New Delhi: Unable to access information about Varavara Rao’s health from hospital authorities, his family has written to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Rao, who tested positive for COVID-19 and has several co-morbidities, is currently at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital.
Other than a confirmation about his positive COVID-19 test, his family says in the letter, they have received no information whatsoever about his health. “Denial of any information on Mr. Rao’s health is a direct violation of NHRC’s order dated July 13, 2020, whereby it had specifically directed the prison authorities to provide all the necessary medical care and assistance to Shri Rao with intimation to his family members,” the letter says.
Rao had been seriously unwell in prison over the last month, and his family has alleged that his medical condition was ignored and allowed to worsen by the authorities. It was only after several appeals from his family, rights activists, lawyers and the NHRC that Rao was moved to a hospital.
The 80-year-old Telugu poet has a head injury that was discovered at Nanavati Hospital, the family says in their letter, but they were not told about it by hospital or prison authorities. “We learnt about it only from friends in media and civil society. Consequently, we receive no official updates from the hospital or the prison authorities and our consent isn’t taken for any of the critical treatment that maybe required to administer him. His health becoming the subject of public speculation with no official or transparent information from the hospital authorities is causing extreme anxiety to the entire family.”
Family members have urged the NHRC to intervene and make sure that regular health updates, every six hours, are provided to the family. “We believe as Mr. Rao’s family we should have access to information and patient concerned as it should be according to the law of the land and medical ethics. We also urge the NHRC to direct the concerned authorities to allow a family member to assist/attend him, since he is reportedly not in a position to do anything on his own,” the letter concludes.
Rao, who has been in jail since June 2018, is one of 11 human rights activists and lawyers who have been arrested in the Elgar Parishad case and accused of inciting violence against Dalits at Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 2018. The police also claims that they have “Maoist links”.
Last week, the National Investigation Agency opposed Rao’s bail plea, saying that he was taking “undue benefit” of the pandemic. “The appellant accused Varavara Rao under the garb of the current situation on the account of global pandemic COVID-19 and his old age, is trying to take an undue benefit,” the agency said in its affidavit.