The fifth year research scholar had written a letter to the director regarding the alleged harassment he and other colleagues had to go through.

 

The suicide bid by a 36-year-old PhD scholar at the microbiology department of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here, has raised serious concerns over the functioning of the department.

The incident has raised questions about how scholars and PhD students are at the mercy of their supervisors for completion of their thesis and research work.

Students have been complaining about the lack of basic facilities in the department—the absence of even a mask inside a laboratory—where they have to work with samples and cultures of contagious diseases like tuberculosis, endangering their health.

Rajat Prakash, the fifth year research scholar who attempted suicide last Sunday after overdosing on drugs, has written an explosive letter to AIIMS director Randeep Guleria in which he highlighted the apathy and alleged harassment he and other colleagues had to face in the hands of his supervisor Dr Urvashi Singh, since he joined the institute in 2013.

In his letter, accessed by The Sunday Guardian, he has written, “I have been under constant mental harassment and humiliation. Dr Urvashi Singh has been using filthy and abusive language against me on and off in front of everyone.” Through his letter, Prakash also highlighted how students are at the mercy of their supervisors. He has also alleged that supervisors make scholars do clerical jobs for them.

However, the police has not registered any case in the matter yet. Romil Baniya, DCP South, said, “We have received a complaint and after examining it, we have understood that no case of abetment to suicide stands here.”

This incident sparked a furore among students of the microbiology department. Several other students that this newspaper spoke to from the department corroborated the claims made by Prakash in his letter. They fear that since they have started to raise their voice against their supervisor, their PhD degree could be affected.

Reacting to the allegations, Dr Urvashi Singh said: “The allegations are wrong and baseless. I have had an unblemished career. I have been actively pursuing the interests of all my students and this student was no exception. A detailed point by point rebuttal has been filed (to the investigating agencies) and evidence attached to establish the utter shambolic nature of the allegations. I am being maligned and humiliated and even posters have cropped up. It’s a smear campaign without an iota of truth.” Taking cognizance of the matter, the AIIMS administration has formed a seven- member committee to look into the matter and investigate the claims made by the students.

According to sources within AIIMS, the accused, Dr Urvashi Singh, has been removed as the PhD guide and a vigilance inquiry has been initiated against her for alleged financial irregularities. Emails sent to AIIMS director Randeep Guleria did not yield any response till the time of going to press.

Even emails sent to Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda and Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan, wanting to know what measures the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is planning to take to ensure such incidents do not recur, have not elicited any response yet.

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