4 girls attempt suicide at SAI centre, Ministry launches probe

4 girls attempt suicide at SAI centre, Ministry launches probe

In a heartbreaking turn of events, a young athlete died and three of her colleagues were battling for life after they attempted suicide at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Kerala, prompting a stunned Sports Ministry to launch an inquiry.

One of the athletes, a 15-year-old, died and three others, all undergoing training at Water Sports Centre of SAI in Alapuzha, were hospitalised after they ate a poisonous fruit in an apparent suicide pact owing to alleged harassment by seniors.

The Sports Ministry swung into action by ordering an inquiry and directing SAI Director General Injeti Srinivas to rush to Kerala for an on the spot assessment.

"I am deeply aggrieved by the incident that has happened in Kerala. The young girl who has died was a very promising sportsperson. It is a big loss to the country in general and Sports Authority of India and sports fraternity in particular. I convey my condolences to the bereaved family. We will give all possible help to the bereaved family," Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said in a statement.

"Three girls are still undergoing treatment. I pray for their speedy recovery. To provide them the best possible treatment is our top priority. Local police is investigating the matter. I have also directed the Director General of SAI to rush to the spot and give me a factual report. I have specifically directed him to ensure that the best possible treatment is made available to the three girls who are undergoing treatment.

"While law will take its own course, at this stage I would only like to say that if anyone from Sports Authority of India is found guilty in connection with this tragic incident, strictest possible action will be taken against him or her," he added.

The girls are suspected to have consumed the fruit, locally called 'Othalanga', at 3pm yesterday inside the SAI women's hostel. They were rushed to a hospital around 7pm after they fainted and were later taken to Alapuzha Medical College, where one of them died, the police said.

The condition of the three hospitalised athletes was serious with two of them put on pacemakers. The next 48 hours will be crucial.

The girls were undergoing training at the Water Sports Centre of the SAI at nearby Punnamada. Relatives alleged that the girls were being physically and mentally tortured by some seniors.

However, the hostel warden denied the charges and said they came to know about the condition of the girls only when they fainted.

"None in the hostel tortured them," she said.

Police have registered a case of 'unnatural death'.

Meanwhile, Srinivas said survivors are being provided with the best possible medical care.
"I convey my condolences to the bereaved families. At this juncture, our priority is to save lives. What prompted these young girls to do this will be investigated. Unfortunately there is no antidote to the poison they have consumed but best possible medical care is being provided to them," Srinivas told reporters in Delhi.

"It is difficult to say what is their current medical condition but it is an emergency we are dealing with. SAI is a very responsible body but when an incident like this happens, it is a matter of concern," he added.

"On behalf of the Sports Minister, I can assure that if anything is found wanting or if anybody is at fault, the strictest of action will be taken," he asserted.

"It is the most shocking and tragic incident in the history of SAI, as far as I can remember."

Alapuzha District Collector N Padmakumar, who visited the athletes undergoing treatment at the medical college hospital, said a detailed enquiry would be conducted into the incident.

A relative of Aparna, who died early today, alleged that the inmates of the SAI hostel were being physically tortured.

"The girl was hit by her coach two days ago with an oar due to which she could not sit or stand", he alleged.

Kerala sports minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said the state Sports secretary will probe the incident.

The government also announced financial help to the family of the deceased, and said expenses of those undergoing treatment would be met by it.

Relatives of the athletes also alleged that some anti-social elements were also seen near the hostel.

The sports fraternity expressed shock at the incident and called for a detailed probe into what led to the unfortunate turn of events.

Ashwini Nachappa, a former athlete and founding member of Clean Sports India -- a movement for corruption-free sports in India, termed the incident as extremely unfortunate and said that it should be investigated properly.

Meanwhile, protesting against the incident, activists of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of (CPI(M), took out a march.

Alapuzha District Collector N Padmakumar told PTI that the four girls were brought to the hospital after 9pm yesterday, by which time the poison had entered their blood.

"We have to keep our fingers crossed. We cannot say that the three - aged 14, 16 and 17 - have overcome the crisis. It will take 2-3 days to know", he said.

"The girls have been put on medication to keep up their potassium level and two of them have been put on pacemakers".

The girls were conscious when brought in, he said, adding that the youngest had consumed only one fruit and her condition was better. There was also a possibility of the poison entering the muscles, he said.

'Othalanga' (Cerbera Odollom) known as suicide fruit,grows wild in coastal and swampy areas in many parts of Kerala. The poison blocks the calcium ion channels in heart muscles, causing disruption of the heart beat.

Meanwhile, Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala told PTI that he has asked Ernakulam Range IG Ajit Kumar to rush to Alapuzha.

"I am awaiting a report from him", he said and refused to give further details when asked if police had recovered any suicide note.

The four teenagers left a suicide note stating that certain "small mistakes" committed by them had been blown up by seniors of the Water Sports Training Centre at the nearby Punnamada.

Police sources told PTI that they have recovered a suicide note jointly signed by the four girls, who consumed a poisonous fruit yesterday.

Police said the note mentions that "small mistakes have been blown up by them".
The suicide incident came a day after the young athletes of the SAI centre were allegedly found to have consumed beer and were reportedly questioned by seniors. This apparently had upset them.

The water training centre at Punnamada is located in an island in the Vembanad lake.  

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