It is perhaps known to every liberal (if they have at least basic understanding) that our constitution enshrines three values which it holds essential for human progress. They are as propounded by Dr Ambedkar: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. If you are a medico, you have probably seen the term fraternity thrown around a lot in the last 2 years, especially in the medical community.
Pictures from the 2006 Anti-Mandal protests. Courtesy: internet.
This term was largely used in the context of the harsh treatment meted out to so called ‘corona warriors’ by not just the govt but also by the common public. This term was used as a rallying cry to unite all medicos (mind you only MBBS ones) under its banner to jointly criticize the govt for not doing enough for the doctors or ‘Gods’ of this country. Once again, the doctors (mostly MBBS graduates and residents) have taken to the streets protesting not to demand universal health care or at least for improving health infrastructure in the pandemic but to expedite the counseling for NEET PG which was kept on hold because of the controversial and very much unconstitutional EWS reservation. The validity of this reservation is being subjected to scrutiny by a panel of Supreme Court judges.
Unfortunately, our doctors are overworked and because of delay in court proceedings they fear losing out on a year (which they almost have); and also, the brunt of this delay is borne by the 2nd-3rd year residents who are forced to work extra to make up for absent junior batch.
It is in this backdrop that various medical students’ organizations have come out on the streets. The protests intensified and called for shutdown of health institutions after doctors were manhandled by the Delhi police. Many doctors with substantial following on Twitter criticized the govt for this irrational treatment of doctors by the police.
While many liberals have posted in support of the doctors, a large section of people (whose voice is often ignored) have also criticized the medical fraternity and that too justly. I myself am a medical student and I belong to this section of society. What I experienced in med school so far and what the evidence shows completely destroys the notion of any medical fraternity whatsoever.
To start with, majority of the doctors tweeting on this issues are from Brahmin or other Dwija castes and some of them are even blaming the general public along with the government for keeping mum. Various people have pointed out the hypocrisy of this statement by revealing past tweets of these doctors where they openly mocked the student protests at Jamia/JNU, the anti-CAA protests and the recent farmers’ protest.
They glorified the violence meted out by police to the protestors then but are now the victims of the same violence. The majority chose silence and indifference to the public protests and are now crying crocodile tears for their fraternity. Does this fraternity exist only for those who are doing MBBS or did it also extend to ASHA workers and nurses who were also on strike a few months back? Or even to AYUSH course graduates?
I’m not mincing any words when I say the medical fraternity is only a formal gesture. It doesn’t exist, it is rotten and empty. It exists only to hide the sheer humiliating, toxic hierarchy and rampant casteism that prevails among the medicos all over India. It is an open secret that ragging is very much a reality of almost all medical institutions in India. This toxic culture which is a punishable offence under our constitution is largely justified on the ground of “breaking ice” or “introducing” juniors to seniors and I have seen doctors defend it saying it instills discipline among juniors.
There is no genuine bond that exists between a junior and his senior or even between a junior and his own batchmate. The senior will make them indulge in self deprecating or humilating activities or even beat them if they wished and later gaslight them by telling them they are like family and treating them to meals for finishing assignments or for successfully being their lap dog. The seniors themselves are ragged by their super seniors and them by their interns and their interns by their junior residents them by their seniors and them by their faculty. Ultimately, it’s the faculty that promotes and encourages this culture which is completely antithetical to the spirit of fraternity. No medical organization including the useless and casteist, classist IMA has ever done anything to abolish this barbaric culture.
All the UC doctors conveniently forget their casteist behaviour towards SC/ST/OBC doctors whenever anything happens that threatens their self interest such as with the current manhandling or when any doctor gets beaten for ‘carelessness’. It is only then, when they band together in the name of “fraternity” and ask for justice. Let’s not forget it is the same medical fraternity who largely remained silent when Payal Tadvi an Adivasi doctor who died by suicide because of the discrimination, caste abuse and ragging by her dwija seniors who are still roaming free. Let’s also not forget the disgusting denial of IMA of any caste discrimination in medical institutions. This isn’t an isolated case as one can find many instances of institutionalized murders of bahujan medicos with evidence backed data by referring to thedeathofmerit website or professor Thorat report on caste discrimination in AIIMS. No medical organization has ever sought to educate the medical fraternity on caste discrimination or to help those suffering because of it. It is however, keen in making changes in curriculum to make it LGBTQ friendly.
Recently, after much agitation by Bahujans, OBC reservation in neet pg was allowed and every “compassionate” doctors casteist side revealed itself. I won’t name anyone because they aren’t worth naming but it’s amusing that these same doctors would disavow and deny the merit of bahujan doctors, calling them quotawallas and humiliating them and yet cry in the name of medical fraternity today.
If the medical fraternity really wants to develop a fraternity then it must address the grave issues with which the medico community is plagued with, address public issues with rationality and make earnest efforts in improving the rotten healthcare system in India. Perhaps only then should they expect any support from the public in the name of compassion.
I’ll end with this much relevant quote: “if the Hindus of this generation do not take notice of what I have to say I am sure the future generation will. I do not despair of success. For I take consolation in the words of the poet Bhavabhuti who said, “Time is infinite and earth is vast, some day there will be born a man who will appreciate what I have said.” – Dr Ambedkar
Prashik is an MBBS student from Maharashtra.