Protest at Chennai’s MCC After Student Dies During Mandatory Sports Activity

Over 500 students of Madras Christian College (MCC) in Chennai staged a protest on December 11, 2018, demanding justice for Mahima Jayaraj, a first-year student who died due to a mandatory physical activity under university’s ‘Sports for All’ initiative. The students decided to call off the protest as the administration agreed to listen to their grievances in a meeting scheduled to be held on December 14, 2018.

The News Minute (TNM) reported that the student died on Monday, December 10, 2018, when Jayaraj was forced to participate in a sports activity despite her complaints of weakness and fatigue due to anaemia. As her blood pressure lowered, she collapsed on the basketball court where the activities were being conducted.

“The trainers are usually just students of the physical education department. The trainer told Mahima that if she runs one more round, her anaemia will go. She was sent for basketball practice right after running. She fainted on the court. Nobody was there to give proper CPR. She was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was declared brought dead. The hospital has said that this is a cardiac arrest triggered by dehydration,” a student told TNM.

The protest sparked off soon after Jayaraj’s death and gathered momentum on Tuesday. Reportedly, as of now, the college administration has taken no action against the physical education teacher.

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The New Indian Express quoted Chandru D, district secretary of Student’s Federation of India, as saying, “All the student bodies gathered around the college’s boxing ring, which is right in front of the Principal’s quarters at 9 in the morning.”

“If the college grieves Mahima’s death, they should have issued this notice yesterday or earlier this morning. Not after the protest,” added Chandru D.

According to The Hindu, the protesting students have also asked the administration to not make sports compulsory for all students. “It (sports) is a two-credit course and many students are yet to clear their semester because of this,” said a student who was among the protestors.

Another student was quoted by TNM as saying,” Sports for all is compulsory for all first years, no matter what illness we have. We have to run eight rounds around the field without stopping and then we have to play a sport like a cricket, football or athletics. For other subjects, we can request OD (Other Duty) but for Sports for All, we cannot. We can take only two days’ leave. If we take more than that, it will become an arrears paper.”

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According to TNM, the students have also asked that the administration must grant a concession over health condition for the Sports for All programme. In addition to this, they said, “Proper physicians (both male and female) with medical facilities… Physically challenged students should be exempted from Sports for All… Ambulance and 24 hour doctor facility.”

“Management or responsible authorities should provide a rational and scientific explanation regarding the occasional physical exertion,” the students added.

The university initially denied canceling the ‘Sports for All’ event which was to be held on Wednesday but later agreed to do so as the students demanded it.

Even after the massive protest, the principal refused to issue a letter of apology on behalf of the college. However, he has called a meeting with representatives from the sports committee, the staff committee, and the student’s union to discuss the future of the programme.

Feature image credit: Twitter