Hospitalized for eye infection, jailed prof Hany Babu tests COVID positive

In an earlier statement, Prof. Babu’s wife Jenny Rowena and his brothers said in a statement that Taloja jail authorities denied a follow-up treatment for his eye infection.

Mumbai: Delhi university professor and an undertrial prisoner in the Elgar Parishad case, Hany Babu on Thursday tested positive for COVID-19 after he was hospitalized for an acute eye infection, his family said.

Prof. Hany Babu was first taken to JJ hospital for his eye treatment after his wife and two brothers alleged in a letter that he was denied treatment for his eye infection. 

JJ hospital dean Dr Ranjit Mankeshwar confirmed to The Wire that Babu was hospitalised in the early hours of May 13, following an eye infection. A swab test for COVID-19 was also conducted and his results returned positive.

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His vitals are normal, Dr Mankeshwar said, adding that his left eye continues to be sore with double vision. Prof. Babu was later shifted to GT hospital, upon his family’s insistence for better treatment.

Babu complained of an eye swelling May 3. He was, however, taken to the Vashi government hospital only on May 7, following several calls and stern emails from his lawyers to the prison officials. 

In an earlier statement, Prof. Babu’s wife Jenny Rowena and his brothers – Harish M.T. and M.T. Ansari – said in an earlier statement that Taloja jail authorities denied a follow-up treatment for his eye infection claiming paucity of jail escorts. It was only after the family’s statement was widely shared, demanding Babu’s treatment, the prison officials took him to the JJ hospital on May 12.

“The thought of Hany having to beg for something as basic as essential health services is heart-wrenching. It is abject injustice that Hany should have to suffer repeatedly due to the negligence of state officials. We are dealing with an opaque and callous system which is deaf to our cries and blind to our pain,” the family said in a statement.

The family also appealed to the state government to shift Babu to a multispecialty hospital.

55-year-old Prof. Hany Babu was arrested on July 28 last year by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and has since been in Taloja central prison. The prison, meant to accommodate 2,124 prisoners, is overcrowded and houses over 3,500 (at 166% occupancy) prisoners, The Wire mentioned in a report.

Under trial prisoners’ precarious health conditions

Not just Prof. Hany Babu, health of several undertrial prisoners at Taloja prison and Byculla prison in relation to Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case continues to be precarious.

Except for Varavara Rao, who is currently on a temporary bail on medical grounds, 15 more Bhima Koregaon undertrials continue to be lodged in jail when a second wave of COVID-19 infection continues to ravage the country. Rao was also tested positive for COVID-19 and underwent treatment at JJ hospital.

83-year-old Father Stan Swamy is a known case of Parkinson’s Disease. Dr. Anand Teltumbde, 72 years old is an asthmatic. These health conditions predispose them to worse health outcomes in the event of COVID-19 infection. Advocate Surendra Gadling has also informed his family of an eye affliction. 

Both Sudha Bharadwaj and Shoma Sen have a history of comorbidities which make them susceptible to COVID-19. Sudha Bhardwaj is currently undergoing treatment for health complaints. Jyoti Jagtap was tested positive for COVID-19 and has been quarantined with other cases from Byculla Prison.

The families of these 15 prisoners even wrote to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray pleading for their immediate release in light of the health risks posed due to COVID-19.

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