Denying role, accused trio blame workload for Mumbai doctor's suicide

Updated: May 28, 2019, 08:13 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty and Anurag Kamble

The letter was sent to the official e-mail ID of Central MARD's president. "It was signed by all the three accused and scanned. MARD informed us about the e-mail, we are trying to use this link too for tracking the accused" said a police officer

Denying role, accused trio blame workload for Mumbai doctor's suicide
Dr Payal Tadvi

While they are still absconding, the trio of seniors from BYL Nair Hospital who allegedly drove fellow post-graduate gynaecology student Dr. Payal Tadvi to suicide have written a letter to the Central Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), claiming they have no role to play in the incident. They are accused of subjecting Dr. Payal to caste-based harassment.

Dr. Payal was found hanging in her hostel room on May 22. The accused trio, Dr. Hema Ahuja, Dr. Bhakti Mehere and Dr. Ankita Khandelwal, have been at large since. On May 25, they wrote to Central MARD blaming her death on the workload in the hospital and demanding a fair investigation into the matter. The letter was sent to the official e-mail ID of Central MARD's president. "It was signed by all the three accused and scanned. MARD informed us about the e-mail, we are trying to use this link too for tracking the accused" said a police officer.

'...workload is ragging?'

The letter states, "You all are aware about the workload in residency and you all really believe [being] burdened with workload is ragging?...If heavy workload is given [the] name of ragging, then we will have been ragging someone while performing our basic duties, then all of us should be blamed as all the workload and pressure is always transferred from our sections and department."

Second-year student Dr Payal hailed from a tribal family in Jalgaon. Her family has alleged she was facing discrimination over her caste status. Commenting on the allegation, the seniors stated in the letter, "We have been blamed for caste discrimination. Do you really think such allegations are true? Do we ever consider caste before treating patients? Do we make friends, listen to our seniors-juniors and colleagues on basis of caste? Are we really allotted work on basis of our caste?" They requested the college to conduct a fair investigation, "Just because we don't know the reason why suicide was committed it is seriously injustice to put blame on us without proper cause and levelling a charge of atrocity (sic)."

College suspends trio, HOD

Meanwhile, the hospital has issued show-cause notices to the head of the obstetrics and gynaecology unit, Dr. Yi Ching Ling and head of the department Dr. S D Shirodkar. Dr. Ching Ling and the accused seniors were suspended on Monday. BMC's health department has also called for an inquiry into the matter. "The unit head and head of the department have been suspended until the completion of the investigation. The committee has interviewed over 25-30 people including professors, her colleagues, medical support staff and others attached to the incident," said Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean of Nair hospital.

Asked if he thinks the trio are responsible for the suicide, he said, "The doctors would be considered accused if they remain absconding. Until they come out and provide their statement, they would be held responsible." In addition to this, the hospital has also prepared an action plan to ensure such cases of ragging and caste-based atrocities are not repeated. Along with MARD, the hospital has started a bi-weekly review process of stress levels of all departments. Also, the State Women's Commission has asked the hospital to conduct an inquiry and submit a report within eight days.

#JusticeForPayal

A social media campaign called #JusticeForPayal has also gained momentum. One of Dr Payal's batch mates, Dr Simin Khan, took to Twitter to share her thoughts, "Dr Payal was a strong and positive person. It is hard to imagine the amount of negativity and mental harassment she had to endure for this past one year," she said.

No progress in probe

It has been five days into the investigation of Dr Payal's suicide, but the Agripada police have not made any progress. Cops have only recorded statements of four of her colleagues. Deepak Kundal, ACP (Agripada division), said, "We are taking statements of all the persons concerned with the case. We haven't tracked down the accused yet; we will arrest them soon." Meanwhile, various groups continued to protest outside Nair hospital, demanding a speedy investigation, immediate arrest and action against all accused. Chandrashekhar Azad, founder of Bhim Army, has threatened a lockdown Nair hospital if the accused are not arrested before May 29.

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