Harassed by Seniors over Caste, Muslim Tribal Doctor Commits Suicide in Mumbai

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Dr. Payal Devi

Caravan News

MUMBAI – On May 22, Dr. Payal Tadvi, a postgraduate student of gynaecology, committed suicide after being allegedly tortured by three of her seniors. The 26-year-old woman and the absconding seniors were post graduate students of the Topiwala National Medical college, which is attached to the BYL Nair hospital.

According to the news website Maktoobmedia.com, Dr. Payal comes from Bhil Muslim community, a Muslim tribal group based in Maharashtra.

Dr Payal was taunted about her caste and her admission to the course through the reserved quota. Her parents decided to act on it. Tadvi’s mother, who is suffering from cancer said, “We had started reporting this to the officials concerned. We had even met a lecturer and the hostel warden, who had called these three seniors and asked them not to behave this way with Payal. I had called her in the afternoon of may 22, when she told me her seniors were still torturing her. I told her that her father and i were coming to Mumbai to file a complaint at the hospital and the police station, but she couldn’t bear it any longer,” Abeda Tadvi was quoted by The Mid-Day as saying.

Payal, who is from Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, joined the PG course at Topiwala National Maedical College on May 1, 2018. Even in December 2018, she had informed her family about the harassment.

Her husband Dr Salman had also complained to the department. He said that Payal’s unit was changed after the complaint but then she moved back to her old unit where the harassment started again.

Reportedly, the deceased had two surgeries earlier in the day and after performing her job she went to her room. Around 3-4 hours later her body was discovered hanging by a dupatta from a ceiling fan in the room, after she didn’t answer the door knocks. She was taken to the emergency ward, where doctors declared her dead. Abeda filed an FIR against the seniors, identified as Dr. Hema Ahuja, Dr. Bhakti Mehar and Dr. Ankita Khandelwal.

“Had the authorities acted swiftly and shown sensitivity, my daughter would have been alive today,” said Abeda Tadvi, mother of Dr Payal Tadvi .

Tadvi’s parents have demanded an FIR for abetment to suicide, ragging be registered besides sections under the Atrocities Act against three doctors at the hospital who allegedly tortured her to end her life.

Her father Salim told mid-day, “The first six months were fine; some words had been exchanged between seniors and juniors, but Payal never thought it would lead to torture. As soon as it happened in December 2018, she told us about it. We discussed this with her husband, Dr. Salman [Tadvi], who said things like these keep happening and she should just ignore them”.

“I want cops to punish these girls as well as officials who didn’t pay heed to her complaints and tried to sweep everything under the carpet,” Salim, Dr Payal’s father added.

A case has been registered against the three seniors, which includes sections from the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Payal Tadvi’s mother had reportedly lodged a formal complaint with the Nair hospital on May 10, and said no action was taken. In a letter going viral on social media, Payal’s mother wrote that her three seniors were harassing her, and she was under immense mental stress. Her mother also said that Payal was being harassed for being a tribal. An official of the TNMC said that the head of the department and the unit head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department had been issued showcause notices by the Dean.

The family claimed that even after her death, the Dean wouldn’t meet the victim’s mother, who often visited the hospital for cancer treatment.

The FIR reports stated that her seniors often threatened Dr Tadvi, saying she wouldn’t be allowed into operation theatres or allowed to perform deliveries. She was also mocked for being a tribal on WhatsApp groups.

Payal, the family claimed, had complained to lecturers and her hostel warden but no one paid heed.

Taking serious note of the recent suicide of 23-year-old doctor Dr Payal Tadvi, the state government has decided to form a committee at the state level to look into the anti-ragging mechanism in the medical college. The committee will help form fresh anti-ragging guidelines.

Dr Tatyarao Lahane, director of Directorate Medical Education and Research (DMER), said, “The state government has ordered to form a committee to frame new rules and punishment related to ragging in medical colleges in the state. It is not an inquiry committee. A three-member committee, which comprises of the head of Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), Dr Dileep Mhaiskar, Vice-Chancellor of the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS), and dean of the local government hospitals, has been set-up to look into ragging mechanism in college.”

Dr Kalyani Dongre, Central President of MARD, said, “We have decided to suspend all the three accused doctors from Maharashtra Association of Resident doctor until further notice. We have also demanded suspension of Head of Unit, Dr Yi Ching Ling for not taking action when Tadvi approached him with a complaint against the trio alleging harassment.”

The anti-ragging committee of BYL Nair Hospital held a meeting on Thursday to investigate the matter. Another follow-up meeting will be held on Saturday. “Police officials in our anti-ragging committee have taken the matter under their jurisdiction. It was an internal issue, and we did not come to know about it from any of our resources. Had we known, we would have followed due procedure and Tadvi would not have taken this drastic step,” said Dr RN Bharmal, dean of Nair Hospital.

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