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NITI Aayog ex-employee PhD student dies in London tragic cycle-lorry crash

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London: A 33-year-old former NITI Aayog employee pursuing her PhD at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science died in a tragic road accident as she was hit by a refuse truck while cycling back home from the university here.

Cheistha Kochhar was a Doctoral Candidate studying behavioural research since she moved to London from Gurugram, Haryana, last year.

While tributes have been pouring in for the “bright, brilliant and brave” student after her father shared the news of her death online, the Metropolitan Police are yet to officially name the victim and have appealed for witnesses to the “fatal collision.” The accident took place on Clerkenwell Road, near the junction with Farringdon Road, on March 19 evening.

“Officers attended along with paramedics from London Ambulance Service. A 33-year-old woman was found seriously injured. Despite the efforts of emergency services, she died at the scene. Her next of kin has been informed,” the Met Police statement said.

“The lorry, believed to be a refuse vehicle, stopped at the scene and the driver is helping police with their enquiries. There has been no arrest and enquiries into the circumstances continue,” the statement said.

Anyone who witnessed the incident or road users with dashcam footage which may have captured the events have been asked to contact the Met Police.

“Cheistha Kochhar worked with me on the #LIFE [Lifestyle for the Environment] programme in NITI Aayog,” Amitabh Kant, former NITI Aayog CEO said in a post on X.

“She was in the #Nudge unit and had gone to do her PhD in behavioural science at LSE. Passed away in a terrible traffic incident while cycling in London. She was bright, brilliant & brave and always full of life. Gone away too early. RIP,” he said.

Kochhar served as Senior Advisor at the National Behavioural Insights Unit of India for nearly two years until April last year, before moving to London with her software engineer husband Prashant Gautam.

“I am still in London trying to collect the remains of my daughter, Cheistha Kochhar. She was run over by a truck on 19 March while cycling back from LSE, where she was doing her PhD,” her father Lieutenant General Dr S P Kochhar, Director General at the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said in an emotional post on LinkedIn.

“It has devastated us and her large circle of friends,” he said, along with a link to an online memorial page created in her memory.

The memorial page opens with a quote from Cheistha, which reads: “What we create should last longer than we do,” and is followed by several moving tributes posted by friends and family.

“A fantastic student and an amazing person. While our interaction was too brief, Cheistha left a lasting impression. Be it her research acumen combined with practical relevance, uncanny foresight and high-level thinking combined with down-to-earth humility and helping nature, she was one of a kind, and always will be. Om Shanthi,” read one.

The Bareilly-born Behavioural Strategist earned her Masters from the University of Chicago after studying at Ashoka University and Delhi University and completing her schooling in Delhi and various Army schools around India.

“She made her mark in all these institutions and is still remembered very fondly for her creativeness, spontaneity, compassion, helpfulness, smiling demeanour and yet excelling in academics and co-curricular activities like debating, drawing and dramatics,” shared her father in his tribute to Cheistha.

“Her heart was at obtaining a doctorate in behavioural science under Org Behaviour from LSE. She got selected with a full scholarship and joined in Sep ’23. She was the only student to be selected for this programme and was working under Prof. Sosa,” he said, describing her sudden death in the road crash on March 19 as a “black day for us and the society”. (PTI)

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