New Delhi: Former Indian ambassador to Brunei, Mozambique and Algeria, Ashok Amrohi, passed away after midnight on April 27 while waiting for a bed in the parking lot of Gurgaon’s Medanta hospital for nearly five hours.
After his death, India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar tweeted that he was shocked at Amrohi’s passing. “Was a good friend and dedicated colleague who ably represented India in Brunei, Mozambique and Algeria. Condolences to his family,” he tweeted.
Heartfelt tributes flowed in from the various countries he had been stationed in, showing that Amrohi had been well-loved. Even from Qatar, where he had been posted as first secretary years ago, condolences highlighted his popularity among the local Indian diaspora.
His wife, Yamini Amrohi, told The Wire that her husband had been ill for the last week. With his situation deteriorating, doctors advised that he should be hospitalised.
India is currently going through a devastating COVID-19 second wave, with daily new cases having crossed the 350,000 mark two days ago. Delhi and its surrounding areas, as well as other parts of the country, have been facing a critical shortage of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines required to treat the virus.
The family was told by a doctor that a bed would be available at 8 pm at Medanta. “We had even got the bed number. We went there ahead at 7:30 p.m. First, they said that a COVID-19 test had to be done. So, we first waited first for one and a half hours. He was sitting in the front seat of the car.”
Then after the test, their son went to stand in the queue to get his father admitted – but the process stretched on for indeterminately. “I went to the place at least three times begging them for someone to look at him… I was crying, I was shouting that ‘unke saanse tham rahi hai’… his heartbeat is failing. But nobody helped.”
Throughout the ordeal, Amrohi remained in the car. “They didn’t even get a wheelchair or stretcher.”
“You know what they told me… that they can only look at him after the admission process is completed.”
His son even left the queue once to urge his father to remain with them as his admission would be soon completed. “He was telling him.. haunsla rakhiya, aap ka admission abhi ho jayega.”
While they were waiting, they had got an oxygen cylinder, but that didn’t help. “Towards the end, he was tearing away the mask and we kept putting it on. He was not able to speak. I was stroking his back to ease him…”
Sometime after midnight, he died from a cardiac arrest. “He passed away sitting in the car.”
Yamini Amrohi recounts that their distraught son pleaded with her husband to open his eyes as his admission had been done. The paperwork was completed a few minutes before his death. “I went to the hospital and told them, that all of you are murderers,” she said, breaking down.
When asked if Ministry of External Affairs’s help was sought, she asked, “What could the ministry have done?”
The ministry itself is grappling with a major outbreak of COVID-19 among its officers, with many of them having to travel to other states to get a bed. It is learnt that the MEA had to step in after a former foreign secretary’s ambulance had to return from hospitals after not being able to find a bed.
The Wire sent a message to the spokesperson of Medanta hospital to ask for a comment. This article will be updated once a response is received.