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First year medical students made to take 'Charak Shapath'

State health minister Ma. Subramanian puts the dean Dr A. Rathinavel on compulsory waiting list
Representational image.
Representational image.

M.R. Venkatesh   |   Chennai   |   Published 02.05.22, 02:34 AM

An initiation ceremony for first-year medical students at the state government-run Madurai Medical College on Saturday triggered controversy with the students taking an oath from an ayurvedic text in Sanskrit.

Two ministers who were on the dais immediately objected, language being a sensitive issue in Tamil Nadu which has consistently opposed any “imposition” of Hindi or Sanskrit.


On Sunday, state health minister Ma. Subramanian put the medical college’s dean, Dr A. Rathinavel, on the compulsory waiting list. An inquiry has been ordered into how the students were made to take the Sanskrit oath, Maharishi Charak Shapath.

Fresh medical graduates are meant to take the Hippocratic Oath – traditionally administered in English -- but there’s no prescribed oath for first-year students.

The new guidelines of the country’s apex medical education regulator, the National Medical Commission, says a “modified Maharishi Charak Shapath is recommended when a candidate is introduced to medical education”.

However, “it’s only recommendatory and not a must”, an official of the medical college said, asking not to be named.

“This is the first year that freshers took an oath during the initiation ceremony,” the official said, suggesting some sort of a mix-up. “We were taken aback.”

Dr Rathinavel, an eminent cardiothoracic surgeon who took over as the dean of the medical college in May last year, was on the dais at the initiation event where students took the Sanskrit oath before receiving their white coats ceremonially from seniors.

The medical college’s vice-principal, Dr V. Dhanalakshmi, has been directed to hold additional charge as the dean till the inquiry is over, officials said.

“I am in a meeting,” Dr Rathinavel said when The Telegraph contacted him.

Tamil Nadu finance minister P.T.R. Palanivel Thiaga Rajan and state commercial taxes minister Moorthy, who were on the dais at the event, were flummoxed as the students read out the Sanskrit text, apparently jotted down in the Roman (English) alphabet.

Both ministers objected as the state government has a two-language policy, allowing only English and Tamil at official events.

As word reached chief minister M.K. Stalin, who was touring districts neighbouring Madurai on Saturday, he asked his health minister to look into the matter.

After the National Medical Commission’s recommendation had triggered fears that the Charak Shapath might replace the Hippocratic Oath for graduates, the government had stated in Parliament that there was no such plan.

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