India’s medical education regulator, the National Medical Commission, has set up an anti-ragging committee that has sought details from medical colleges about suicides by students in the last five years.
The committee, headed by Dr Aruna Wanikar, Chairperson, Undergraduate Medical Education Board, reviewed complaints of ragging by students and parents during its first meeting held late last month.
The committee has since set up an email ID – [email protected] – to report such incidents, providing another redressal mechanism for students outside the college.
“All colleges are requested to give wide publicity by publishing it on the website and displaying it at prominent places like Hostel, Mess, Classroom, Library, Lecture Hall, common Room etc. A compliance report in this regard may kindly be sent. “ Stated in a Notice from NMC.
Apart from the grievance mechanism, the committee has asked medical colleges to send details about the number of students who died by suicide (department-wise in respect of PG students), number of college dropouts during the last five years. OR Institution during the last five years, and details of working hours and weekly offs granted to the students.
The committee has asked all colleges to send details by October 7, while “not all incidents of suicide and suicidal tendencies are linked to ragging.”
Although many have said that this was a step in the right direction to ensure good mental health of medical students, it was not enough.
Dr Aviral Mathur, president of the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association and a resident doctor at Maulana Azad Medical College, said: “The anti-ragging sentiment has been gaining momentum since early 2000s and there is hardly any ragging in most medical colleges; we do see a few cases here and there. Although it is a good step — and this kind of blanket approach is needed to prevent such incidents anywhere — if the NMC is trying to curtail issues that lead to a mental health crisis, this is not a major one.”
He said: “One, academic setback that UG students face after class 12 when they have to study so much. Sometimes they can’t cope and start spiraling. This is when they need a good support system; Although I am not condoning ragging, the pranks between seniors and juniors can actually generate this support.When I was doing my MBBS, we had a concept of a rank-father, where seniors with the same rank as juniors would mentor and guide them.”
He said that those studying in private colleges also have a financial burden. “The fees for medical education have increased almost five times in a decade. When I was selecting colleges for my MBBS, the highest fee for the entire duration of the course was Rs 20 lakhs. Now the fee of the same college is Rs 20 lakh per annum.”
Dr Rohan Krishnan, President of Federation of All India Medical Associations also agreed that it is more academic pressure than ragging that needs to be addressed to prevent suicide and suicidal ideation.
Dr Krishnan Said, “Though the number of medical seats has increased over the years, the competition has not decreased. And, despite the country needing more doctors, there is a dearth of vacancies. This is because no one wants to move to rural areas because infrastructure is missing and salaries are low”.
He continued: “I am more concerned about the bullying that students face from senior faculty members where they threaten students that they will fail if they don’t do what they tell them.”