16 July 2020 

As Feared By Family Members, Varavara Rao Tests Positive For Covid-19As apprehended by family members with his steadily declining health, renowned poet and activist Varavara Rao has tested positive for Covid-19.

The 81-year-old, who was lodged at Taloja jail for his alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon violence, has been seeking bail on medical grounds ever since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Rao was admitted to JJ Hospital on July 13 and Dr Ranjeet Mankeshwar, Dean of JJ Hospital told The Hindu, “Mr Rao has just been tested positive. He is not showing any signs of Covid-19. He is stable and will be shifted to another hospital as we are a non-Covid hospital.”

Rao’s failing health has been a matter of grave concern for family members and well wishers as he suffers from several comorbidities. In a recent call with family members on Saturday, Rao reportedly sounded delirious and was talking about his parents, their funeral when Rao was young etc. Last month, Rao fainted in jail and was rushed to JJ Hospital.

According to news reports, Rao’s co-accused Vernon Gonsalves takes care of him inside the prison. He told Rao’s family that he is unable to walk, go to the toilet and brush his teeth on his own.
In an order dated June 26, the special court in Mumbai denied bail application filed by Rao for a second time. Rao challenged the decision in a writ petition before the Bombay High Court, which will come up for hearing tomorrow.

Rao is one the eleven accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, others are Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Surendra Gadling, Anand Teltumbde, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Arun Ferreira, Sudhir Dhawale, Sudha Bharadwaj and Shoma Sen. 
The investigation in the case of caste violence that took place on the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, was transferred from state police to NIA in January this year

It is a matter of concern too that the trial court handling the Bhima Koregaon/ Elgar Parishad case turned a deaf ear to pleas for medical bail seeing the poor health condition of VV Rao and the danger of Covid.Earlier, thehe jail authorities had, after protests of civil society about the neglect of VV Rao, had put another Bhima Koregaon accused, Vernon Gonsalves, to look after v v rao in jail, thus putting Veron too at grave risk.In a related development, VV’s wife, Hemlata, his two daughters and nephew Venugopal, met VV Rao in hospital yesterday, and came to see him in pathetic condition with the patient having to lie in urine soaked clothes for hours, and with very little nursing aid available at the hospital.

Finally, it appears the JJ hospital authorities are considering shifting VV Rao to St George’s hospital, a state run unit with Covid facilities. This is again bad news as St George’s, with its poor health care record, may hardly be the place where v v Rao has a chance to recover. The only way VV stands a good chance is if the Bombay High Court, hearing the matter tomorrow, gives him medical bail, and is shifted to decent private speciality hospital.