Tamil Nadu: We were threatened into silence, say SVS college students
Students of a private medical college in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram, where three women committed suicide accusing its administration of charging excess fees and “torture”, said on Thursday all the allegations levelled against the institute are true.
They say facilities at the SVS Naturopathy and Yoga College are far from adequate and they are treated shabbily inside the classrooms and in the hostels. Many of them are now seeking transfer from SVS Naturopathy and Yoga College to other government colleges.
On Thursday, the vice-chancellor of the MGR Medical University met a delegation of students and assured them that the matter would be looked into, discussed at the highest level and a decision will be taken whether the students could be transferred to government colleges.
The three students – T Monisha, E Saranya and V Priyanka – had committed suicide by drowning themselves in a well near their college last Saturday. Their bodies were found by local residents.
A note from the three women had alleged that the administration of SVS Naturopathy and Yoga College had been charging exorbitant fees from them. Officials of the institute were also accused of discriminating against some students because they had gained admission through merit, and were therefore exempt from paying substantial sums of money as fees.
The students and parents say they have lodged formal complaints with the district collector against the college, but no action has been taken they allege.
It is only after the three women committed suicide that the issue was highlighted in national media and forced the university into listening to their grievances.
‘Don’t talk to seniors’
Many students who have come to Chennai to meet the vice-chancellor said that it was only after interacting with their seniors for the first time since joining the college that they came to know about other shocking stories.
“I joined the college as I was allotted the college after counselling and had no choice. Besides, I knew nothing about the college and it is only after joining that one realised what I was in for,” A Saranya, a first-year student of Diploma in Homeopathic Medical System, told HT on Thursday.
She said that it is only now that they have come to know the truth about the institution and how students are threatened into silence to help the college cover up its deficiencies.
“We are not asked not to speak or mingle with senior students. If we did we could be punished and there is always a threat of getting thrown out of the college.”
“Someone always kept an eye on us to ensure that we did not dare disobey them. In the college bus too, the girls were made to sit in the front and the boys at the back and each lot was dropped at their ‘hostels’,” Saranya said as her classmates nodded in agreement.
They also alleged that “you will be thrown out” is the main threat that is often used by the authorities.
“Since the beginning of this academic session, we have had only three classes in one stretch and classes for another three weeks. Only one teacher used to come to the class, read out something from the book and then ask us to do it ourselves,” she said.
She alleged the condition in the hostels was equally bad where 40 students were asked to share food meant just for 20 and there was no scope for any arguments as they were cooped up in a small apartment.
Indumathi, one of their seniors and a second-year student, alleged that she doubled up as a nurse in the college “hospital” when any team came for an inspection.
“I used to be the nurse and another senior of mine a doctor, and others were rounded up as patients,” she said adding that the college management played one trick after another to portray an impression to the outsiders that all was well.
“It is a 6X6 room, generally used as a storeroom for waste, cleaned up a little and made to function as a medical room,” S Kumar, another second-year student, said. “At times, even outsiders are hired for as little as Rs 100 or Rs 200 per day to act as doctors, nurses and patients,” he added.
Overcharging, he said, was a fact and absence of facilities and teaching faculty is ruining the future of students.
“There is no lab. In a medical college, if there is no lab you can understand the situation,” another student piped in.
Although the college began functioning in 2008, not a single student has passed out and become a doctor, many students alleged saying most are forced to drop out somewhere along the course.
Liaquat Ali, father of Afsan, a first year student, had paid for the management seat – more than three times the prescribed fees and rues the decision.
“We did not know anything about the college other than the fact that our child would become a doctor,” Ali said. “I have receipts for Rs 89,000. But they gave me no receipt for nearly Rs 1 lakh. There are others who have paid as much as Rs 4 lakh,” he alleged.
Damning revelations from students and indifference of the state government to act against the college despite a spate of complaints have sparked off an intense blame game among political parties.
The DMDK accused Pattali Makkal Katchi leader and chief ministerial candidate Anbumani Ramadoss for permitting the college as it was during his tenure as the Union health minister that it started functioning.
Ramadoss hit back saying it was the DMK, which then was the ruling party, for giving a clearance to the college – as the state government had issued an essentiality certificate following which the Centre processed the same.
The college has been sealed and police have registered a case of suicide and are investigating the matter. They have arrested four people, including its chairperson Vasuki Subramanian.
Brushing aside police assertions that the case was being investigated impartially and properly, the Madras high court ordered a second autopsy to be conducted on the body of Monisha, one of three students who committed suicide, after her father moved the court seeking fresh autopsy in Chennai saying did not trust the local Villupuram authorities.
Other students and their parents too debunk the suicide theory and want fair investigations into the case.