The 97-year-old revolutionary of the Independence movement is also popularly known as a commander of Subhash Chandra Bose's Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army. She is a Padma Vibhushan awardee, besides a presidential candidate and a compassionate medical doctor. CaptainLakshmi Sahgal was admitted to the ICU ofKMC Hospital on Thursday morning after she had suffered a cardiac arrest at her residence in Civil Lines area of the city.
Dr Santosh Kumar, who is closely monitoring her condition, told TOI that she was improving and responding well to medication till Thursday. But her condition suddenly started deteriorating since Friday morning. The blood pressure and oxygen level dipped alarmingly. Her low blood pressure continued to be a cause of worry. "We had put her on a ventilation support to push up her blood pressure," Dr Kumar said.
"There is no sign of improvement in Captain Sahgal's condition and it is deteriorating. We can say that she has slipped into a deep consciousness stage. Every moment is crucial now. All will depend on how she responds to treatment," Dr Kumar added.
Lakshmi Sahgal's daughter Subhashini Ali said that a team of doctors is constantly monitoring her mother's condition. "Doctors say that my mother's condition had deteriorated and now she is very critical. She has been put on a ventilator following low oxygen level and blood pressure," Subhashini said.
Captain Lakshmi Sahgal's grandson and a noted filmmaker Shaad Ali, CPM general secretaryPrakash Karat and CPM politburo member Brinda Karat have arrived in the city on Thursday evening to inquire about her health.
In her early days, Lakshmi participated actively in nationalist programmes of burning of foreign goods, including her own clothes and toys and picketing of liquor vends.
Narrating her mother's contribution in the Independence struggle, Subhashini Ali said: "Things started moving very fast with the arrival of Subhash Chandra Bose in Singapore on July 2, l943. Almost in all his public meetings, Netaji spoke of his determination to raise a women's regiment, Rani of Jhansi regiment, which would also fight for Independence and make it complete. On the 5th of July, he spoke to a few League members and inquired whether there was any Indian woman in Singapore who would be suitable for the task of leading such a regiment. League members suggested my mother's (Lakshmi's) name. Netaji insisted on knowing more about her. A meeting was held the same night. As soon as he put forth his proposal, she accepted it without hesitation and later started preparations for the formation of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment of the Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army."
In a very short time, a well-trained fighting force of women came into existence. On October 21, l943, when the provisional government of Azad Hind was announced, Lakshmi was the sole woman member of its cabinet.
The `Rani of Jhansi Regiment' was on active duty on the front. Lakshmi was given the rank ofColonel, although she remained popular as 'Captain Lakshmi' both militarily and on the medical front. She played a heroic role not only in the fighting but during the days when INA personnel were hunted by the victorious British troops and saved many lives because of her courage and devotion. She was finally captured and brought to India on March 4, l946 where she received a rousing welcome. The British authorities realised that keeping her as a prisoner would be counter-productive and she was released.
After her release, Captain Lakshmi campaigned tirelessly for the freedom. She travelled the length and breadth of the country and was able to collect huge funds for the INA soldiers and also mobilise people against the Britishers.
In March 1947, Lakshmi married Prem Kumar Sahgal in Lahore. Sahgal was the son of JusticeAchhru Ram Sahgal, a member of the Punjab High Court bench. After marriage, they settled in Kanpur.
In the Industrial city, Lakshmi plunged into her medical work immediately because the influx of refugees started even before August l947. She worked hard for them for several years. Later, she established a small maternity home in a hired premises where it continues till today. Her dedication for serving poor and needy is legendary in the city, Subhashini added.