The recent death of a PhD student of the University of Pune (UoP) has taken many by surprise and the police are probing the possibility of her having obtained a poisonous chemical from the varsity’s chemistry department for allegedly committing suicide. If the police theory is true, unregulated use of dangerous chemicals and compounds by students in chemical laboratories could open a fresh debate.
Varsha Lawande, a 27-year student doing her PhD in organic chemistry at UoP died in a private hospital here on July 12. Saifan Mujawar, senior inspector, Sangvi police station, told Newsline that an accidental death case has been registered in the death of Lawande and the viscera has been preserved for forensic tests.
“We spoke with different people about the death and prima facie it is a case of suicide. Neither was any injury found on the body of the deceased nor had she suffered cardiac arrest or any other internal organ failure. She might have consumed poison, whose source we are finding out. Since the deceased was a research student in chemistry, there is a possibility that she might have carried certain poisonous substances from laboratories. The report of viscera analysis is expected in month’s time and then we will have a clear idea,” he said.
Speaking with Newsline, Kisan Kodam, faculty with UoP’s chemistry department narrated the incidents on July 8, the day Varsha allegedly tried to commit suicide, and gave information about her.
“On July 8, Varsha was working in the chemistry department till 5 in the evening. After leaving the campus, she reached her friend’s home in Sangvi on a two-wheeler. The female friend is doing PhD with us and was a childhood friend of Varsha. Both used to live together till her friend married another PhD student at the chemistry department a few months back. Varsha was not on talking terms with her friend since the marriage and according to friends, had gone to her place to speak out her heart,” he said.
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Kodam, quoting friends of the deceased, said Varsha and her friend were having tea when she fainted and was taken to a nearby hospital.
“Initially, her condition was critical. After a couple of days, she showed some improvement but again become critical following which she was shifted to another private hospital. She breathed her last around Saturday evening,” Kodam, who offered financial help to Varsha’s brother along with a few other friends, said.
On the possibility of use of poisonous chemical from the laboratory for allegedly committing suicide, Dilip Dhavale, head of UoP chemistry department said details related to research carried out by deceased and different chemicals associated with it would have to be checked with her guide, who is now in the USA.
“After terror incidents in the past, checks are in place for use of sensitive substances in laboratories by students. Only the teachers concerned who were attending laboratories used by Varsha and her guide can throw more light on the possibility raised by the police,” he said.