September 22, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/Kitty Kumaramangalam

'I think some poison had entered his body, and was eating up his body'

It is almost a month now since Power Minister P Rangarajan Kumaramangalam passed away at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, leaving behind mystery about his ailment, the diagnosis and treatment. The controversy continues, as doctors and the government debate what exactly Ranga was suffering from.

Caught in the controversy, and angered by claims that Ranga was a careless patient, is his family, in particular his wife, lawyer Kitty Kumaramangalam.

In a candid interview with Special Correspondent Josy Joseph, Kitty Kumaramangalam spoke of her doubts and worries. Excerpts:

A lot of media claims, allegations and counter-allegations have surfaced about your husband's death. Ranga's diagnosis in fact is now taking on a lot of shades. What do you feel?

One month after his death, rather three weeks after his death, The Indian Express brought out the first report, on something which I have been saying from day one. Then more reports, and now news reports flowing one way or the other. I wonder why. I am yet to understand what they are trying to achieve. They have not been able to pinpoint anything...

But somehow all the blame seems to come back to Ranga. The doctors seem to believe he was a careless patient...

Thursday night's Star News bulletin gave me the impression that both groups have got together now. And the health minister gave a statement saying they are setting up a study group on the report. All these things don't sound very nice.

I have reached the conclusion that Apollo and the AIIMS will get together, save each other, and ultimately say that Ranga was a careless patient.

And when I feel that that has happened, I know I have to get up and charge all of them with defaming my dead husband. Because at this age, when you are in the mid-40s, you are either careless and useless or you are careful and responsible. And I can tell you, you can watch Mr Kumaramangalam's work, you will never find that he was irresponsible and negligent. And when you are not irresponsible and negligent, then you are careful in every field of your life, including your health.

And I can assure you that Mr Kumaramangalam had spoken to thousands of doctors after he came out of Apollo and explained his state of affairs quietly and tried to consult many doctors.

Who are the doctors whom he consulted in this phase between Apollo and AIIMS?

Many doctors. Check up the last six months list (of appointments) if any doctor came to his office or house. You can find he had spoken to them. They all saw the reports, they all said cancer is ruled out, and they all said if cancer is ruled out and fever is coming it means TB. But nobody ever suspected that the reports were false, the reports were frauds.

You mean his basic diagnosis could have been wrong? That the very diseases they say he had may not have been there?

How do I know? Everyday they are changing their verdict. There is no steady statement.

Among Apollo, AIIMS, IMA and the health minister, the disease that killed Ranga seems to vary. Now they are debating what actually was responsible for his death. What was he suffering from? What were you, as his wife, told?

According to me, the committee went into why Apollo did not diagnose leukaemia. That means leukaemia was found by the AIIMS. Today AIIMS says no, it was not leukaemia, the health minister says no, it was not leukaemia. What are they trying to do?

When he was in hospital, what were you told Ranga was suffering from?

They did a CAT scan, they took the bone marrow. But they said nothing.

Why is even Dr C P Thakur, Union health minister and formerly Ranga's colleague, not defending him by saying Ranga was a careful man?

It is very convenient to throw all the muck on the dead man because he is not there to answer. It is very convenient.

But was Ranga really careless?

The whole world knows (that he was not careless). He wasn't.

How are you going to defend him?

I am talking to you, that is how I will defend him. I will file defamation suits against those people who talk against him. Slander is totally uncalled for.

Have the AIIMS or Apollo authorities contacted you after his death?

No. They sent me a letter yesterday saying Ranga was a very responsible patient. Not AIIMS, but Apollo.

And what are the AIIMS people saying?

The AIIMS is yet to send me the report. They admitted on television on Thursday night that they haven't sent the report. But they were shocked that I wanted the report. They sent me a summary of Ranga's case.

Is that what you wanted?

No. I want to see the original report. But I think by now they would have concocted enough material. They have had ample time, you see.

Strange. He was a member of the Union Cabinet, but nobody actually seems to defend him, or bother to find out the real reasons for his death.

What can they do?

At least they could have pulled up the doctors concerned, asking them to remove all doubts in the minds of the public.

It is for the public to say.

Did you at any time approach any of his Cabinet colleagues?

Never. I am too alone, and too happy being alone. I have never searched for a stick in my life. Never will search also. I can fight my battles, and I don't expect anyone to come forward and if any sympathy or anything is offered, I am very reluctant to take it.

And you will fight?

I don't know when I will break down...

Did he ever tell you that he was being targeted?

No. He was very secretive. He would never say anything in the house that could create tension. A very loving man, who always brought happiness into the house, he would keep all the tension and sorrows to himself, and most of the time I had to do guesswork.

During the time between he went to Apollo and AIIMS, did you notice any change in him? Was he cheerful?

No. He was getting weak and dark.

And he was consulting a lot of doctors?

He was talking to lots of doctors. And his body was giving way. I think some poison had entered his body, and was eating up his body.

And finally he collapsed?

He didn't collapse. We went for a check-up cheerfully, laughing, trying to recover. The whole world was saying 'Why don't you go to AIIMS? Why don't you go to AIIMS?' It was this word of mouth that took him to AIIMS. And then they said there is no room today, you come tomorrow. You come every day, we will keep a room for you; while the check-ups are going on, you can stay in the room. Then you go home.

First day, we went, did some check-up, and went home. We came home and watched television. The next day we go, they say now you can't go home, you stay here. OK, we will stay here. Ranga says, let me go for two hours, it is August 15. Relatives came, chatted away, laughed... Hoping against hope that I will recover. Because when I over-strain, I fall sick. He went to recover. There was no idea of death waiting at the doorsteps.

Even after the first two days of consultations?

No. Nothing. On the 14th they took a CAT scan and bone marrow. That night he developed diarrhoea. Next morning I rang up Dr Pandey, who stays in the hospital, but actually Dr Guleria was looking after him. He comes, he says he is taking Ranga to the ICU so a lot of doctors can look after him, the best brains can look after him. If you are in the room, we will come only when Dr Guleria calls us, he said. In the room you are under one doctor, whereas in the ICU all doctors can look after him.

They get a stretcher, and Ranga said he can walk. Then they get a wheelchair.

Even then they didn't tell you a word about the seriousness of his condition?

No. They didn't. He lay down, and the man is gone. I saw him going, I cried and shouted. And I remember each scene. There were about 20 doctors there.

His Cabinet colleagues used to visit him. Didn't they intervene and ask the doctors to pull up their socks?

By then it was all over. Everything was over on the 15th. They fooled around for one week.

By the time they put him on ventilation, you knew it was all over?


This is an edited version of the interview with Kitty Kumaramangalam posted on these pages a few hours ago. This interview was re-edited as Mrs Kumaramangalam felt there had been a misunderstanding and she wanted to mourn her husband's loss by remembering him for what he did and not concentrate on the way he died.


Ranga cremated with full state honours
Tribute: Politician with a heart of gold
Ranga: Funeral at five Wednesday evening
Well-wishers, colleagues bid farewell
Ranga's popularity cut across political lines

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