Veteran journalist Rajkumar Keswani, known for his series of reports forewarning the Bhopal gas tragedy, died Friday in a city hospital from post-Covid complications. He was 72.
Keswani, who worked with Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, had tested positive on April 8. He was admitted to JK Hospital in Bhopal on April 11 and returned home after testing negative on April 20.
He was, however, rushed to Bansal hospital for lung-related infections. “We were informed by the doctors that he died at 7:30 pm after his blood pressure dropped dangerously low,” his son Raunak told The Indian Express.
According to Raunak Keswani, his father had contracted the virus after getting his first vaccine dose. “His immunity was low and he began feeling uneasy,” he said.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan mourned the death and spoke to the journalist’s wife, Sunita Keswani, over the phone. Chouhan also offered his condolences on Twitter, noting the journalist’s work on the gas tragedy articles.
The articles on safety lapses at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal were published in the Hindi newspaper Rapat in 1982, two years before the world’s worst industrial tragedy. His latest article warning about a potential disaster was written in June for Jansatta, six months before the deadly gas leaked out of the plant on December 2-3. According to senior journalist N K Singh who reported for Indian Express, it was a cold winter night when he received a call from Keswani, complaining about feeling suffocated.
“Keswani then lived in the old Bhopal area of Itwara which was also hit by the gas leak. He ran me up at around 12:30 am and complained of suffocation and asked me to check what had happened. I rang several control room numbers including the local police station but none answered. Within the next few minutes, the gravity and intensivity of the tragedy began to unfold,” said Singh.
The accurate warnings shot Keswani to fame. He became the youngest journalist to be awarded the BD Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism in 1985 for his persistent reporting asking the administration to take appropriate action in time. He received several awards for his reporting subsequently. Keswani worked for various Hindi papers before joining NDTV in 1998.
Keswani then joined Dainik Bhaskar in 2003. He remained with the paper in various capacities until his death.