On July 4, when a team from the Medical Council of India (MCI) arrived at the SR Medical College and Research Centre in Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram, a group of medical students had gathered on the campus carrying placards that read, “Fake patients everywhere” and “We are not seeking revenge, we are seeking justice”. This was just one of the many instances that portrayed the growing chasm between the students of the college and the college management.
On June 4, the Kerala High Court had ordered the MCI to conduct an inspection in the College within a month to check whether the college has improved its facilities and infrastructure. This was after several students of 2016 batch filed a petition regarding the lack of basic facilities in the college.
On July 4, following the scuffle between the management and the students, the MCI could not carry out the inspection.
While the students continue to put forward their demands, the management has made it clear that strict disciplinary action will be taken against those who disrupted the MCI inspection.
What is the controversy?
The SR Medical College and Research Centre, located in the coastal area of Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram district, started their first batch of medical students in 2016 with a total number of 100 students.
Sidharth, a third-year medical student from the 2016 batch, says that the MCI had conducted an inspection in the medical college after they began their classes. However, it was found that the college lacked the necessary infrastructure and facilities, and so, the MCI denied the college from admitting students for the next two consecutive years. Hence, the 2016 batch is the only batch studying in the college currently.
Students allege that the college lacks medical equipment, electricity and so on. “We don't have a high-intensity electricity connection. So, we cannot use elevators and certain electronic devices most of the time. Besides, we don't have a hostel yet. The pay ward on the sixth floor is converted into hostels and when the elevator is not working, we have to climb up and down six floors,” said Sidharth.
KSEB circular stating that it has not provided high-tension electricity connection to the college.
Circular from the Cherunniyoor Grama Panchayat stating that they had not given permission to SR Education and Charitable Trust to construct buildings for a medical college.
“Despite this, the college authorities were not keen on making any improvements. So, we, the students, decided to take matters into our own hands and approached the office of the State Health Minister, who told us that they are helpless as we are studying in a private college,” Sidharth tells TNM.
On November 2018, the students approached the High Court of Kerala. “Cases were filed by small groups of students in different numbers and a total of 64 cases were filed against the college.”
Finally, on June 4, the Court gave the college authorities a time frame of 30 days to improve the facilities and infrastructure, which according to Sidharth, the college completely ignored.
He also alleged that the college authorities started presenting fake bills and documents to the court in order to manipulate the court into thinking that all facilities have been put in place.
A few days before the MCI were to conduct an inspection on July 4, the students allege that the hospital authorities started to bring in outsiders into the building, portraying them as patients.
Under the condition of anonymity, one of the medical students in the college claimed that the ‘fake patients’ were brought to the hospital in large numbers through various agents who were paid money. “The people who were brought from near the hospital were paid Rs 100 while those who were brought from far-off places were paid Rs 200 to Rs 300,” the student alleged.
The students created a Facebook page named ‘Stand With Students of SR Medical College’, where they started posting visuals of the alleged ‘fake patients’ being brought into the hospital. One video posted shows visuals of an empty ward, which, according to the students, was crowded at the time of the MCI visit.
കോളേജ് തട്ടിപ്പിനെതിരെ പതിവായി ഇന്സ്പെക്ഷന് മുന്നിൽ അവതരിപ്പിക്കുന്ന വ്യാജ രോഗികളെയും ഹോസ്പിറ്റലിനെയും പറ്റി അകത്തു മുറി നിവസിക്കു പറയാനുള്ളത്.....(The actual live video was taken @1:15 pm ; got deleted due to some technical errors)..Posted by Stand With Students of SR Medical College on Friday, July 5, 2019
“Every time we approach the management with complaints, we are threatened with dire consequences and disciplinary actions. They have also put up various notices on the campus ordering students not to loiter around during class hours, no use mobile phones on campus and not to have any ‘unauthorised assembly’. They warned us of strict action if found violating these orders,” said a student.
The medical college has also been accused of stocking medicines past their expiry date. “We found that many medicines, especially in the pediatric department, are old and are way past their expiry date. We have also taken pictures of these medicines as proof and have sent it to various media houses,” says Sidharth.
‘Students yet to pay fee’: Principal
Another allegation that many students raised was that the principal of the college used to work in other private clinics during college hours, which according to the student, is against the MCI rules.
Reacting to this, Dr KE Rajan, Principal of SR Medical College, said, “I have not been paid my salary for the last 10 months. How else am I supposed to live?”
He further justified, “Many students have not paid their college fees yet. As a result, the college management is not able to pay the salaries to the staff and improve the so-called infrastructure and facilities.”
He goes on to state that there are some ‘privileged students’ in the college who just want to shut down college so that they can try and secure seats in the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College. “These are students who got admission in this college because they did not get through any other college for an MBBS seat. And they do not wish to study so they are creating an issue for other students who want to study,” lashed out the principal.
Rajan went on to emphasise that the college management will take strict action against students for disrupting the MCI evaluation. On the other hand, the students alleged that the management had sent some of their faculty members to argue with the students and create a scene.
"We had silently gathered holding placards and one of the MCI officials came over to speak to us. This irked one of the professors, who argued with us in the presence of the police officials. Along with him, another student who is on the management’s side, too, created a scene. Following this, in an attempt to cancel the inspection, the college management told the MCI officials to come some other day,” alleges Sidharth.