In the context of the suicide by a reserved category first year student at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on March 3, a recent decision of the Institute Body (IB) and the Governing Body (GB) points, on the one hand, to total insensitivity of the institute's administration to the problems of the SCs/STs, and, on the other, how politician-members of these apex bodies seem to influence the decisions on critical issues concerning the institute.
Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is the president of the IB and Chairman of the GB. Besides him, the political members of the IB are three members of Parliament: R.K. Dhawan, Sushma Swaraj and Jyoti Mirdha. The political members in the GB include Ms. Swaraj and Motilal Vora.
It was exactly two years ago, on March 3, 2010, that Dr. Balmukund Bharti, a Dalit resident doctor at the institute, was driven to suicide by constant caste-discrimination and humiliation by his seniors and professors.
In 2008, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) had brought out a report on incidents of caste-based discrimination and harassment at the AIIMS with recommendations for certain definitive actions to be taken.
In particular, the NCSC had recommended disciplinary and punitive action against individuals who were found by the Thorat Committee to have instigated the anti-reservation agitation during which many atrocities were committed against the SC/ST community in the institute.
Given the requirement that the commission's report, along with the report of the institute administration on action taken, was to be tabled in Parliament, the Health Ministry sought the same from the institute.
According to informed sources, besides a post-based reservation roster for all faculty cadres in the institute, none of the recommendations of the Commission has been implemented.
At a meeting of the IB on January 16, which considered the administration's report on action taken, it was unanimously decided that the matter be treated as closed.
According to the minutes of the IB available with The Hindu, the president informed the IB that the GB had already taken a decision to that effect. The Minister said the institute had overcome the phase of unrest and majority of the persons against whom allegations had been levelled had either retired or left the institute and it might not be possible to take action against them.
This view was supported by Ms. Swaraj (also a member of the GB), who said action should have been taken at the time of the incident. She also added that a congenial atmosphere was created after R.C. Deka took over as the director and any action now would only disturb the harmony. Interestingly, there seems to have been no dissent from any member, not only the politicians but also the bureaucrats and the scientific community represented in both the GB and the IB.
The president also informed that the GB had taken a decision to constitute a committee to address the grievances of the SC/ST community. This recommendation had been made in the Thorat Committee Report way back in 2007.