Mass Hunger Strike of Medical Students in Jhajjar.
“Ask us the names of all the BJP leaders that we have met since last year,” says the jaded medical students in Haryana’s Jhajjar, “not one of them has paid any heed to our plea.”
‘All the BJP leaders’ referred to here include Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Om Prakash Dhankar and Anil Vij—both Cabinet ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party-run Government of Haryana—and Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey. The students have also approached Union Home Minister Amit Shah; however, the issue of the abysmal state of a private medical college in Jhajjar remains unresolved.
NewsClick approached the protesting student to understand how the corruption surrounding the private colleges in Haryana has failed in becoming an election issue in these Haryana Assembly elections.
The private college namely, World College of Medical Sciences and Research and Hospital (WCMSRH) received the media glare last month when nearly 80 MBBS students launched an indefinite mass hunger strike demanding the BJP government transfer their admission to another medical institute in the state. According to the students, the medical college has failed to create the infrastructure as per the norms of Medical Council of India—the erstwhile medical education regulator authority in India. The documents accessed by NewsClick confirm the claim.
Amit Dhandhi, 22, is one of the 148 students who took admission in WCMSRH in 2016-17—the maiden and the only batch at the institute. “Can you imagine that the emergency ward in the college has been locked since two years?” asks Amit, “and the whole radiology department is sealed.”
Similar complaints were shared by Nivedita, 22, a batch topper in her first year of the college, who is now part of the protest. She says that the college does not have even basic facilities to teach medicine to the students.
“First two years of the course were mostly based on theoretical subjects, while the third and the fourth year of the course include the clinical practical subjects. We are third year students and we have not been taught how to take even the pulse rate of the patients yet,” she says.
The MCI took stock of the situation for the first time in the year 2016. Owing to under-constructed building and around 90% faculty deficiency, the regulatory body debarred the college from taking admissions for the next academic sessions. “Faculty and resident deficiency”, “fake patients”, “fake faculty” and “non-functional status of the hospital” were some of the concluding remarks of the MCI inspections relating to the WCMSRH college. Subsequently, the college—among other 32 private medical colleges—was banned by the Health Ministry for two years in 2017. In such a case, as per the Essentiality Certificate granted to the college, “the state government shall take over the responsibility of the students already admitted in the college with the permission of the Central Government”. Both the governments currently ruled by BJP, have only turned their back on it.
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The state of WCMSRH in Jhajjar also speaks volumes about the massive gaps in Haryana’s health infrastructure and the failures of the Khattar-led BJP government in the state.
According to 2018 National Health Profile (NHP), the state of Haryana, which is home to around 25 million people, has only one government hospital bed for every 2,496 people and worse, only one state-run hospital for every 42,001 persons. Raising red alarm regarding the acute shortage of manpower, the report recorded one government allopathic doctor in Haryana for every 10,189 patients. The figure is nearly 10 times more than the recommendation of the WHO, which is one doctor for every 1,000 population.
As per the documents accessed by NewsClick, there were seven medical colleges in the state and 850 seats of MBBS available when BJP came to power in 2014. Though in its 2014 manifesto, the saffron party promised to set up institutions in the state based on the pattern of the AIIMS, after its first tenure in the state, the state now has 11 medical colleges (government and private) with an admission capacity of only 1000 students, as per the 2018 NHP. Interestingly enough, one of them is Jhajjar’s World College of Medical Sciences & Research, where students are currently protesting.
The case of the private medical college in Jhajjar also shows sheer apathy of the BJP government in the state towards the concerns raised by the general public.
“As a mark of protest, the students are not eating anything for days; however, the whole state’s administration is trying to save one private medical college,” says Urmila Sonawane, 50, mother of a protesting student. “What sort of connections does the college authority have within the state machinery?” she questions.
To this, the chairman of the college, Dr. Narendra Singh, provides some answer, who, according to his official website, is also an executive member of Rajasthan Bharatiya Janata Party.
NewsClick contacted him to get his side of the story. Dr. Singh could only say: “The protesting students are politically motivated and are demonstrating only to get passed in the exams and also not to pay the fees.”
According to him, the college departments are functioning with adequate patients coming every day to the hospital for medical check-up. However, when this reporter tried to enter the college and the hospital, he was denied entry to both.
In the run-up to Assembly elections in the state, it goes without saying that this is the burning issue in the Jhajjar constituency, especially when the seat has been held by the election rival Congress since 2005. Geeta Bhukkal, current MLA and also the Congress’s candidate for the Jhajjar seat, has been banking on it and has extended her support to the struggle of the MBBS students. The Congress also, in its recently released manifesto, committed to build a university and a medical college each in all the districts of the state.
However, as in other parts of the state, the results of the elections will be decided not by the promises made by the Congress, but by the prevailing discontentment among the Haryana citizens against the ruling BJP.
“Iss elections unka [BJP] ghamand tutna chahiye (This election, their arrogance should be beaten down),” says one of the protesting student, “dekhe kaise jeetenge… hum bhi apni zid mein hai. (Let’s see how they win… We, too, are determined.)”
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