Monday, July 18, 2016

ANIIMS: Why Robinhood Plan Boomeranged?

ANIIMS: Expulsion of Tribal Students
Why Robinhood Plan Boomeranged?

By Zubair Ahmed

Indeed, all actions are based on intentions. And, the intentions might had been noble in admitting tribal students from Nicobars in the newly opened Medical College, by lowering the criteria set by Medical Council of India (MCI). But, the plan has boomeranged with the expulsion of a few ST students and the backlash from the Nicobari community.

The students belonging to Nicobari tribe scoring less than 40% marks in ANIIMS conducted entrance exam, ANIPMT were expelled after seven months on the direction of MCI, which has stirred up a hornet's nest with the Tribal Councils of Nicobar district giving a clarion call for reinstatement of the students or face boycott. The Councils had appealed Nicobari students to boycott schools from 18 July if their demand was not met. And, following the decision, around 700 tribal students did not attend schools yesterday.

After an emergency meeting called at the District headquarters, the Tribal Council has conceded to the appeal of the authorities to send their children to school on the condition that the issue will be resolved in their favour by this weekend.

Medical College was one masterstroke from the Administrator Lt Gen A K Singh and was termed a game-changer. The most ambitious project of the Administration, and it went all the way to realize it. From day one, it was a challenge for the Administrator with the elected representative and many others creating one hurdle after another. But, the college became a reality, against all odds. He knew that it wasn't possible if he went the civil administration way and on war-footing got a set of defence personnel as consultant, director and even the dean, which too created heartburn.

Without its own building, the college started functioning at Ayush complex with additions and modifications. A few other buildings around it were also occupied and tweaked to fulfill the MCI guidelines. Many more buildings - Teal House, Hornbill Nest, Dugong Guest House - were occupied, and now the Medical College in its second year is spread throughout the city. In short, the Administrator could silence all his critics by making the Medical College a reality.

The weather was conducive and the sail smooth for the medical college, but with the departure of a few trusted officials of the Administrator including Anand Prakash, the Chief Secretary, there has been a turnaround and the activities of the Medical College has come under the scanner. The autonomy enjoyed by the Dean in all matters - administrative as well as academics is also learnt to have been curtailed. It is alleged that procedures and norms were flouted from the beginning with Medical Council of India too looking the other way.

Medical College had become a prestige issue for a group of officers led by the Chief Secretary who enjoyed free-hand, and many others were sidelined, who would question overriding procedures and norms. In fact, they had no say. Similar approach of his predecessors had met the same fate during his time. What goes around, comes around!

Medical College is a boon for the Islands and a need, and its sustainability should go beyond personal ego and prestige. The way the project was arbitrarily executed had raised many eyebrows. The frequent skirmish between the specialists and the tussle over the control of the lone referral hospital had created bad blood among many. Instead of resolving the bitterness, things were swept under the carpet. Many officials who were not in the good books of Mr Anand Prakash had to face the music.

The intention to admit tribal students reducing the minimum marks criteria might have been very noble and an example of inclusiveness. But, the decision had also created bitterness among many as they felt the decision to be arbitrary and against the norms. The predicament of the expelled students and the call for boycott by the community against the expulsion, are issues with serious repercussions. Whether the Administration as a single entity would support the cause of the students or would stick to the norms set by MCI? The signs of alienation of a community from the mainstream seems to be the larger issue at hand. Moreover, bridging the various mini Islands inside the bureaucracy without fear and favour would define the fate of many ongoing developmental projects and sustainability of the newly established institutions.

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