A lady doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, attempted suicide on Friday, April 17, after she alleged a faculty member of discriminatory casteist behaviour in the campus. The incident came to light on Sunday after the Resident Doctors’ Association, in its letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, said that the senior resident doctor at Center for Dental Education and Research (CDER) had written repeated letters to the administration, National SC-ST Commissions and Women’s Grievance Cell but no action was taken.
The victim’s husband told NewsClick that he was not in a state to comment on the matter. Sources at the hospital have informed that the doctor is now out of danger and recovering in the Intensive Care Unit.
The RDA, in its letter, said, “The Resident has made repeated appeals to the Department, Director and also has been represented through RDA AIIMS to the Administration. Despite multiple letters (dated 16.03.2020, 22.03.2020, 23.03.2020), there has been no adequate action taken to address this issue of grave concern and eventually leading the resident to the edge making her to take drastic step to end her life after losing hope of justice in this prestigious institute.”
Commenting on the incident, Dr Randeep Guleria said that the sexual harassment committee and the department concerned has initiated an enquiry into the matter. He added that they have been told to expedite the matter. Similarly, an internal enquiry on the complaint alleged caste discrimination has also begun.
NewsClick reached out to the chairman of the National Scheduled Castes Commission, Ram Shankar Katheria, to enquire about the alleged complaint made by the doctor. However, Katheria said, “I am not aware about the complaint. However, we will initiate the enquiry once we receive complaint from the family.”
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But this is reportedly not the first incident when medical students from marginalised sections have complained about alleged discriminatory behaviour from the faculty members at AIIMS. In 2010, Balmukund Bharti, a student at AIIMS had killed himself because he was reportedly called a ‘quota student’ consistently in the class by his professor. There were similar allegations of consistent humiliation, ridicule and even deliberately failing the students from marginalised communities. Following several complaints from the students, the UPA government had formed a committee headed by the former UGC chairman Sukhdeo Thorat to look into the issue in 2007.
The committee in its findings revealed, “In response to the caste bias by high caste teachers, about 76% of the respondents reported that the examiner had asked the caste background, about 84% mentioned that their caste background was asked either directly or indirectly and about 84% mentioned that their grades were affected because of their caste background.”
Deposing before the committee, a dalit student had recounted his bitter experience in the following statement. He had said, “After the final professional examination, one of the Professor asked me as to which place I came from. I told him that I am from Ghaziabad. In front of a Senior Resident (doing DM in IRCH), he said that, this fellow is a bad character (Badmas) and he need to be stopped from clearing the examination. There after I was continuously failed in medicine. I may mention that I had never failed in that subject during the preceding three semesters. I had also secured 60% marks in this course in pre-final examination. When I checked my question paper, I felt that the nobody had probably checked my examination copy. Then I repeated this examination after six month in which I again failed and also continuously failed in subsequent examination. I kept on giving examination for next one year and finally cleared after one year. In the end I passed and cleared four papers including this paper in one attempt. This was possible because the concerned doctor had gone on a leave and the examination was taken by another faculty. The repeated failure had damaged my image and affected my psychology.”
Similar reports of discrimination were reported from the Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai where a student of Gynaecology Payal Tadvi had killed herself due to alleged consistent bullying and humiliation from the fellow doctors.
Tadvi, in her suicide letter, had written, “I have lost my professional life, personal life, everything because it has been declared by them that they will not let me learn anything until they are in the hospital. I am prohibited from handling the labour room from last three weeks because they don't find me efficient. I have been asked to stay out of the labour room during OPD hours.”
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