ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Justice for Payal Tadvi

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We, members of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) and Medico Friend Circle (MFC)—national-level networks working on public health—strongly condemn the institutional murder of Payal Tadvi, a young medical doctor from an Adivasi community who broke through barriers of social discrimination to become the first doctor in her family and the first woman from her community to pursue post-graduation. We demand urgent action against caste oppression and humiliation by upper-caste senior doctors, which forced Tadvi to commit suicide. The rampant ingrained casteism and impunity in educational institutions must be urgently recognised and stopped.

She was continuously harassed and experienced gender and casteist abuse and discrimination by three senior doctors, which led her to take the extreme step of ending her life in the hostel of the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC)-run Topiwala National Medical College (TNMC) and B Y L Nair Charitable Hospital, Mumbai.

Tadvi, 26 years old, hailing from Jalgaon district, belonged to the Tadvi Bhil community, which is a Scheduled Tribe. She was a second-year resident doctor in the obstetrics and gynaecology department of TNMC, and had graduated with an MBBS from Government Medical College, Miraj. She had joined TNMC on 1 May 2018 to pursue her post-graduation in gynaecology. Since the time she joined, she was harassed by the other doctors, two of whom she had to initially share a room with. They continued to discriminate against and threaten her, and did not allow her to perform operations or conduct deliveries. Despite multiple complaints by Tadvi and her parents to the head of the department and the head of the unit, no action was taken and the discrimination and abuse continued.

Even though the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) has suspended the three doctors, it has not acknowledged the gravity of the situation that led to her death, by ignoring any mention of discrimination or caste in their press release. This and other emerging responses have attempted to highlight the death as a consequence of “ragging,” completely disregarding the deep-rooted caste-based discrimination and abuse. A case was finally registered against the three doctors under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act, and the Information Technology Act after Tadvi’s death.

The cases of Anil Kumar Meena—an MBBS student in AIIMS Delhi from Rajasthan who was humiliated for his rural background and Hindi-medium education and forced into depression and to deathRohith Vemula, and Payal Tadvi are probably only some of the institutional murders due to casteism that are widely known. Evidence that several Dalit and Adivasi students have been forced to drop out of higher education systems due to discrimination and abuse is not unknown, and yet it continues to sustain and worsen, denying each of them the right to equality, to live life with dignity.

Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, and other marginalised communities continue to be poorly represented in the medical community, like in all other professional communities, due to sustained discrimination. Those who manage to overcome the hurdles of institutional discrimination are forced to experience harassment and abuse by powerful casteist medical fraternity and leadership in institutions, which fail to acknowledge and act to uphold accountability. This, despite constitutional mandates and human rights standards reaffirming the right to affirmative action to ensure equity and justice.

We strongly condemn all forms of casteism, discrimination, and violation of human rights within diverse institutions. We demand that speedy justice be delivered to Tadvi and the bereaved family. The accused should be arrested and the law must take its course. The institutional authorities should be held accountable and strict action be taken against them.

Moreover, given the widespread and institutionalised forms of caste oppression among medical professionals, we demand that a large-scale public inquiry be conducted in various medical colleges and healthcare institutions to examine this issue in depth. This public inquiry should involve diverse stakeholders, including organisations representing students from Dalit and tribal communities, and representatives from the communities.

The findings from the inquiry should form the basis for reorientation and sensitisation of health institutions and medical professionals at all levels, along with guiding the development of effective complaint and redressal systems to deal with caste-based harassment in all forms in the medical profession and practice.

The rising majoritarian discourse and practice today particularly demands the need for urgent and proactive steps in educational institutions against casteism and discrimination, and the instilling of an understanding of the continued need for affirmative action that is founded on human rights and constitutional guarantees.

Jan Swasthya Abhiyan,

Medico Friend Circle  

The Way Forward

Updated On : 31st May, 2019

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