Alappuza: A 15-year-old athlete, training to be a rower died early on Thursday, 7 May and three others, are are undergoing treatment in hospital after they reportedly ate a poisonous fruit in an apparent suicide pact.
All the teenaged girls were trainee sportspersons at the Water Sports Centre of Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Alappuzha and lived at the facilitys hostel. Their families have alleged harassment by coaches for the tragedy. Although SAI officials have denied the allegations, Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has spoken to the SAI chief and asked him to investigate the incident.
The deceased, has been identified as Aparna Ramachandran. Three others students, who ate the fruit of cerbera odollam (Othalanga in Malayalam), are still in hospital. According to local reports, even though the group of rowers was suspected to have consumed 12 such fruits, sources said that their situation is not critical. It was on Wednesday night that the girls were found poisoned at the SAI hostel. On finding the four in an unconscious state on Wednesday night, the warden and a helper rushed them to hospital. They were rushed to the General Hospital and then to Medical College Hospital, where Aparna breathed her last Thursday morning.
NDTV reports that two of the athletes are national gold medalists. Their families allege that they were unable to bear physical and mental torture by their seniors. The relatives also alleged that the coaches at the institute are notoriously harsh and there have been many complaints in the past. The girl who died was allegedly thrashed with an oar during a rowing practice session a few days ago. Distressed parents have urged a thorough investigation into the incident.
According to Malayala Manorama, the SAI authorities have a different version. They claim that the students were caught having beer and were questioned over the issue and that must have driven them to having the deadly fruit.
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