Monday, May 07, 2007

The ugly face of AIIMS


Caste discrimination.

A committee formed by the Central Government documents the terrible acts of discrimination endured by students belonging to Dalit and tribal communities. The perpetrators include both faculty and fellow students.

The HIndu also carried a report yesterday about the Committee's findings, but didn't try to do any reporting on its own. Today, it reported on conflicting reactions from AIIMS faculty. Predictably, one group -- the AIIMS Faculty Association --- has called some of the findings (its representative calls them 'allegations') "absurd and baseless". More ominously, this group has chosen to question the credibility of the committee members by calling them "known associates" of the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister!

I'm willing to concede that the committee may have overstated its findings due to a possible bias in its choice of people it interviewed. However, even if the situation in AIIMS is just 10 percent as bad as the committee says it is, you can't escape the conclusion that it's still horribly ugly.

But, thankfully, the Telegraph goes further. It complements the Committee's findings with its own reports, and claims two things:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had personally intervened to set up the three-member committee, headed by University Grants Commission chairman Sukhdeo Thorat, after this newspaper reported the campus discrimination.

and

Daily life at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences resembles that in the country’s feudal outbacks and Apartheid-era South Africa, a government committee has discovered, confirming findings reported by The Telegraph. [emphasis added]

I am not able to locate Telegraph's original report, which it says the committee's findings have 'confirmed'. Does anyone know when it was published?

* * *

Thanks to reader Yogesh for the e-mail alert.

28 Comments:

  1. barbarindian said...

    This is clearly manufactured. Ever since Ramadoss started camping out at AIIMS, apparently many faults started coming out of the hitherto revered institute.

  2. Pratik Ray said...

    I dont know whether Telegraph published a complete report of their findings / whether they undertook an exhaustive study. But it seems as if they interviewed a few SC/ST students. You can read about them here and here

    Yes, you are right; even if 10% of these findings are true, it would be shameful. At the same time though, I would like to hear what the people on the "other side" (i.e. gen cat) in AIIMS have to say about it.

    Even more important is the following question: Has this existed for, say, last 5 years at this scale? Or has it been accentuated after the government announced reservations? A more detailed survey, by apolitical bodies are the need of the hour - and the survey shouldnt just focus on the current students of AIIMS, but should cover the alumni as well.

  3. Pratik Ray said...

    There is a mention of "as reported last June" in one of the links. That would be June 2006. I couldnt find the report thru a cursory search. Possibly I missed it. If someone finds it, would they please link it over here?

    thanks
    Pratik

  4. Bruno said...

    How AIIMS publishes the result can be see at http://bruno.penandscale.com/2006/02/irresponsibleagain.html

  5. Rahul said...

    Here's an article by Siddharth Varadarajan, talking about caste discrimination in 1999 in University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, his attempt to follow it up, and the reluctance of his newspaper (he does not name it, but he was at the Times of India then) to follow it up.

  6. Rahul said...

    Sorry, clicked "submit" too early on that comment. I meant, reluctance of his paper to print the story (it eventually came out in butchered form). And he links such attitudes to the AIIMS agitation last year. Anyway, read the thing.

  7. Revathi said...

    In this respect the AIIMS is not the only institute with corrupt practices. Medical institutions all over the world are notorious for their autocratic and undemocratic leadership. There is a lot of 'chamchagiri" and people are systematically penalised in oral exams by powerful groups (caste is a new factor though). This report will hopefully trigger off a flood of other similar investigations all over the country.

  8. Anonymous said...

    Two comments. First, what is happening at AIIMS is only a reflection of what is happening elsewhere...I fail to understand the committee's attempts to depict the happenings at AIIMS as somehow "exceptional." I do hope that this report prompts our government to look at this problem at a more general level but of course, the reality is that this will probably not happen.

    Second, the humiliations of Dalits may have a more complex explanation than simple casteism. I think at least some of it is due to the fact that the "upper caste" students perceive the Dalits as having an "easy ride" because of the quota system and take it out on the hapless Dalit students. It would be nice to know if the upper caste students dish out similar treatment to those Dalits who qualify on the "general category."

    We - at least the participants on this blog (who I think are mainly "upper caste" themselves) - know the reality to be quite different so far as the Dalit students are concerned...But this is one of the problematic aspects of the reservation policy. And it not new either. (At some level, the fact that "upper caste" students feel that Dalits have an easy ride is a devastating indictment of our school education system.) Of course, such considerations may not apply in places like Tamil Nadu where the overwhelming majority is from the "quota system." And perhaps, also, this is one of the good thing about the coming OBC reservation - it will take the focus off the Dalits because there will be another larger and socially more powerful group which is also the beneficiary of reservations.

    None of this is to deny that some "upper castes" discriminate against and humiliate Dalits just for being Dalits. I am just noting that the motivations of people can be more complex. And that includes OBCs. I get the feeling that underlying the rhetoric of "social justice" and reservations is also a powerful motive of plain old self-interest.

    My five paise worth on this subject.

    Suresh.

  9. ravi srinivas said...

    Throat openly supports caste based reservations.Another member reports to Anbumani Ramadoss.The committee did not even seem to have met the faculty or director.All may not be well
    with AIIMS but this is not the way to find facts or solutions. This seems to be an exercise to damage the reputation of Dr.Venugopal and
    AIIMS and captute AIIMS by the OBC gang.Pro-OBC pseudo social justicewallhas and the manadalised commies may hail it. Let there be an enquiry that is fair, objective and transparent. I wonder whether
    this report will stand the scrutiny
    of any court. 69% reservation in
    TamilNadu is also a form of aparthid.

  10. Anonymous said...

    read the issues of Dalit Murasu available at
    www.keetru.com
    to know how OBCs treat dalits
    in tamil nadu.

  11. Krish said...

    Caste discrimination at AIIMS is a well known issue. Just because some supremacists claim that it is not the case, it won't vanish in thin air. If you remember correctly, Shivam had posted a you tube video highlighting this issue. We have a friend here. She is now postdoccing in UW. She did her Ph.D. at AIIMS. She was talking about the issues there. It is not just caste discrimination, there is gender based discrimination and religious discrimination. She is from Islam and she has told us about how they treated her based on the religion. If anyone denies the existence of such discrimination there, either he is ignorant about what is going on or he is a plain supremacist.

  12. confused said...

    Abi,

    I will reserve my comment till I see the report. But even if 1% of what the committee has alleged is true, it is indeed a sad day for one of India's finest institutions.

    Krish,

    I hope, one day, you will be able to write 4 lines without calling everyone not sharing your thinking supremacist or free market fundamentalist or whatever. You are not in high school, are you?

    best

  13. Revathi said...

    As I said before, AIIMS is full of cut throat powerful groups. In a highly comptetitive environment, this is bound to happen. Only a totally transparent administration can solve this problem. This is not likely when politicians are involved.

  14. Bruno said...

    //Two comments. First, what is happening at AIIMS is only a reflection of what is happening elsewhere.//

    It was there is Tamil Nadu few decades ago, but Not now in Colleges and I am very sure of that....

    If that is happening "elsewhere" in India today, that is a national shame..... AND THAT SHOULD BE IMMEDIATELY CORRECTED by whatever means possible..

    By the way, what do you think are the factors behind the social transformation in Tamil Nadu by which Casteism has been reduced (if not totally eliminated)....

    Isn't Reservation one of those (along with Mid Day Meals)

  15. Anonymous said...

    By the way, what do you think are the factors behind the social transformation in Tamil Nadu by which Casteism has been reduced (if not totally eliminated)....

    Isn't Reservation one of those (along with Mid Day Meals)


    These type of counterfactual questions are difficult to answer...what you are hypothesizing is that "casteism would not have reduced as much [whatever that means] in the absence of reservations and mid-day meals." The proper way of testing this hypothesis is to have a "duplicate TN," set it up as a control, and then compare the outcomes with and without reservations/mid-day meals. For obvious reasons, this can't be done.

    The alternatives are (i) compare the outcomes in TN with another, comparable state but which does not have reservations, or (ii) set up an econometric type of model which can be used to isolate the effects of reservations. Both of these techniques have their own problems, which is why answering counterfactual questions is so tricky in social sciences. (At another level, it is partly the ability to do controlled experiments which gives natural science the ability to make precise statements and proper predictions.)

    I am not aware of any systematic effort to answer counterfactual questions vis-a-vis reservations, even though it is very important for proper policy analysis. If anyone is aware of such work, I'd appreciate knowing about them.

    Suresh.

  16. Anonymous said...

    "It is not just caste
    discrimination, there is gender based discrimination and religious discrimination. She is from Islam and she has told us about how they treated her based on the religion. If anyone denies the existence of such discrimination there, either he is ignorant about what is going on or he is a plain supremacist."

    Krish, the right place for you to be in is
    White House and you can churn out
    either you are with us , if not you are this, you are that type of
    speeches and articles.
    "It is not just caste
    discrimination, there is gender based discrimination and religious discrimination."
    Did you know that Chandra Bahn Prasad had written that institutions like AMU,Jamia Mili
    Islamia were as good as JNU etc
    on reservation for dalits. So shall I say what you have written is applicable to these institutions also and will your muslim friend agree.

  17. Cosmic Voices said...

    @ Pratik Ray

    "But it seems as if they interviewed a few SC/ST students."

    You interview the victims, not the perpetrators. And no perpetrator is going to admit the crime.

    "Or has it been accentuated after the government announced reservations? "

    So do you say that the perpetrators were just responding to a govt policy? In which case, you should be equally supportive of naxalites.

    @ ravi srinivas

    "Throat openly supports caste based reservations"

    If that is the reason for you to cast aspersions on the committee, then by the same logic, we all should believe that dalits are being harassed because Dr. Venugopal and other forward caste students are anti-reservations.


    "This seems to be an exercise to damage the reputation of Dr.Venugopal and
    AIIMS and captute AIIMS by the OBC gang."

    It was a fact-finding exercise to liberate AIIMS from the feudal mindsets.

    "Let there be an enquiry that is fair, objective and transparent."

    With visuals openly showing the discrimination, I wonder what more "transparency" you want.

    "I wonder whether this report will stand the scrutiny of any court."

    From where did Judiciary come into the picture? Someone once said that the judges are not final because they are infallible; They are infallible because they are final.

  18. barbarindian said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  19. barbarindian said...

    Someone once said that the judges are not final because they are infallible; They are infallible because they are final.

    Yeah, looks like it.

    Ramadoss to decide who will be Venu's lawyer

  20. Anonymous said...

    I dont think casteism is on the decrease in Tamil Nadu. The number of political parties based on caste has actually increased in the last 30 years and we dont know if the number of inter caste marriages is on the increase or dalits dont face any social discrimination. The reservation in TN had the sole aim of stopping tambrams in universities and this has been achieved successfully by accomodating all the other castes into the OBC list. To that extent, the reservation program has worked wonderfully.

  21. ravi srinivas said...

    In this issue the government and the committee headed by Thorat cannot act as judge, prosecution and witness and pass judgment.'Cosmic Voices' may have great faith in such kangaroo
    courts and 'politically correct' stunts.But the question is whether they will stand the scrutiny of the courts.No panel
    that interviews only one section and presents a report can claim to be objective. When an enquiry is
    conducted there are procedures to be adopted and the due process should be observed.I suggest that 'cosmic rays' should read a good book on administrative law to know more. When human rights groups form fact finding teams,
    the teams often try to get the views of police and government officials before finalizing the report.This is done so that they can record and assess the views
    of the other side also.I hope that 'Cosmic ray' is aware of the
    judgment given in Maneka Gandhi case way back in 1978.

  22. Bruno said...

    //"Or has it been accentuated after the government announced reservations? "//

    So you mean to say that there were no caste system in India before 1900.

    Only after Reservation was introduced, discrimination started...

    Wow...

    That is .. Ambedkar was treated equally with other students when he studied in school !!!!

    What a logic (accentuated after the government announced reservations? )

  23. Bruno said...

    One Guy says that the Atrocities increased after government announced reservations..... (that implies that the findings were true)

    Now, What does Ravi Srinivas expect would have happened when the persons responsible would have been examined....

  24. Anonymous said...

    Bruno
    Please read this.
    http://keetru.com/dalithmurasu/apr07/ponnusami.html
    Such blatant discrimination and ill treatement of dalits goes
    unnoticed. Tell me which Thorat
    panel is going to find a solution
    to this.

  25. Madhukar said...

    The Original telegraph article is available here:
    http://southasia.oneworld.net/article/view/136006/1/6866

    From some of the articles on Thorat Report that I could find in other papers, it is not just based on interviews with one side/party, but also based on much documentary evidences of discrimination. e.g.,

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Diagnosis_Casteism/articleshow/2039283.cms

  26. Anonymous said...

    @ Anony : What has your comment to do with the atrocity committed by the fanatic venugopal and his racist followers

  27. Anonymous said...

    The AIIMS director, Dr P Venugopal is a criminal who is perpetuating casteism among the students. This has been evaluated and confirmed by the recent report of the committee headed by the UGC chairman. The Director instigated and helped the upper caste innocent medical students to go on an agitation while providing all support to use the AIIMS campus against the lower caste medical students.
    Such a Crime is punishable with imprisonment under the Constitution of INDIA. I still wonder how is still free and not behind the bars for his ghastardly act.
    Probably, because the media has made him a anti-reservationist casteist darling. Even the biased indian judiciary is helping him out. with such support it is afterall not surprising though.
    How can doctors who are taught to treat patients, feel different with their collegues based on their caste. What sort of professionals do they turn out to be. I see in them doctors who ask a dying patient his caste before treating him. No wonder AIIMS is deteriorating under the able (criminal?) guidance of the present Director P Venugopal.

  28. Anonymous said...

    @ Cosmic Voices:

    It seems that you have already made up your mind that someone is guilty. If that is how you perceive justice, then you must surely be supporting totalitarian regimes.