Medical students across batches and institutes told TOI that anti-ragging committees are non-functional and restricted to paper. And worse, a complaint against a fellow student or a professor only worsens the victim’s situation. In Tadvi’s case, the SC/ST Commission has observed that Nair’s committee had not met in over a year. “The effectiveness of an anti-ragging committee depends largely on the institute,” said Dr K D Chavan, MUHS registrar. In 2018-19, the MUHS received six complaints of ragging from across state, of which they could find evidence in one.
Dr Santosh Wackchure, alumni of Nair, said he is a livi-ng example of casteism and the institute’s failure to address it. During his postgraduation in 2013, he lodged a complaint about being subjected to casteist slurs by two doctors. An inquiry committee was set up, but the two doctors were given only a month’s suspension.
Unhappy, he lodged a complaint with Agripada police and has since been fighting a court battle. “I had to pay a price for calling them out. I was falsely implicated in multiple corruption cases and served at least eight memos,” he said. Dr Wakchaure, who was then president of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, said his election to the post had brought out the casteist jibes. “But my position also gave me the courage to fight them. Perhaps Payal couldn’t muster that courage. This this is why colleges need to have efficient bodies looking into students’ issues.”
To begin with, doctors say, institutes should have separate bodies to look into undergraduate and postgraduate grievances, as their issues are different. Psychiatrist Dr Sagar Mundada, a former student of JJ Hospital, pointed out that some may perceive disciplining as harassment and therefore, having a robust forum can make all the difference.
Dr Kailash Sharma, director, academics at Tata Memorial Centre, said the cancer institute has at least 350 resident doctors and fellows working at any given point. A software that allows students to lodge complaints directly to Dr Sharma has helped them deal with such issues. “We receive 10-12 complaints annually from residents. Problems mainly range from doctors not allowing juniors surgical work, to denial of leaves, sometimes even if the resident is ill. We usually speak to the doctor, his seniors and when necessary, to parents as well,” he said. Nair Hospital dean Dr Ramesh Bharmal said it was untrue that his students had zero redressal forum. “My room is open to everyone. I meet 500 people a day, why wouldn’t I listen to my students.”
Dr Mundada said the MUHS must find out why its 2016 notification of carrying out a half-yearly physical and psychological evaluation of residents was not followed in medical colleges. “If Payal was screened, a psychiatrist would have perhaps detected her condition and saved her life.”