Caste Discrimination and Indian Medical Education System

#JusticeForDrPayal was trending in social media for the last few days. Payal Tadvi, a resident doctor studying gynaecology at the BYL Nair Hospital in Mumbai, was found hanging in her hostel room as she was consistently harassed by the three doctors for belonging to a lower caste.

This was not one of the rare or an isolated instance. There are examples of a host of underprivileged scholars who have committed suicide for exactly the same reason. India must take the necessary steps to address these caste based discriminations.

Findings of the Sukhadeo Thorat Committee

The menace of caste-based discrimination was so acute in AIIMS Delhi that in 2007, a committee was formed under the chairmanship of Sukhadeo Thorat to look into the harassment of Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) students. The findings of the Committee are:

  • About 69 per cent of the SC/ST students reported not receiving adequate support from teachers and about half of them cited inaccessibility and indifference as reasons for less contact with teachers.
  • About one-third gave caste background as a reason for avoidance by the teachers and about 72 per cent of SC/ST students mentioned some kind of discrimination during teaching sessions.
  • About 84 per cent of these students mentioned that evaluation in practical and viva was unfair and 85 per cent of them mentioned that the SC students didn t receive enough time with the examiners, as compared to higher caste students.
  • A large chunk of SC/ST students experienced social isolation and discrimination during their stay in the hostels at AIIMS.

Not just the students the report also discrimination felt by SC/ST faculty members employed at AIIMS, Delhi.

Further, the Mungekar Committee which submitted its report to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes in a separate case observed hostility of the college authorities towards SC/ST students was so strong that the latter always had to approach the information commission with applications under the Right to Information (RTI).

Even though affirmative action in the form of caste-based reservations to a significant extent ensured the accessibility of the higher education to the SC/ST students, it has not been successful in addressing the challenges of caste-based discrimination faced by them. Besides legislative orders and punitive actions, a long-term solution is the need of the hour.

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