Talking to The Indian Express from Kashipur, Uttarakhand, in his first-ever interview since the tragic incident, Goel claimed his son had fainted twice earlier, too, in his third term, first on September 20, 2012 and then within a week of that, but ‘medical negligence’ by NDA officers led his ‘healthy’ son to develop ‘neurological disorder’.
Goel said he did not wish to target individual officers but claimed that no ambulance or officer or expert was accompanying cadets during the night navigation exercise on February 2. Recalling facts that emerged during his interaction with his son’s fellow cadets, Goel alleged it was fellow cadets who carried his son to the squadron and who called squadron authorities to make arrangements to take him to the Military Hospital (MH) in Khadakwasla. Medical help was not offered for almost 30 minutes after he first claimed uneasiness, he said.
Goel’s claim contradicts the NDA version that CPR was administered on site and he was immediately rushed to the MH. NDA claims Ajitesh, a fourth-term Army cadet of the newly raised 18th squadron, Romeo, died of cardiac arrest at around 9.25pm, February 2, Saturday.
Ajitesh joined the academy on June 23, 2011 after completing class 12 from a Sainik School.
Goel said, “In the third term, my son fainted twice during Cross Country practice. And while the NDA registered those two incidents, a thorough check to find the cause was not done. It was the responsibility of the battalion commander and MH to check if there was anything wrong with the cadet. In fact, four days after his death, CO of MH Khadakwasla told me my son was admitted to the Command Hospital (CH) between March 19 and April 1, 2012, that is, the second term. That is untrue, my son never made the slightest mention of his admission, that too for almost 11 days, to CH. Given that my son used to tell us the smallest of incidents at the academy, I am unwilling to accept he hid facts about his admission to the CH from us. And while he fainted in the third term, what were the reasons for admitting him to the CH in the second term? Also, I never received any call from NDA saying my son is admitted to the CH.”
Goel was informed by a doctor in MH, Khadakwasla, that cardio and neurological tests were conducted on his son at the CH and that an internal inquiry had been set up to investigate his death.
“When he fainted twice in the third term in September 2012, NDA officers called me and told me my son is not able to complete Cross Country. I was about to come down to Pune when they told me it could be because of the diet. After that, I even told my son to eat proper food. At the time, there was no mention of admission to CH. Why has it come up now?”
Goel said when he had gone to claim his son’s body, he had told NDA officials to ‘not compile wrong information’. “I told them I am not in a good mental state, but please don’t compile wrong information,” Goel told this paper.
Goel said that after the third term, when Ajitesh had returned home, he had told his father they should consult a neurologist. “I took him to a physician in Bareilly but not a neurologist. His was a neurological problem. I wish I had taken him to one,” Goel said. He said if Ajitesh was fit at the time of his SSB entrance, the neurological disorder in all likelihood developed during his days at the academy.
The NDA spokesperson did not answer calls. The reply to an email sent to the academy is awaited.