiqui termed the death figures doing rounds on social media as “exaggerated”.
In a statement, he said: “AMU has been bereaved of 18 faculty members since the onset of the second Covid wave, out of which 15 were either Covid or suspected Covid patients. Three patients have died because of non-Covid reasons such as Brain Tuberculosis and liver disease. And moreover, out of the 15 Covid or suspected Covid deaths, four have occurred outside Aligarh”.
Prof. Siddiqui also clarified that not all the retired faculty members who died in the past one-month were undergoing treatment at JNMC. “We would like to make it clear that many of these superannuated faculty members were not even in Aligarh at the time of their deaths”, he added.
However, the AMU is silent on the deaths of non-teaching staff. A list issued by AMU Non-Teaching Staf Coordination Committee has given the names and photographs of 17 of its members who have died “during this hard pandemic situation”.
But the actual figure of deaths is much more, say residents of civil lines area in Aligarh where the university is situated. “The university issues press releases only about the deaths of teaching staff. Deaths of non-teaching staff and others associated with the university do not make news. There is no way of accessing that record,” said one of the residents who is also a former student of the university.
IANS news agency reported on Sunday that a large number of staffers are under treatment at the JNMC. It said that the number of deaths could be much higher, but the university officials could not give the exact numbers. IANS quoted social activist Jasim Mohammad who fears that “may be a hundred have already died and in another one month, there could be another 100 deaths, if conditions do not improve.”
In his statement, Prof Siddiqui, the JNMC principal, has appealed “all concerned, especially the AMU employees, to get vaccinated at the earliest”. He said the incidence of death has been very low among those inoculated. “JNMC is also a designated vaccination centre and we urge everyone to follow Covid appropriate behaviour and social distancing. We offer deep condolences to families of all the deceased,” he said.
The university has approached ICMR to investigate samples sent from JNMC lab for any Covid variants that might be present in Aligarh, giving rise to the severity of the disease.
One of India’s top virologists Shahid Jameel has expressed concern over the unusual number of Covid cases and even deaths. “As an epidemiologist what do you make of it? Is this not unusual? Has there been any attempt to look at: viral variants circulating in AMU areas; and any other epidemiological links,” Jameel is reported to have said in a message sent to AMU’s Community Medicine Department.