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Friday 25 November 2011

Exams where caste stigma has no answer

The Hindu, NEW DELHI,
November 24, 2011

Exams where caste stigma has no answer

Vijetha S.N.
Manish Kumar landed in the Capital from Bihar three years ago with happy thoughts that his childhood dream of becoming a doctor was almost within grasp.
He was on the right path, with a seat secured in a well-known medical college and with the realisation that he could finally shed the caste identity that was part of his small-town upbringing.
In the three years since, Manish has studied hard, seen the insides of a court room, filed RTI applications and knocked at the doors of government offices, but has still not managed to get past the second year of the MBBS course.
“I was a first year medical student at Vardhman Mahavir Medical College in 2008 when I first failed in physiology. This happened again in July 2010 and I sat for the supplementary exams in October. I did not know how to react when I found out that I had failed again in the supplementary exams along with 24 of my classmates, every one of whom belonged to the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe or some other reserved category,” says Manish, adding that he received a bigger shock when he found that among the 25, there were students who had been failing only in physiology from 2004 onwards until 2009.
Manish and his friends realised something else later. “The university allots roll numbers to the reserved category candidates in a row and the answer-sheets are coded and collected in a way that the identity of the reserved category students is revealed easily.”
Ever since this revelation, the students seem to have knocked at every door that could help them -- from filling RTI applications to complaints with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, and even going to the High Court.
However, the legal battle only brought them some temporarily relief. “Under the Court's supervision, we took another exam in which every one of us, including those who had failed repeatedly since 2004, passed. The Court also passed an order that we be allowed to attend classes for the second year and that due consideration be given for shortage of attendance.”
Since then the students have been attending second year classes but were prevented from taking their exams in mid-November. “We were told we did not have sufficient attendance. The Principal usually refused to meet us and whenever he had, he pretended that he was not aware of anything and seems to have washed his hands off the whole affair.”
When contacted by The Hindu , the Principal refused to discuss the matter.
These days Manish spends all his time worrying whether he would be allowed at least to take the supplementary exams in March, and praying that he would not be humiliated every time he attends class.
“Right after the court case, the lecturers would tell our classmates to look at us -- the people who could only gain entrance into a medical college through reservations and couldn't pass without a High Court order. After some complaints it has toned down,” says Manish.
The students, however, believe another legal battle is imminent. “Our lawyer has asked us to file for contempt of court. I don't see this ending easily.”

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