Families of the three final-year gynaecology students — Dr Ankita Khandelwal, Dr Bhakti Mehare and Dr Hema Ahuja — accused of harassment and caste discrimination in connection with the alleged suicide of Dr Payal Tadvi, have claimed the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) has not once approached them to record their statements. The MUHS is looking into a ragging complaint against the three and has power to even terminate their admissions.
On Monday, a relative of Mehare approached the MUHS registrar requesting that the three families be allowed to present their side since the three resident doctors remain in judicial custody. The families observed that the university was taking a decision that may affect the career of all the three medical students without giving them a chance to defend themselves.
“Until today, we were not even aware that the MUHS is reviewing an anti-ragging report submitted by Nair hospital. Nobody from the MUHS informed us about such a committee,” said Manish Pandhare, a relative of Mehare.
On May 22, Tadvi, a second-year postgraduate student at the TN Topiwala National Medical College, committed suicide by hanging herself in her hostel room. Her family has accused her three seniors (Mehare, Ahuja and Khandelwal) of harassment and caste discrimination against Tadvi. Last week, a 21-member committee in BYL Nair hospital, attached with the medical college, submitted an anti-ragging report to the MUHS, observing Tadvi was harassed by the three seniors and gynaecology unit head Dr YI Ching Ling was responsible for not taking any action despite a complaint by Tadvi’s family.
The MUHS formed a four-member committee, comprising Dr P Wakode, Kalidas Chavan, Dr Ajay Chandanwale and Dr Bachi Hathiram, to opine whether the ragging complaint holds water and recommend action in the case. The MUHS decision in this case will be considered final, officials from the medical education ministry said.
Kailash Khandelwal, Ankita’s father, said they were not even aware BYL Nair hospital had submitted a report. “We are very disturbed right now. Everything is at stake, their career, education, their future,” he said.
Hema’s father Suresh Ahuja, a grocery store owner in Satna, MP, said there was neither an email nor postal notification of such an inquiry by the MUHS. “Hema wanted to be a doctor since childhood. She has studied so hard. We would never miss a chance to defend them, but no official from college or university has approached us to record our statement,” he said. Hema’s mother Kavita said since the last few days they have only been attempting to get bail in the case.
A Kolkata-based relative of Mehare said none of the parents have visited MUHS officials or Nair hospital since administration support is lacking.
Dr Wakode, deputy director of the Directorate of Medical Education and Research and also a committee member of the MUHS in the case, refused to comment on why the three students were not notified about the committee constituted to inquire into ragging charges against them. The committee was constituted on May 29.
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Kalidas Chavan, MUHS registrar, said the committee has followed protocol in the case. “The family can mail us whatever they have to say,” he said.
When contacted, Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan said the MUHS report is expected in a few days. “We will ensure the version of the three students is taken into account. It cannot be an ex-parte decision,” Mahajan told The Indian Express.
Human rights panel holds first hearing
The Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) held its first hearing in the Payal Tadvi suicide case Monday.
BYL Nair hospital Dean Dr RN Bharmal submitted a preliminary report that detailed action taken by the hospital. The dean stated the student (Tadvi) never submitted a written complaint or approached the anti-ragging cell against her three seniors for alleged harassment and caste discrimination.
Bharmal reported to the commission that he has already suspended gynaecology unit head Dr YI Ching Ling, who was approached by Tadvi’s family regarding the issue. The commission has sought details of how a ragging complaint is dealt with in the hospital.
Last week, the commission had taken suo motu cognisance of Tadvi’s suicide and issued notices to Nair hospital and Mumbai police. A day later, Payal’s mother Abeda Salim also wrote to the commission alleging that caste discrimination drove her daughter to suicide.