On Monday morning, Suresh and Ramya spread out their green mat on the pavement outside Thiruvananthapuram Secretariat and sat on it. Their 3-year-old daughter Durga obediently sat on her fatherâ€™s lap, a little orange toy in her hand.
Suresh, Ramya and Durga are no strangers to this pavement. Just four months ago, they had spent over eight weeks right here, demanding justice for their late daughter.
Their younger daughter Rudra passed away on July 10, 2016 at SAT hospital in the city. Four-and-half month-old Rudra had been admitted there since June 23.
Suresh and Ramya allege it was a case of medical negligence and the couple have been fighting a battle against all odds.
While the doctors reportedly said the cause of death was malnutrition, the post mortem report revealed that Rudra had died of pneumonia. Rudra's body was exhumed ten days later on July 20 for a post mortem. The officials had then promised that her internal organs would be sent to labs in Pune or Chennai for forensic tests. Months later, Ramya and Suresh allege that no such tests were conducted and that investigation is in limbo.
"Is justice being denied to us because we are poor?" asks 24-year-old Ramya.
Pramod Kumar, Assistant Commissioner of Police told The News Minute that they filed the charge sheet in the case in March this year.
"Based on the report from the medical board, we have found that there is no negligence on the part of the hospital. The case stands closed," the officer said.
Rudra was first taken to SAT hospital - a department of Thiruvananthapuram medical college- on June 14, when her parents found rashes on her lower body. The doctors who said that it was a minor case, asked them to consult the skin doctor at the Medical College.
At the Medical College hospital, Rudra was given an ointment. Her parents allege that her skin began to peel off. They returned to the doctor on June 19, when Rudra was given another ointment, which reportedly only worsened her skin ailment, says Suresh.
The family made two more trips to the hospital, before the doctors decided to get the baby hospitalized. She spent eight days in the ward, six days in the ICU and breathed her last on July 10.
"We took the baby for her skin rashes to be treated. And when she died, the doctors told us that she died of malnutrition. This is rubbish. My daughter used to be healthy before she was admitted to the hospital. She weighed nearly 5 kg then," Ramya says.
Ramya rues that she saw her daughter's condition deteriorate day by day.
"We do not know why they gave her all those medicines. A day before she died, the doctor had seen her and said that we could take her home the next day since she was alright. That evening, some medical students asked me to feed her oil, sugar and lactogen powder mixture. Following this, she got an upset stomach. After her death, doctors told us that her kidneys had deteriorated leading to her demise," Ramya explains.
Eight months of battle
In the days following Rudra's death, her parents say that they have knocked on every possible door for justice. Suresh, Ramya and their elder daughter Durga had protested outside the secretariat for two-and-a-half months starting September last year.
They called off the protest only after the opposition Congress party took note of the protest and urged the government to act.
"The Chief Minister had then ordered for a probe to be conducted in 10 days. The health secretary called a press meet a month later and said he will sort it out in 4 days. We are still here on the pavement, to know what happened to Rudra," Suresh says.
(All photographs by Sreekesh Raveendran Nair)