Left to fend for themselves

- March 17, 2023
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Many students of ABVIMS and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital are facing difficulties as delay in construction of hostels is costing them time and money

Locked: The college and hostel buildings that are yet to get completion certificates

Late last month, ABVIMS (Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Medical Sciences) Students’ Council wrote a letter to Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya pointing out delay in the start of construction of college building and hostels even though the deadline to complete them expired last year.

The Council said that the delay has left students of ABVIMS and Dr Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital with inconvenience, and added to their cost.

In the works: A signage showing that work is still in process

“When we joined the college, they promised us a hostel in January, 2023. They then extended the deadline to March. Then 15 days ago, an official circular said that since the hostel emergency exit is not ready, it will take more time — around six months. They are saying six months, but I think it will take another year easily,” said a first year MBBS student, on condition of anonymity.

In 2019, the name of the medical college was changed from PGIMER to ABVIMS and an undergraduate course was started.

Dr Harsh Vardhan, the then Union health minister had promised that college and hostel buildings will be constructed. The ABVIMS was established through special intervention of the ministry and named after the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“Without a hostel, we are facing many problems. I live in Dwarka and spend a lot of time travelling daily. My classes start at 8:30 am, so I have to leave home at 6:30 am. Often, I am late for my first class. It affects my studies. Because after a lot of travelling, I get exhausted, and need rest. So, I am not able to study properly at home. In MBBS, we need a lot of time to study. It has become very difficult to study,” said the student.

The student also said that the college management can provide temporary accommodation like other institutions.

“If they don’t have enough space for hostel, then they can do what other medical institutions have done. AIIMS Guwahati also faced a similar problem. So, they provided temporary accommodation to students, paying for the full facilities and expenses. As a government college, they can also do the same.”

Female students are facing more problems than their male counterparts without a hostel as security is a major concern. Their parents are also concerned about their safety.

A female student from the 2022 batch also couldn’t get a place in the hostel which, in its current state, has limited capacity.

The Karol Bagh resident, who is studying for PG, told Patriot, “I am from a middle-class family, so staying in PG (Paying Guest) is not affordable to me. Still, my parents are paying the expenses because of security concerns as it’s my first time staying outside home (Haryana). I pay Rs 20,000 per month, which makes it stressful for me. And we also can’t live in a normal hostel, because there are concerns of safety. I feel guilty when I ask for money from my parents. We chose the government college because I know it is affordable and less expensive.

“I’m not able to focus on studies in the most effective way. The college should provide a hostel or alternate accommodation to us,” she concluded.

Another student, who took admission in November 2020, narrated a similar story.

“I wasn’t allotted a hostel. They promised us that they’d give it to us in January but they didn’t. Now, I live in Karol Bagh, and pay Rs 15,000 per month in rent. In contrast, the hostel charges are only Rs 500 a month for those who have managed to get it. Besides this, food, travel and other daily expenses add up to another Rs 10,000 a month. This is too expensive.

“It has affected our studies. Because we have no hostel, we can’t use the library. Due to lack of time, we can’t stay up late at night in college as we have to return to PG. The library is closed on Saturday and Sunday. In medical science, we need to study a lot.”

The student added that meetings with office-bearers of the college have been fruitless.

“We have met the registrar, the hostel secretary and others on many occasions. They keep extending the deadlines. The last deadline they gave us was of the current month but they are now saying that the emergency exit is not ready and fire NOC (No Objection Certificate) hasn’t been given yet. We want the college to allot us a hostel. So that we can focus on our studies and save our money and time,” he said.

Another first-year student narrated the same problem.

“I live in Karol Bagh, which is highly expensive. The monthly rent I pay is Rs 20,000 while the hostel’s yearly rent is only Rs 7,000. So, we are paying extra here. Besides this, our time also gets wasted. We have to bear the cost of travelling, food and other things. It also affects our studies.”

“We raised the problem of hostel in front of our administration, but ultimately nothing happened. In our batch of 100 students, only 15% of the students, who have come from all India quota, have got hostel rooms. We are also missing the college environment,” she revealed.

A student hailing from Patna said that he has to travel from Palam area every day.

“Currently, there are around 400 MBBS students across the four years in our college. Out of these, only 80 have been provided hostel accommodation in a nearby Dharamshala on Mandir Marg. I couldn’t get a hostel, so I live in the Palam area and travelled two to two-and-a-half hours daily to attend college. It’s very stressful for me and badly affects my studies. Besides this, we have to spend time cooking meals. We need a maid, which is not easily available here. So, a lot of our time is wasted in this kind of work, which we can save in the hostel.”

Before writing a letter to the health minister, students raised the issue on social media.

Complaint: Letter written by the AIIMS Students’ Council to the Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya

Atul Kumar Tiwari, chairman of ABVIMS Students’ Council, raised the matter on Twitter.

“Dear @MoHFW_INDIA, as per NMC guidelines, 75% MBBS students should get hostel facility. But currently only 40% of ABVIMS & Dr RMLH students get a hostel. We demand immediate action for proper accommodation for all MBBS students.” he wrote in a Twitter thread.

“Dear @MoHFW_INDIA, we have raised this issue with the administration multiple times, but no action has been taken. The administration claims their hands are tied, so we urge the Ministry of Health to intervene and address this pressing matter. @mansukhmandviya @NMC_IND @PMOIndia.”

Patriot also spoke to the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Dr Karan Juneja, the national secretary of Indian Medical Association-Junior Doctors’ Network, said, “All the demands of RML Students are valid. If they can get good accommodation nearby, then they will be able to study well. If students are living outside, and not getting proper food and lodging, then this issue concerns national interest. Medical Necessity Criteria (MNC) also says that hostels should be allotted to students. If their time is being wasted in travelling, then they will not be able to find time to study or practice.”

He said further, “In Delhi, accommodation is very expensive. So, students or their family have to compromise on everything like food, hygiene because staying in Delhi is so expensive. If becoming doctor turns out to be expensive, how can we expect them to run a charitable or public service. The key behind affordable healthcare is affordable health education system. Tomorrow, these students will treat a thousand patients.

“If Jamia Hamdard Hospital and AIIMS can provide hostel, why can’t RML provide it to their students. Also, RML has space but it is all about intentions. When this kind of issue came to light in Rohtak (Haryana), IMA went on strike. In this case, we cannot go on strike immediately since we also have to think about our patients too. However, I have also updated our president about this issue and surely, we will communicate with the government about it.”

Patriot tried to talk to the Dean of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Dr Ram Chandra, on this issue. However, he did not talk and cut the phone.