As the family of Karishma Bhosale (20) wait for her body to arrive in India after the medical student became one of two victims to die in a fire that broke out in Russia’s Smolensk State Medical Academy’s hostel dormitory, a lot of unanswered questions confront them. The other victim is the girl’s roommate Pooja Kallur who hails from Navi Mumbai.
There are nearly 850 Indian students studying at the varsity in Smolensk, near the western border of Russia.
The deceased girl’s father Uday Bhosale said the last communication from the university was a phone call on February 14 at 2.59pm to inform about his daughter’s death, at least three hours after he had already started recieving calls from parents of other Indian students studying there. “After that they haven’t bothered to call me once. They didn’t even tell me the cause of her death and said we will call later. Now they have all switched off their phones. Is this responsibility? I demand action against this university and now Indian Embassy and authorities at Ministry of External Affairs are my only hope. They are the only ones who are taking my calls and giving me information on my daughter’s dead body,” said Bhosale who runs a small business of solar panel accessories.
Raising questions over the security and fire safety measures in the hostel number 2 where Karishma stayed, the Bhosale’s asked if a fire audit was conducted of the building. “Did they have fire extuinguishers and water sprinklers, was a fire safety alarm installed and did it go off, had they done evacuation drills so students knew their role during such situations. Also the fire broke out in the neighbouring room from where two girls ran out and were safe, then why did our girl die? Did anyone knock their door even once to warn them because the information that I got from her friends was that they realised she was missing only after they did a headcount,” said Karishma’s aunt Jyoti Malusare.
Pooja was the elder daughter of Bhosale family who went to Smolensk in 2012 to study medicine and was currently in her fourth year MBBS. A bright student who scored 92 percent marks in her SSC exam, her scores in CET for medical admission suffered a bit when she contracted chicken pox in HSC. They got to know of the Russian university through a newspaper advertisement and mortgaged their house for Rs 18 lakh to fund her education. “She wanted to be a neurosurgeon,” said her brother Karan who then broke down in a fit of tears.
“She was adamant on studying medicine and since Indian universities were offering from Rs 50 to Rs 90 lakh package which we couldn’t afford, she found about this university through a newspaper ad and their package was Rs 18lakh. I mortgaged my house to make her study and now I will probably have to sell it,” said Uday Bhosale from their 2-BHK residence in Laxmi Nagar near Parvati.