In Bihar, even youths are cast in caste

Most selfish politicians of Bihar seemed to have mastered the art of exploiting the ‘caste’ issue for their personal benefit in the past. However, with Nitish Kumar’s ‘Sushashan’ (good governance) gathering enormous support from the common people of all castes and creed, it was believed that the state will soon be rid of the blot.

Of late, with more youths preferring to stay in the state for studies, the situation was even perceived as hunky-dory by many outside the state. However, there is a lot more than what meets the eye. If you also begin to think that the well-educated youths of Bihar will ensure a new era of progress and development in the state, be ready to get flummoxed.

Visit any government medical college of Bihar and you will find that the young and educated minds have equally imbibed the caste-based approach like many of the selfish politicos in Bihar -- a herd mentality of believing in the caste-based classification distinguishes them from their counterparts in other states. Interestingly, they get the passive support of the college administrations, which seem to have turned a blind eye to the whole situation, even though the future doctors are gradually losing morale and ethics right under their noses.

Favourite wards

The trend of nepotism and college staff supporting their ‘favourite wards’ is not uncommon either. The practice also scares the medical aspirants, more than the mortuary in many government medical colleges of the state.

Asks a first-year MBBS student of Darbhanga Medical College (DMCH), “Cracking medical entrance exam was like a dream come true for me. However the prevailing situation in the college brought my euphoria down only within a few weeks. During my first encounter, seniors asked me about my ‘phylum.’ Before I could read about the word phylum in my biology coursebook, I realised they were asking about my caste! Isn’t asking about one’s caste and not the name during the first meeting strange?”

Surprisingly, this is the scene in most government medical colleges in the state. Freshers need to identify themselves first by their caste. Rest of your identity matters less. As per the ritual, once you tell the seniors your identity (caste), you will be welcomed by your ‘sympathisers’ belonging exclusively to your caste. Willingly or unwillingly, you then enter a community whose members assure you that you will be safe in college as long as you have their blessings. But all this doesn’t come for free. You get the Hobson’s choice of complying by the community norms.

“Seniors of my ‘phylum’ gave me a list of norms on Day 1 of my college, which I was later forced to follow. The list included restriction on me from taking help from other caste people or talking to the members of opposite sex of different caste,” says another young medico from Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), Muzzafarpur.

Same is the story in most of medical colleges. Customs classified on caste basis are also being followed unabated in Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH), Patna, which incidentally, have the reputation of being the best medical colleges in Bihar.

Point to note, keeping in mind the escalating cases of suicides by college students of late, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had issued letters to various colleges in the country to put an end to caste-based discriminations. However, things are far from satisfactory here. Also, the discrimination is not just restricted to asking caste and favouring those belonging to same caste. The situation can get worse in some cases.

Few years back, a local TV channel had exposed the existence of ‘caste-based kitchens’ in SKMCH. Even though they shared the same classroom, students from different castes visited different kitchens. The then health minister Nand Kishore Yadav had ordered a probe into the matter, but the overall scenario hardly seems to have changed.

Dr S N Sinha, principal, DMCH, Darbhanga also subtly confirmed the existence of such practices in the medical colleges of Bihar. “I agree that such practices existed even in our college five years back. There were reports of teachers favouring wards belonging to their caste. But ever since I joined, I did not come across any such complaints or practices,” he claimed, assuring to take strict action if any such cases were brought to his notice.

Asked for his views on the matter, SKMCH principal Dr D K Sinha, got irked and hurled a straight reply: “Do one thing. Go and speak to the chief minister over the issue. Don’t trouble me.”

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