‘Before Payal Tadvi case, four complaints of ragging were filed in Mumbai hospital since 2014’
Four students from BYL Nair Hospital had filed complaints of ragging since 2014, revealed a response to a right-to-information (RTI) query filed by a city-based social activist. However, although the eight accused in these four cases were suspended, the hospital did not file any criminal case or take stringent action, said activist Shakeel Shaikh, who had filed the query. Allegations of ragging at the hospital and medical college made headlines recently after Dr Payal Tadvi, a second-year postgraduate student, committed suicide earlier this year.
Shaikh had filed his RTI query on June 6. According to the response, the civic-run BYL Nair Hospital received its first ragging complaint from an MBBS student in 2014. The second came in 2015 from a first-year microbiology student, followed by another complaint filed by a second-year physiology student in the same year. In 2018, the anti-ragging committee and dean of the hospital were informed of a ragging case telephonically through a toll-free number set up to register complaints.
“The number [of complaints] assumes significance, as in May this year, Dr Tadvi, a junior doctor, killed herself due to the harassment and casteist abuses by senior colleagues. Data suggests that the hospital entirely failed to prevent any ragging incidences and to maintain their [student complainants’] goodwill, never took any criminal action against the accused,” said Shaikh, who believes the lack of stringent action against those accused of ragging fostered an environment that led to Dr Tadvi’s suicide.
Describing the actions taken against those accused of ragging, the officials said in the RTI response that in 2014, four second-year MBBS students were suspended from college for one month. Two postgraduate students were earlier suspended from hostels for six months and two MBBS second-year students were suspended permanently. Till date, the hospital has not imposed any penalties on the accused or filed a formal police complaint.
The hospital’s anti-ragging committee has conducted 21 meetings since August 2013 to discuss either complaints or requests by accused students or their parents, apart from formal discussions on how to sensitise the students. “However, the report makes a shocking revelation the panel has actually met students only on one occasion—in August 2017, which is after receiving four complaints,” said Shaikh.
Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean of BYL Nair Hospital said decisions on complaints are taken by a 30-member anti-ragging committee, which submits its report to the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS). The maximum punishment that the committee can suggest is suspension from college hostels. “Our anti-ragging committee or dean doesn’t have powers to suspend a student from the college. It’s the domain of MUHS. Also, suspension from the college hostel has far-reaching impact as punishment because students from other cities then have to look for private accommodation,” said Dr Bharmal.
On May 22, Dr Tadvi committed suicide, following which her family alleged she had been subjected to caste-based discrimination. Investigations have recovered photographs of a suicide note in which Dr Tadvi had detailed the harassment she allegedly faced over a year because for being adivasi. She also named the Dr Bhakti Mehare, Dr Hema Ahuja and Dr Ankita Khandelwal in the note. The three accused, who are in judicial custody, have denied the allegations.