Patna, Sept. 11: Superstition or a cover-up in the guise of superstition, no one can tell for sure. But doctors at the city’s much-anticipated health hub have invoked “higher powers” even before starting medical operations.
The Jai Prakash Narayan All India Institute of Medical Sciences (JPNAIIMS) in the state capital, which is about to start the MBBS course from the current academic session, has deferred its classes by 10 days because no “auspicious” activity can be started during malmas.
The classes of the first year MBBS batch — consisting of 50 students — will now commence from September 25 instead of September 15, as decided earlier.
Malmas — literally meaning impure month according to the Hindu lunar calendar — is the thirteenth month that falls every three years and is considered inauspicious for beginning anything new or significant.
This year, the period started on August 18 and will end on September 16.
Dr G.K. Singh, director, JPNAIIMS, told The Telegraph: “The classes were to begin from September 15 but we decided to postpone it by a few days due to the ongoing malmas period. Parents of many students approached me saying this date was inappropriate for such a grand initiative. Since it’s a question of their career, we had to take care of their sentiments and we decided accordingly.”
The decision was taken at the institute level and a letter intimating the changes in the day of the start of academic activities was sent to the Union health ministry, which is funding the construction of the health hub.
Singh said JPNAIIMS is an autonomous institution and such decisions could be taken at a local level.
“We are a university of our own and can take decisions like this. Besides, deferring classes by 10 days will not really hamper studies and the loss can be made up in a few days’ time,” said Singh, defending his decision.
Though Singh stressed that the institute was prepared to start the classes, many have raised questions, saying an institute like JPNAIIMS should not send out a wrong message to society by following such superstitious and religion-specific practices.
“I personally follow and believe in many Hindu practices but cannot imagine that a government institute will do something like this. First of all, it is strictly a Hindu practice and an institute should be beyond all this. I doubt that they have come up with the excuse just to delay classes because they are not ready to start the academic programme yet and are buying time,” said Dr Himanshu Roy, a leading Patna-based medical professional.
“Auspicious times have no place in modern medicine,” said Sanjay Pai, a medical doctor on the board of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. “If the inauguration of a hospital is delayed, it could potentially cause harm to some patients. We sometimes hear of doctors performing Caesarian sections at auspicious times — all this is rubbish,” Pai said.
Even priests said that while such considerations were common in personal and family conducts, government agencies and institutions following such practices was unheard of.
“This period is not good for doing anything new and significant but I have not heard government institutions giving so much importance to such factors,” said Buddhan Ojha, a priest at Radha-Krishn temple at Buddha Ghat.