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Telangana: Dr Saif harasses junior anesthesiologist Dr Preethi, forces her to attempt suicide, arrested after police confirm ‘targeted harassment’

Preethi, who is receiving medical care at the Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad after experiencing a multi-organ failure, is still in serious condition.

On Friday, the Telangana Police arrested Dr. MA Saif, a second-year MD student at Kakatiya Medical College in Warangal district in connection with the suicide attempt by Dr. Preethi, his junior at college. Early on Wednesday morning, Preethi was discovered unresponsive in the MGM Hospital staff room while on duty. She is said to have attempted suicide by injecting anesthesia drugs due to Dr. Saif, who is accused of harassing Preethi and forcing her to try ending her life.

According to the reports, the incident happened on February 23 but the police arrested the accused on Friday, February 24. Police have cited ragging-related laws and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in addition to charges of abetment to suicide against the accused. The cops are still awaiting the toxicological examination findings for definitive proof.

Commissioner A V Ranganath confirmed that the woman felt persistent targeted harassment and intentional attempts to degrade her by Dr. Saif. Meanwhile, accused Dr. Saif argued differently and blamed it on the prevailing culture among juniors and seniors in a medical school.

Preethi, who is receiving medical care at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad after experiencing a multi-organ failure, is still in serious condition. A hospital announcement from Thursday night stated that ECMO and CRRT were instituted to maintain her failing cardiac, lung, and renal functions. A multidisciplinary team of experts is continuously monitoring her vital signs.

Junior physicians at KMC-Warangal have called for a protest over this incident. Several medical professionals held signs that read, “Pray for Preethi, Stand with Saif” on Friday.  In an earlier statement, the Telangana Junior Doctors Association expressed solidarity with Preethi’s family while denouncing the accusations against Saif as untrue. Medical professionals have asked that allegations against Saif be withdrawn since they claim that interactions between senior and younger batches of medical professionals are routine.

Ranganath, however, stated that based on the legal definition of ragging, the police have used certain sections of the law. Although it may be a normal practice, it is unacceptable if one individual felt targeted. Saif believes he was merely correcting Preeti. He stated, “She felt harassed at work.”

Police examined Preethi’s and Saif’s phone, says Preethi was harassed

After examining Preethi and Saif’s cell phones, the police concluded that Preethi had been subjected to harassment. Ranganath said that police had mostly relied on discussions between the two and their group chats, as well as personal chats with other classmates, ruling out sexual harassment or a love component to the event.

Ranganath stated that Preethi had been targeted ever since she started working in the anesthesia department in November 2022. He asserted that she was a brave girl who challenged elders, which irked the latter. In their private WhatsApp group, on February 18, Saif reprimanded Preethi for a specific incident. She told Saif, feeling personally offended, to mind his own business. “You are trying to insult me. In case you have anything to say, you should tell my HoD,” she added. The inquiry, according to the authorities, revealed several such occurrences.

The last time, Preethi’s father D Narender and his daughter talked was on the evening of the incident. D Narender is an ASI with the Railway Protection Force. Preethi was allegedly being made to put in extra hours by Saif, who reportedly consistently spotted flaws in her work. The father attempted to get in touch with the police, and on the same evening, he orally complained to the local sub-inspector.

The sub-inspector brought up the matter with Dr. D Mohan Das, the college’s dean, and Dr. Nagarjuna Reddy, the department’s head. Ranganath stated that Dr. Reddy first spoke with Saif and then Preethi. Denying incompetence on the part of the institution, the commissioner maintained Saif had received warnings against such behavior and that an additional investigation had been initiated.

Dr K Ramesh Reddy, who is the director of medical education, had earlier ruled out ragging as the cause and said that Preethi and Saif were counseled over their personal differences.

The authorities think Preethi injected herself with a muscle relaxant from the anesthetists’ emergency supply box. Injections of more comparable medicines have also been discovered. “We think she attempted suicide. The last search on her phone is about what happens if a healthy person takes this drug. Doctors believe it was a cardiac arrest. We are awaiting the toxicology examination report in one or two days,” said the commissioner.

Tribal Unions held protests outside NIMS

Meanwhile, as Preethi continued to battle for her life, several members of the tribal union reached NIMS hospital on Thursday to extend support to Preethi. Tribal unions additionally questioned the delay in prosecuting the case’s defendants. 

In response to her father’s complaint, Kethavath Gopi Singh Naik of the Banjara Vikas Samithi urged action from the KMC HoD and Principal, as well as the police. According to Dr. Preethi’s cousin B. Deepika Naik, VIPs would have made a beeline for her if she had come from a wealthy background.

“They do not even have the time to have a word with the parents and assure justice. They might be of the thought that tribals are helpless and cannot do anything. If justice is not served, we will agitate and tandas from across the state will come together,” she said.

Warangal Commissioner of Police A V Ranganath has however confirmed on Friday the arrest of the accused doctor. He stated that the Mattewada police had already registered a case against Dr Saif under SC/ST atrocities act and a probe in the case was going on. The MGM hospital has also constituted a committee to conduct a detailed inquiry and a report would be submitted to the Mattewada police, KMC authorities said.

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