The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Probe finds caste bias at AIIMS

New Delhi, Oct. 8: A committee set up by the health ministry has found “enough evidence” of discrimination against SC/ST students at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), members said today.

The three-member panel was constituted after reports of discrimination — which first appeared in The Telegraph — prompted the Prime Minister to intervene.

“There is already enough evidence of caste-based discrimination against stud- ents of the SC/ST category, and some of the evidence is simply shocking,” a member said.

Sukhdeo Thorat, the chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), heads the panel. The director- general of health services, R.K. Srivastava, and a member of the Centre’s task force on medical education, K. Shyamaprasad, are the other members.

The committee has expressed concern that SC/ST students of the country’s premier teaching hospital may be too scared to come forward with complaints.

Thorat and Shyamaprasad visited the AIIMS campus yesterday and met director P. Venugopal and other senior members of the administration.

Venugopal is believed to have initially told them “there was no sort of caste discrimination at AIIMS”. But when presented with evidence, he backtracked and said discrimination was a recent phenomenon and not a general feature.

The Telegraph report was the basis for the entire probe. In the past month, other reports have also appeared, and we have ourselves found plenty of evidence to support the allegations,” the member said.

The committee, which is to report to health secretary P.K. Hota and joint secre- tary Bhawani Thyagarajan, also met some students yesterday.

Starting Tuesday afternoon, individual students can seek time to come and meet the panel members with their complaints or any documentary evidence, a notice sent to AIIMS says.

Students from other medical colleges — some of whom have alleged caste-based discrimination — “are also welcome”.

Several faculty members, who were upset about what they claim was “apathetic behaviour” of AIIMS authorities towards the plight of SC/ST students, are also planning to meet the committee.

For SC/ST students at AIIMS, like third-year student Sudhanshu Meena, who says he was repeatedly abused in the mess, this is a “godsend”. “I can’t wait to meet the committee,” he said.

But the panel members feel that the AIIMS administration needs to do more to instil confidence in SC/ST students that they will not be penalised for coming out in the open with their grievances.

One of the most “glaring” pieces of evidence before the committee is a CD showing some students burning books of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, a champion of the Dalit cause. “This is simply not acceptable, and the AIIMS administration has been told to identify the students,” a member said.

The committee hopes to complete its findings and submit its report by the first week of November, he added.

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