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Why Have Students At Calcutta Medical College Been On A Hunger Strike For 12 Days?

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Students are on a mass hunger strike at the Calcutta Medical College demanding transparency in hostel allotment

Since June 27, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital (MCHC) is witnessing protests from students of the second, third, fourth and final year, demanding for transparency in hostel allotments after many students failed to get hostel rooms.

What’s The Issue

The allotment of a new 11-storey building to the first year hostellers is the root cause of the unrest among the senior students. The senior students are demanding that there should be proper counselling for hostel allotment, but the college administration has suspended this rule of counselling from the past two years. As a result, the senior students are getting old hostels where even the beds aren’t sanctioned to them, and this has sparked massive protests in the campus.

The interns at the hospital have also joined the protests affecting the proper functioning of the hospital.

“The hostel authorities have told us that they cannot accept our demand of allocating seats in hostels based on distance and seniority. We have no option but to continue with our movement”, Sayantan Mukhuti, a fifth-year MBBS student, told The Telegraph.

What’s The Administration Saying

According to the administration, the hostel allotment for the first year and senior students in the same building is not possible, and it will violate the regulations set by the Medical Council of India’s anti-ragging cell, which is to provide separate accommodation for the freshers.

The Timeline Of The Protest

After the demands of the students were ignored by the administration, six students went on a hunger strike on July 10. Two more students joined the strike on July 12. Many doctors and interns from the hospital along with some alumni joined the protest too. Their demands remain the same: transparency in the hostel allotment through counseling. But the administration was unmoved.

On July 17, Principal Uchhal Bhadra came out with a circular allotting 276 senior students rooms in the old hostel.

“We are allotting rooms to 276 older students in the old hostels. There has been no counselling for hostel allocation for the past three years. There is no reason for the current agitation”, Dr Uchhal K Bhadra said in a press conference. He also added that the old hostels would be repaired soon.

However, he fell ill after the meet while the students were still on strike outside his office. He was rushed to the emergency section of the hospital where he underwent few cardiac tests, and the doctors said he faced fluctuating blood pressure.

The decision was not met well with the students. They found this decision as a mere distraction and threatened to go on a mass hunger strike from Wednesday, July 18.

Sheikh Md Sagir, a final-year student of Calcutta Medical College, told the Indian Express, “The students will go on a mass hunger strike as the authorities failed to fulfil their demands. Over 50 students will sit for a mass hunger strike.”

The students also alleged that many male students were allotted rooms in girls’ hostel while many who were protesting could not find their name in the list as result of raising their voice against the administration.

What Next?

The indefinite strike is still going on. The condition of these students is deteriorating everyday. Students are alleging that the new hostel can accommodate 800 students, and the strength of freshers is only 250, so more students can reside in the new building, and yet, they’re not getting rooms in the new hostel.

“The condition of the protesting students is deteriorating with each passing day. Already three students have been admitted to the hospital. There should be an amicable solution to this current problem, and brisk action should be taken,” said an ex-student of 2008 batch who is now working at MR Bangur Hospital, Kolkata.

The MCHC administration and the state government have so far ignored the issue. The authorities haven’t taken any action to settle the unrest with negotiations and discussions. Moreover, the calling of the police forces to the campus by the Principal has intensified the protests.

“Why is there such a massive deployment of police personnel at the Calcutta Medical College at this hour? Instead of lending a sympathetic ear to the students who have been on an indefinite #HungerStrike for the 10th day at a stretch (and which has already crossed over 210 hours by now) the state administration has, all this while, remained callously indifferent to the demands raised by the students regarding better #hostel accommodation”, said Sowmen Mitter, an activist in West Bengal, in a Facebook post.

The insensitive and ignorant actions of the TMC government and the college administration have added to the anger of the student’s agitation.

Certain harsh administrative comments by the authorities have fuelled student’s anger.

“Dr Sukumar Maity, HoD of Surgery at Calcutta Medical College remarked at the College Council meeting that when the hunger strikers die, then garlands should be put around their necks to mourn their deaths”, shared Angana Kundu, a student of English Literature in Jadavpur University, in a Facebook post.

As a result of all this, students from many other universities like Jadavpur University have come forward in support of the protesting students.

“The students have been on a hunger strike for 250+ hours now. They have been beaten up by the police that the authorities let in. Today JU marched in solidarity with Kolkata Medical College, in solidarity with spontaneous students’ movement that have been taking place across the state against the TMC government and its failed promise of change. Around 50 of us also joined the protesting students at Kolkata Medical College later”, wrote Angana Kundu in her post.

Few MLAs have also visited the campus and have talked to the students. All are hoping for an agreement between students and the administration. “I am hopeful of soon reaching a solution favourable to the students,” said acting Principal Ramanuj Sinha on Friday, who took charge after Dr Bhadra had complained of chest pain and was hospitalised.

At the time of writing this news, the students entered the 12th day of their hunger strikes and protests. Their deteriorating health and undeterring resolve still await a decision.


Image source: Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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