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SFI Medical Students' Convention in Kolkata Addresses Healthcare Challenges and Social Injustice

Over 60 delegates from all over the country participated in the convention where a future course of action for MBBS and BDS students was outlined.
Medical Students

Medical Students Convention inKolkata at the call of SFI

Kolkata: Highlighting the determination to fight against rising healthcare costs, rampant privatisation, and the “nightmare” of NEET examinations, the first-ever MBBS and BDS students' convention was organised in Kolkata at Moulali Yuva Kendra by the Students Federation of India (SFI).

The convention, which started on Thursday and culminated on Friday, elected Dr Diptajit Das as the Medical Students and BDS Students Subcommittee Convenor (National). The medical students also participated in a rally condemning the Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, walking from Mullickbazaar to Moulali crossing to show their support for the Palestinian people.

The medical and BDS students' convention was inaugurated by Dr Arun Singh, a world-renowned Neonatologist. He emphasised the social commitment of medical students to societal causes and said that SFI is a torchbearer organisation in the field of education, guided by the motto ‘Study and Struggle’.

Dr Anuran Pal, a senior student of the BDS course in the state, expressed concern that the rich and poor divide in the field of medical education is growing stronger. “A medical seat in private colleges of the state is auctioned for over Rs one crore. How can ordinary people in the state access medical education?” he questioned.

Pal also criticised the centralised NEET examination, which “has become a nightmare for the average medical aspirants in the country”. He told NewsClick: “Coaching-based study centres where admission costs lakhs of rupees, are highly required to succeed in the centralised NEET examination. More than merit, money is playing a significant role. People are seeking education in other countries, especially in East European countries and even war-ridden Ukraine. It is a travesty of social justice in the field of medical education.”

About 60 delegates from all over the country participated in the convention where a future course of action for MBBS and BDS students was outlined. This includes building a continuous joint movement for the collective demands of students in medical, dental, nursing, and allied healthcare professions.

Demanding immediate student council elections in medical and dental colleges, the convention called for freeing medical college campuses from corruption, superstition, communal divisions, elitism, and upper-caste oppression. Additionally, the convention aimed to build a movement to bring back a healthy, democratic environment on campus and oppose the unbridled privatisation of medical education as well as the “gentrification of medical education”.

At the convention, the delegates were divided into four groups and the outcomes of the group discussions were adopted as resolutions in the convention. The issues discussed included medical education (National Medical Council Bill, course orientation, hostel, PG entrance, private college, etc.), SFI organisation (present status, problems, fraternity organisation, solutions, and study circles), mass health movement (role of community work, health camps/centres, vaccination, new government policy, blood donation movement, organ and body donation movement, etc.), and the challenges faced by doctors as individuals (mental health, physical assault in the workplace, gender disparity, etc.).

Speaking to NewsClick, SFI general secretary Mayukh Biswas alleged that BJP’s central government is directly responsible for deteriorating the quality of medical education in the country and the exodus of students from the country to other nations.

The convention also saw a discussion titled ‘Obstacles and Possibilities in Public Health Movement’ with participants including Dr Anup Roy, Dr Fuad Halim, Dr Abhijit Bandhyapadhya, Dr Surupa Dasgupta, and Dr Rabiul Islam.

Dr. Fuad Halim presented a paper on the condition of the healthcare system, especially the government-run healthcare system in the country. He pointed out that due to monetary influences, most neonatal births in the private hospitals of the state (more than 84%) are done through caesarean section, which is “detrimental to both the mother's and child's health”. “This indicates that our medical system is now more of a commodity than a service, and budding doctors should play a role in addressing these issues,” he suggested.

Addressing the medical students, former health minister of the state Dr Suryakanta Mishra said that health indices do not only mean a galaxy of doctors, nurses, and medicines but also include various societal and mental health indices. He emphasised that associated with physical, mental, and societal health are indices of food, garments, housing, education, and health. “However, a large number of people in the country are deprived of these rights. If people are deprived of these factors, can doctors play a pivotal role in addressing these problems? People need an adequate diet for better mental health, and medical students should play an important role in changing the current societal structure,” he said.

Speaking at the rally, SFI General Secretary Mayukh Biswas highlighted the “distressing state of the country's and state's education and health systems”, asserting that the ruling parties have “commodified medical education, auctioning seats in the medical field to the highest bidder”. The primary victims of this process are underprivileged students, leading to a decline in SC and ST student enrolment in medical education nationwide, he said. “Even meritorious students are finding it challenging to secure admission without paying ‘cut money’,” he alleged.

During the event, SFI national president VP Sanu addressed the attendees, noting that despite global support for the Palestinian people, the Indian government “shamefully aligns itself with the Zionist Israeli forces, contributing to the genocide in the Gaza Strip”.

SFI joint secretary Dipshita Dhar also brought attention to the plight of the Palestinian people and advocated for severe punishment for the war criminals of Israel and the USA.

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