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Death of Padma Scientist at Airport Spurs Son To Demand Medical Aid at All Airports

In December last year, Prof Lalji Singh, known as the Father of DNA Fingerprinting in India, died after he suffered a major heart attack while at the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, Babatpur in Varanasi.

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Death is inevitable. But nothing shocks us more than when a death, which could have been prevented or avoided, occurs due to sheer negligence. Human apathy makes death painful and stark, making us question everything – medical advances, the quality of healthcare, laws, regulations, and the value of life in our country.

In December last year, Prof Lalji Singh, known as the Father of DNA Fingerprinting in India, died after he suffered a major heart attack while at the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport, Babatpur in Varanasi.

The airport was not equipped to handle this medical emergency, and by the time he was taken to the hospital – a good few hours later – he had breathed his last. The doctors who examined him say that had he been provided with oxygen supply during the “Golden Hour”, he could have been saved.

What makes it even harsher is that precious time was lost in getting formalities like an “Exit Pass” organised for him due to security reasons. What good are processes that are supposedly put in place to keep people safe when they end up killing them?

Up until I started my research for this piece I had assumed that all airports across the country would be equipped to handle emergency medical situations and would also have an ambulance on call.

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Photo Source

My assumption was wrong.

If they did then perhaps Prof Lalji could have been saved.

Airports have become a place to shop and eat. They are all well equipped with restaurants serving a variety of cuisines, every brand that you can think of has a presence here, and liquor outlets thrive – and yet one of the most basic requirements of having a medical room with functional facilities is missing.

We, at the Better India, spoke to Late Prof Lalji’s son, Abhisekh Singh, who is asking some pertinent questions.


Abhishek is asking the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airport Authority of India to mandate the availability of a doctor, ambulance, minimum medical support, trained medical personnel and standard operating procedures at all civilian airports in India.

You can support his cause by signing the petition here.


On December 10, 2017, Prof Lalji was travelling from Varanasi to Hyderabad on an Indigo flight. Hailing from a village in Varanasi, Prof Lalji started Genome Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to diagnose and treat genetic disorders affecting the underprivileged, especially from rural India.

Having reached the airport well in time, Prof Lalji enquired about the wheelchair he had asked for while making his booking. He had nagging knee pain and hence wanted the wheelchair.

Prof Lalji. Photo Source

Unfortunately, the staff at the airport told him that there was no request and they couldn’t provide him with one. Since he was travelling alone, he went in to the airport and checked in.

Abhisekh says, “Since I was not present there at that time, I have requested the airport to provide me with the CCTV footage from that day. However, so far I have not received it. I can only, therefore, corroborate what I am saying with what people present there have said to me.”

After he checked in, a wheelchair was provided. Abhisekh also mentions that around this time he called his father to check on him.

A little after that Prof Lalji faced some difficulty in breathing and went to the counter to ask for help. He was taken to the medical inspection room where the compounder after checking him insisted on having him taken to a hospital for immediate medical intervention.

“While the airport had a medical intervention room there was no doctor or medical supplies there. Looking back they did not even have an oxygen cylinder in the airport,” says Abhisekh.

An ambulance was asked for but since did not arrive Prof Lalji had to be taken in a private car to the nearest hospital which was also quite a distance away. Given the strict security, once a passenger enters the airport, they are not allowed to leave until an exit pass is shown.

Despite being in great distress, Prof Lalji had to wait to have that pass made and only then was allowed to leave the airport.

Varanasi Airport
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The doctor who checked Prof Lalji mentioned how he could have been saved if he had been administered with oxygen during the ‘Golden Hour’. Prof Lalji was alive even after the heart attack, but the delay in getting him medical treatment cost him his life.

Here are some of the questions raised by Abhisekh:

1. While there is a medical intervention room, it is virtually of no use.

What is the point of having a designated room in the airport and calling it medical intervention room if there are no trained medical professionals there? In places like Varanasi where even the nearest hospital is quite a distance away, what happens in cases of medical emergencies?

Are these airports waiting for such incidents to occur to act?

2. Should airports not be equipped with basic medical infrastructure?

Unfortunately for us in India, heart disease is still the leading cause of death.

Knowing this should we not be working towards equipping the airports and railway stations, places that see thousands of people day in and day out, with basic medical infrastructure?

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Photo Source

An oxygen cylinder, a defibrillator, an ambulance on call?

3. Is there a standard operating procedure in cases of medical emergencies?

Are our airports equipped to handle medical emergencies? Manuals like the Airports Authority of India, Terminal Management clearly states the need to have a well-equipped first aid box ready. This includes a small oxygen cylinder with delivery accessories and a facemask.

The manual also states that it is desirable that an updated list of Telephone numbers and addresses of the hospitals and nursing homes ( indicating the specialised Treatment rendered) in the vicinity of the Airport should always be available with the Terminal Manager.

If these are guidelines then why were none of them implemented on December 10, 2017? Are these guidelines just printed because they look good on paper? Does the DGCA ever audit the airports to ensure that all the norms are being followed?

So important questions for us all.


Abhishek is asking the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airport Authority of India to mandate the availability of a doctor, ambulance, minimum medical support, trained medical personnel and standard operating procedures at all civilian airports in India.

You can support his cause by signing the petition here.


(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)

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