Mumbai: As Air India drags its feet, premature baby's head swells alarmingly

Oct 31, 2018, 20:45 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

While disciplinary hearing against aviation engineer on Monday remains inconclusive, his four-month-old daughter's condition deteriorates with every passing day

Mumbai: As Air India drags its feet, premature baby's head swells alarmingly
The four-month-old's head continues to grow in size as cerebrospinal fluid continues to accumulate in her brain, leading to its compression

While her father's salary is still in limbo, little Eliza Waghmare's health is getting even more delicate. With every passing day, the cerebrospinal fluid continues to accumulate in the four-month-old's brain, leading to its compression and a further increase in the size of her head. Her worried parents Anand and Jayanti Waghmare are now planning to take her to KEM hospital in a day or two.

On October 29, mid-day carried a front-page report titled 'Premature baby needs surgery, but dad denied salary,' about the Waghmare family's plight. Not only has Eliza's health been fragile due to her premature delivery, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for her father Anand, an Air India employee, to manage her medical expenses because he has not been paid since April. Anand has allegedly not received his salary because he exposed corruption in the national carrier.

As Air India drags its feet, baby's head swells alarmingly

'Can see veins and brain stem'
Anand said, "Eliza is playful and continues to have regular feed, but we are now worried about the accumulation of the infected fluid, which is resulting in her head becoming bigger and bigger; we can even see the veins and brain stems now."

Eliza in the arms of her parents, Anand and Jayanti Waghmare
Eliza in the arms of her parents, Anand and Jayanti Waghmare

He added, "I've already spoken to her treating doctors at KEM, and they've advised us to get Eliza to the hospital on Wednesday. If required, we will admit her. We've been told about the risk involved in her treatment. Also, they cannot go ahead with the second procedure unless Eliza gains weight. She is presently malnourished, and her head has more fluid compared to the rest of her body. The head also forms a major portion of her body weight - at birth, she weighed only 1.02 kg, and now she's around 3 kg."

"When Eliza was at KEM, the nurse would measure the circumference of her head and monitor its size every day. However, ever since we brought her home from the hospital, we haven't been maintaining any such record," said Anand.

No money, no property
At this point, the family is in no condition to shift Eliza to a private hospital either. Anand said, "I will require a lot of money to treat my Eliza in a private hospital. Presently, neither do I have the money, nor any property to mortgage for her treatment." The family currently resides in the Air India quarters at Kalina, which Anand had been asked to vacate. They have been allowed to keep this flat thanks to a stay on the eviction notice by the Bombay High Court.

"At least KEM doctors and the dean are aware of my daughter's case. I have to arrange medicines, which I can manage through the financial support I'm receiving from some friends," said Anand. Dr D P Mazumdar, Eliza's treating neurosurgeon and KEM dean Dr Avinash Supe preferred not to comment on the infant's case.

Disciplinary inquiry
Meanwhile, the Air India disciplinary  enquiry against Anand, which has been postponed thrice since August, finally took place on Monday. The enquiry committee met Anand at the Engineering HQ, Kalina. According to Anand, he was chargesheeted on April 11 on three grounds: willful insubordination, absence without leave/overstaying sanctioned leave, and willful neglect of work, under the Industrial Employment Standing Orders, 1946. Anand, who is also a law graduate, presented his side of the case, and submitted relevant papers. He also carried Jayanti and Eliza's medical documents. He said, "The panel members recorded the submissions, and also felt sorry about my personal circumstances."

Despite being sorry, the officials could do precious little for Anand. When he requested them to the release his salary, which has been pending since April, the panel said they were not empowered to make or accept such a request. Inquiry officer Kamal Chowdhury was so touched with Eliza's plight that he attempted to give some cash to Anand, which he refused. The next date for hearing has been fixed on November 23; the place would be decided accordingly.

AIESL says
A senior management member of Air India Engineering Services Ltd (AIESL), Delhi told mid-day on the condition of anonymity, "We're a very transparent company and have encouraged our staff to write to us directly about any issue they're facing. Every complaint we receive is seriously looked into. Also, we look at genuine family issues of our employees with utmost sensitivity and try to support them to the maximum."

When asked about Anand's case, he said, "The employee has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court and we will have to wait for the court's verdict. I'll have to get Waghmare's file, but I do remember that he'd asked for a posting to Nagpur . He was sent there after being promoted."

Regarding the non-payment of his salary, the official said, "Since Waghmare has been transferred from  Mumbai to Nagpur, all his time sheets are maintained and recorded in Nagpur. He has been absent from work for months, and no one will pay him for not coming to work."

When informed about Anand's claims of submitting a letter to his reporting officer on February 25 citing his wife's pregnancy complications, the official said, "Merely writing a letter and not waiting for any official approval amounts to [display of] callous attitude and calls for a disciplinary enquiry, which we have initiated."

Rubbishes claims
Anand has rubbished the claims made by the senior officer. He said he'd asked to be shifted to Nagpur a couple of years ago, but that request was denied. He said when he complained about the wrongdoings happening in Air India to its chairman, managing director, internal vigilance committee and the CEO of AIESL, no action was taken, and instead he was abruptly transferred to Nagpur on January 15, relieved from his duties in Mumbai the same day, and asked to report for work in Nagpur the next day, January 16. He was not even given any accommodation for his then pregnant wife, and son. Anand also said he did not return to Mumbai without any prior intimation or permission.

Needs urgent surgery
According to Dr Wiqar Shaikh, professor of medicine and unit head of the Grant Medical College, immediate surgery is imperative for baby Eliza. He said, "If the size of the head is increasing due to the fluid accumulation, the child should be immediately taken for a neuro-surgical intervention rather than being kept at home."

Silver lining
To give the Waghmare family some respite, the All India Aircraft Engineers' Association, Bombay extended a helping hand. They presented a cheque of Rs 1,10,000 to Anand on Monday to aid Eliza's treatment. Anand said, "I express my gratitude to them."

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