National Commission for Scheduled Castes to look into hiring discrimination at AIIMS

Despite fulfilling eligibility criteria and additionally being the only applicant for an SC seat at AIIMS, Dr Harjit Singh was not selected. He complained to National Commission for Scheduled Castes

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Ashlin Mathew

In another instance of discrimination against hiring of a Scheduled Caste candidate for a contractual position at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the National Commission for Scheduled Castes has written to the AIIMS director stating its intention to investigate the matter.

Dr Harjit Singh, who has completed his MD and senior residency totally six years in geriatric medicine, had applied for the contract post of assistant professor in the geriatric medicine at AIIMS based on an advertisement. The seat was reserved for SC category students and Singh was the only candidate who appeared for the interview on August 8.

The ad put out by the institute had stated that the criteria for eligibility would be MD in the notified department and three years residency in the same field. Singh fulfils the criteria and additionally he has four publications, of which two were in collaboration with the pharmacology department. When the results were announced, he was denied selection saying, ‘not found fit’.

“My interview went well. I had answered four out of the five questions asked. My academic record is good, and I passed out of AIIMS itself. The post will now remain vacant during the pandemic which has wreaked havoc on the lives of the elderly. They need the most care now,” underscored Singh.

After his results were published, he wrote a letter to the chairman of the commission for scheduled castes citing the issues. It was based on this letter that the commission has decided to investigate. Singh alleges, in the letter, that the seat would be forcibly kept vacant for a while and then the seat would be automatically transferred to the unreserved category.

“Keeping a reserved seat vacant when there is a candidate who fulfils all the qualifications smacks of a design against reserved category applicants,” wrote Singh. He believes he has been punished for raising questions related to AIIMS resident doctors when he was the RDA president during 2017-18. He is currently the national president of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum. Through this forum he had raised questions regarding the quality of personal protective equipment provided to doctors.

Singh had helped organise ambulances to take injured patients from north-east Delhi during the pogrom in the last week of February. Justice MV Muralidharan had ordered the Delhi police to ensure his ambulance would be allowed to pass through.

The Commission has requested AIIMS to submit the facts and information on the action taken in the matter within 15 days. It has also warned AIIMS that if the institution did not respond, the commission will summon them to appear before it.

This is not an isolated incident at AIIMS. The Thorat Commission report of 2007 had highlighted that post-based roster system of selection and appointment was never followed by the AIIMS for the faculty even though it is required to do so under Central Government rules and directives. This puts the SC/ST faculty at disadvantage.

A Supreme Court order had exposed several wrong doings on the part of the AIIMS administration faculty appointments and promotions too, stated the report. Faculties were discriminated by the HODs in the allotment of thesis guidance for post graduate residents. This reduced their research opportunities and they had to compete with their colleagues with fewer publications.

In 2012, Janata Dal (United) leader Mangani Lal Mandal had raised the issue of reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs in the AIIMS in Lok Sabha. He had said that despite several vacancies for reserved candidates, recruitments to these posts were happening by arbitrarily denying jobs to SC/ST candidates.

There is already a stay on the hiring of nurses at AIIMS by the Delhi High Court because of discrimination against acid attack victims in the recruitment process.

In 2015, the NCSC held AIIMS guilty of caste discrimination after it took action against an assistant professor of its College of Nursing in connection with a case of harassment leading to a student dying by suicide.

Earlier this year, a resident doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) attempted suicide alleging caste-based discrimination. The RDA had complained about the AIIMS administration to the Women's Grievance Cell, AIIMS SC-ST Welfare Cell and the National SC-ST Commission, but no action was taken.

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