A post-graduate (PG) student of Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences (SVIMS) in Tirupati, who had accused three professors of sexual harassment, committed suicide at her residence in Pileru town in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district. Outraged over the incident, fellow students of the medical college held protests demanding immediate action against the culprits who are responsible for the victim’s mental agony which pushed her to take the extreme step.
30 year-old Bellam Shilpa was fighting for justice against the abusive system in her medical college before she hanged herself to death on August 7. Shilpa is survived by her husband Rupesh and a threeyear-old son.
In April this year, Shilpa wrote letters to Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan and Andhra Pradesh Information and Technology Minister Nara Lokesh, citing that three professors — Dr.Ravi Kumar, Dr.Siva Kumar and Dr.Kirti have sought sexual favours from her and demanded legal action against them. The governor had reportedly responded and directed the NTR University of Health Sciences, to which SVIMS is affiliated, to conduct an enquiry into the matter. Since then,Shilpa raised her issue several times througha number ofmedia sources.
According to Shilpa’s friends and family, the medical college kept hold of the enquiry report and the accused professors had begun a negative campaign that Shilpa was suffering from “mental illness”.At the same time, the victim was also upset with the results of her post-graduate exams. She had told her friends that the accused professors deliberately failed her because of her complaint.
“Shilpa was upset that justice was not done to her. I believe the humiliation led her to take the extreme step," her husband Rupesh was quoted as saying.
As the suicide news triggered protests, SVIMS administration reportedly suspended one accused Dr.Ravi Kumar and initiated a new enquiry into thedeath.
“There is no efficient system in the medical college to address grievances mainly on gender and caste issues. Over years, abuse of power by some professors has become a normal (sic.)in the institution”, said M.Rohith, former MBBS student from SVIMS.
In March this year, one Dr.P.Siva Teja Reddy who was pursuing post-graduation from Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, ended his life by committing suicide. After this incident came to light, numerous medical professionals have come forward to speak about the rampant incidents of harassment that take place across medical colleges in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They say that casteism, sexual abuse, intimidation,andthreatening have become common place in the medical institutes.Deceased Shilpa was one of these professionals who had dared to reveal the normalized abuse in such institutions. After fighting for months for justice, Shilpa lost her hope.
Numerous reports point out that there has been an increase in the incidence of suicide among medical professionals (both students and doctors) across the world.