New Delhi: For the last two months or so, Chandigarh resident Rohit Kumar has been struggling to attend MBBS classes at the medical college in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh. He was admitted to the college earlier this year after securing the 181st rank under the ‘physical handicap’ quota in the all-India medical entrance examination, but the campus isn’t wheelchair-friendly. In the absence of a ramp, volunteers have to lift him up and down the staircases of the multi-level college building.
Though Kumar’s father, B.N. Prasad, had raised the issue with the state health minister Vipin Parmar when he recently visited his residence in Sirmaur district, where the college is also located, the only assurance he received was that the college would make necessary changes to the stairs.
Rights activist lodges complaint with MCI, concerned officials
Disability rights activists, who have been fighting for the need to make all such medical institutions friendly to persons with disabilities, see the Nahan medical college as a clear cut violation of the Medical Council of India’s (MCI’s) guidelines to make all the medical colleges disability-friendly.
In view of Kumar’s situation, associate professor of physiology and co-founder of the Medial Humanities Group at University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Satendra Singh, has complained to the president of MCI, additional chief secretary (social justice and empowerment) of Himachal Pradesh and director and deputy director of empowerment of SC’s, OBC’s, minorities affairs and the specially-abled (ESOMSA) of the state government about how the medical student’s case also highlighted violations of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.
Singh recalled in the complaint that it was on his petition in the court of chief commissioner for persons with disabilities and later with the National Human Rights Commission that the MCI had directed all medical institutions in the country to become disabled-friendly and also instructed them to submit a compliance report.
He said following the petitions, the MCI had revised the standard assessment form and thereby fixed the accountability of accessibility of the medical institution on to the dean or principal.
Furthermore, he said, the Centre had enacted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act 2016 to give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which lays certain principles for empowerment of persons with disabilities. These principles call for “respect for inherent dignity, independence of persons; non-discrimination; full and effective participation and inclusion in society; respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; equality of opportunity; accessibility; and equality.”
Singh said it was also notable that the director of ESOMSA in Himachal Pradesh had on May 5, 2017 issued directions for the implementation of provisions of the RPwD Act in letter and spirit. Also, he said, the governor had on July 20 this year appointed a deputy director (welfare) of ESOMSA as the grievance redressal officer.
`Nahan medical college did not comply with directions’
But despite all of these legislations and mandatory orders being in place, Singh lamented that the Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar Government Medical College, Nahan, remains disability-unfriendly and has failed to provide necessary accessibility to persons with disabilities.
Stating that the fact that Kumar had to be physically lifted in the medical college every time he goes there to attend his MBBS classes amounts to “humiliation”, he charged that the lack of accessibility at the college showed that the administration had flouted the MCI norms as well as provisions of RPwD Act and the state government’s directives.
“The Principal of Government Medical College, Nahan also happens to be Director, Medical Education & Research of Government of Himachal Pradesh. In both these capacities she has flouted the law and government order. As per the MCI Standard Assessment Form, it is the responsibility of the Principal to comply with the Disability Act,” said the disability rights activist.
MCI urged to pull up principal for dereliction
Singh also urged the MCI president to take strict view of this violation and seek explanation from the principal and direct her to make the campus accessible by providing at the earliest all reasonable provisions as laid down under the RPwD Act.
He also appealed to the state government, ESOMSA and the grievance redressal officer to consider his complaint under Section 20 of the RPwD Act for investigation and take up the matter with the establishment for corrective action within two weeks as prescribed in the Act.
Singh also sought strict action under Section 89 and 92 of the Act and the imposition of a financial penalty and imprisonment, as deemed fit and provided in the Act, since this was a case where a person with disability was being forced to undergo humiliation because of lack of accessibility, which is his right.
Kumar’s father concerned about son’s well-being
Meanwhile, Kumar’s father has also been raising the issue of the difficulties faced by both his son and the volunteers and attendants when they have to physically lift him from one floor to the other in the college. Prasad said he has written letters to the prime minister, chief minister and also the college management to seek their intervention for urgently making necessary provisions for ensuring the smooth movement of his son around the medical college.
He has also pointed out that even after Kumar got admission in the college, necessary arrangements for making it accessible have not been provided. Kumar is also not able to avail of the hostel because of similar shortcomings.
He has pointed out that at least four people are required to lift Kumar each time and this is as perilous for them as the medical student. Kumar uses a wheelchair to move around as his muscles have been becoming weak due to muscular dystrophy.