After receiving flak for not ensuring that its affiliated colleges run SC/ST cells, the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS) has recently issued a circular regarding the formation of SC/ST grievance redressal committees at the university level. The university has appointed four members to the committee, with Dr Girish Thakur of Government Medical College, Latur, as the president.
Last year, according to guidelines by the University Grants Commission (UGC), colleges were asked to form SC/ST cells in addition to anti-ragging cells.
However, the aftermath of Dr Payal Tadvi’s suicide on May 22 brought to light that a majority of top colleges in Mumbai did not adhere to the guidelines and had no mechanism for dealing with complaints of caste discrimination. The committee, has two more members and a member secretary, who is the vice-secretary of the academic section of MUHS. The MUHS has 348 affiliated colleges across the state.
“Last year, according to UGC guidelines, we had communicated to colleges about the formation of SC/ST cells. Last week, we have issued a circular asking them to provide a feedback on the status of SC/ST cells in their colleges. They are expected to reply within 15 days,” said Dr Kalidas Chavan, registrar, MUHS.
He said, “There was always a system for direct complaints on the MUHS portal. We also regularly conduct counselling, orientation, development and communication training programmes three to four times a year to strengthen the student community. We already have a 24-hour student helpline. The formation of this committee is to explore options for reaching out to students.”
Dr Swapnil Meshram, member of Dr Ambedkar Medical Association Alumni, said, “Up until now, it has been our experience that top colleges in the city don’t even have an office space allotted to the SC/ST cell. Though it is a good move by MUHS, the faster the guidelines are implemented, the better. The extent of the committee’s powers and their functions remain to be seen.”
“MUHS has only implemented one of the four suggestions by the Thorat Committee. We request MUHS to implement the remaining three suggestions too: an office of liaison officer, often attached to SC/ST cell, a grievance cell and a counselling committee,” said Dr Siddhant Bharne of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar National Students Federation.