Kerala: Opposition Protests Over Rape Of COVID-19 Patient; Demands KK Shailaja’s Resignation
In a shocking incident, a 20-year-old COVID-19 positive woman was allegedly raped by an ambulance driver who was transporting her to the hospital on Saturday night at Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. The incident occured 100km away from Kerala’s capital city Thiruvananthapuram. The accused Noufal V (25) of Kayamkulam has been arrested under the charges of rape and the private ambulance firm where he worked has terminated his service.
KK Shailaja, the health minister of the state, who has been honoured by UN for her response to the COVID-19 crisis in Kerala, has condemned the incident as painful. She said that strict actions will be taken against the accused who is now in Police custody. Following the incident, the Mahila Morcha of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) held a protest outside the secretariat demanding the resignation of the health minister.
As per Times of India, the woman was first picked up from her uncle’s residence at Vadakkedathukavu near Adoor and dropped at Adoor CFLTC at 10 pm on Saturday. From there, the accused, Noufal V picked her up along with an elderly woman to take them to the COVID-19 hospital. But, Pathanamthitta district police chief KG Simon said, the accused reportedly dropped the other woman at Kozhencherry and took the 20-year-old COVID-19 patient to a secluded place at Aranmula and allegedly raped her. Later, he dropped her at COVID-19 Pandalam CFLTC where the survivor narrated the incident to the hospital staff.
KK Shailaja also said that the driver was appointed on the basis of his past experience with 108 Ambulance firm at Alappuzha during 2014-15. However, according to the police, the accused was earlier booked in an assault case.
The opposition party UDF and BJP have called for an investigation alleging that the lapses in the government’s functions are also responsible for the incident. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has questioned the government on why was the survivor was sent in the ambulance alone? “Police now say he (driver) has a criminal background; why was this not considered before he was appointed?” Consequently, the opposition party is demanding that the health minister KK Shailaja should resign from her post.
Speaking about the absence of a nurse in the ambulance, Pathanamthitta district medical officer A L Sheeja said,
“As per regulations, an emergency medical technician (EMT) has to go in the ambulance, but in this case only the driver was present. We don’t know why was the EMT absent.” She further pointed out that government nurses accompany private ambulances only if the patient is in a serious condition.
Explaining the delay in picking up the survivor, the DMO said that the woman’s mother and sister were tested positive three days ago, After they were admitted at Pandalam CFLTC, the woman went to her uncle’s house. The officials were initially trying to trace her at her residence in Pandalam and only at night, they came to know about her uncle’s residence.
Moreover, the women’s commission has registered a suo motu case, seeking reports from the district police chief. Besides, the human rights commission also registered a case and sought the report from the state police chief and the health secretary within 15 days.