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Even After Payal Tadvi’s Death, Doctors' Body Unconvinced of Caste Discrimination


Active member
On May 22, Dr Payal Tadvi, a 26-year-old oppressed caste Muslim gynaecologist, died by suicide in Mumbai. Earlier that day, she had apparently performed two surgeries and spoken to her mother on the phone.

For months leading up to her death, she had told her family that she was being harassed by three “upper” caste women doctors. They allegedly went to the toilet and then wiped their feet on her bed, called her casteist slurs, made fun of her for being a tribal on WhatsApp groups and threatened to not allow her to enter operation theatres or perform deliveries. A few hours before she took her life, she had reportedly told her mother, once again, about this harassment.

From Rohith Vemula, a PhD student and Dalit who took his own life in Hyderabad in 2016, to Payal Tadvi, caste discrimination followed by suicides is an enduring phenomenon in Indian educational institutions, including medical schools.

But the top leadership of India’s largest doctor’s body – the Indian Medical Association (IMA) – is of the view that there is no real problem of caste discrimination in the profession.

“There is no caste discrimination in Indian medical field,” says Dr Shantanu Sen, the current president of the IMA, categorically. “On the administrative side, there is some reservation in seats…” he says. When asked, he clarifies that he doesn’t mean to say that reservation is casteism.

Other top IMA leaders echo his views: “We have not heard of a level of caste discrimination that requires attention,” says Dr Ashokan, current national general secretary of this union.

Is this because caste discrimination among doctors doesn’t exist or because the IMA is not an environment where oppressed caste doctors feel comfortable to participate freely? When asked if the IMA has ever checked how many Scheduled Caste doctors are either members of the IMA or office bearers such as himself, Ashokan bursts into laughter and says, “Why should we do?”

The third doctor accused of harassing medical student Payal Tadvi was arrested by police on Wednesday. All the three accused doctors in the case- Ankita Khandelwal, Bhakti Mehre and Hema Ahuja have been arrested and are likely to be produced before the court today. Mehre and Ahuja were arrested on Tuesday.

The three doctors were arrested for allegedly abetting the post-graduate medical student Tadvi, who belonged to the Scheduled Tribe community, to end her life on May 22. Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has taken a suo moto cognisance of the matter and written to the hospital administration, requesting to appraise with the action taken in the case.

“The NCW is deeply disturbed…It is a matter of serious concern,” NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma wrote in the letter addressed to hospital director Dr Avinas Supe. On Monday, the Maharashtra State Commission for Women had issued a notice to Dean of the BYL Nair Hospital seeking a report on the action taken in the case.

Earlier, the hospital administration of BLY Nair Hospital had formed an anti-ragging committee to probe the suicide. The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) has suspended the three doctors. The accused doctors, on Monday, wrote to the association urging to ensure ‘fair’ probe into the issue.

The discrimination on basis of caste, religion,language do exit. Not very common. In the days of ample opportunities by the way of reservation the so called oppressed caste students enjoy lot of benefits on the backdrop of very tough competition for education or jobs/promotion. Many students are weak in their psyche irrespective of their caste are vulnerable environment. There are number of suicides in IITs and many premium institutions irrespective of caste that ,it will not make news if it is an upper caste student. Very sorry for the student but it is the case to case analysis should be done and should not be generalized.

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