NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) has 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 alleged harassment leading to suicide by a student.
Shashi Mawar, along with the Principal of the College of Nursing and an unknown nurse, is alleged to have caused mental harassment to a 21-year-old nursing student, leading to her suicide in her hostel room at AIIMS in December last year. Mawar was, at the time, also serving as the deputy superintendent of the nursing hostel where the student hung herself from the ceiling fan.
An FIR was registered by the victim's family at Hauz Khaz police station in connection with the case. "On the basis of the discussions held and the reply submitted by AIIMS, the commission observed that in the suicide case, police is investigating three employees, namely Dr Manju Vatsa, the principal, Mawar, and an unknown nurse, but the action has been taken against only the SC petitioner.
"The Commission recommends that in the interest of equity, action should be taken against all the employees whose names figure in the FIR. The AIIMS authority's decision to take action against only the SC employee reflects caste-based harassment," said NCSC. The commission also noted that Mawar, the petitioner in the case, has been asked to work under a Deputy Nursing Supervisor (DNS in-charge), who is junior to her.
"This is discrimination, hence the commission recommends that she be posted in her own department and report to a person appropriately senior to her so that this discrimination may be ended.The action taken report (should) be sent to the commission at the earliest," it said recently while making its recommendations in the case.
The commission said there is not a single piece of evidence to suggest that the suicide was linked to the petitioner and the unfortunate case cannot be attributed directly or indirectly to Mawar. "She has been penalised for a crime she never committed. The suicide note does not have the name of the petitioner. Inquiry done at AIIMS has not found anything against her pertaining to suicide and even police report shows that she is innocent.
"Neither is it that the girl who committed suicide was failed by her and nor was she involved in her teaching. "It was all masterminded by one of the senior faculty members in College of Nursing," observed the Commission, adding that she had encouraged students to agitate against the petitioner and also led a candle-light march seeking the removal of the petitioner.
"This is the first time that action has been taken against a faculty member by removing her from college of nursing," the commission said. It further noted that she was later given some other assignment for which she was not appointed and was asked to work under a DNS in-charge who was junior to her.
The commission also said that Mawar had a background of conflict with the principal in her earlier appointment and career progression and that she was being targeted. Mawar, along with some faculty members of AIIMS, had in April approached the commission for immediate reinstatement as a lecturer in the College of Nursing.
AIIMS, according to the commission's report, had said that the complaint filed by the petitioner was false, malicious and not based on facts. It had added that there was no caste bias against her.
A hearing was held in the case on May 19 at the commission. AIIMS has now constituted a committee headed by its Dean (Academics) to review the NCSC recommendations and point to the next course of action.