Last week, Dr Payal Tadvi’s death in Mumbai took the nation by storm. On the surface, it looks like an extreme case of workplace aggression and violence, but there are more layers to this than what appears.
It is being alleged that Dr Payal was subjected to casteist remarks over a while. While action has been taken against the accused, what is of utmost concern is that after Dr Payal filed a verbal complaint against them, it only made matters worse for her. A question arises whether the grievance cell at the institute was equipped enough to handle a case of casteism?
This could not have been the first one. Many cases that do not lead to suicide or murder go unnoticed in a murky system of power play at the workplace. Knowing that there is no space for a victim to address an important issue like this, gives more power to the perpetrators of these acts – in this case, the three senior doctors.
It is essential to examine what caused three qualified doctors to demean another person to this point? The least you expect from a doctor is empathy. But long hours, staff shortage, night shifts, lack of sleep, a demanding schedule and a fiercely competitive environment can break the best. It is not a reason to perpetuate crime, but it is an issue worth examining. In a society, where mental health issues are seen as stigma even among the medical community, addressing it becomes even more urgent. Last year, after a spate of doctor suicides, AIIMS began a rehabilitation process for its doctors to help those who heal.
What is the state of affairs in a workplace that pushes its employees to the point of mental breakdown? And I am talking here about both, the aggressor and the subject of that aggression.
Mental issues apart, if the allegations of casteism are correct, then it comes as a shock because this didn’t occur in a remote village but in a metro like Mumbai and by educated doctors. How has our education system focused only on academics and employment and failed at delivering the basics of humanity?
This year in March, CBSE asked NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) to delete a chapter on the caste struggle of lower caste women in Travancore from the history books of Class IX students. Is it one less thing to learn, or is it one more crime waiting to happen?
An education system that obliterates the need to understand caste politics; a society that supports this structure in their day-to-day activities along with severely demanding conditions at the workplace that pressurise one into a mental breakdown has given rise to this toxic muddle that all four women sank into and one of them had to pay a high price.
What it also brings forth is the idea that just because it’s women at the workplace, it does not guarantee your safety. Considering that this was going on for a long time, no one came in support of Dr Payal. All three doctors were seniors and exercised their power with impunity. Why is it so challenging to create a world where a woman stands for another woman? A human for another human.
What can our education system do to avoid this in the future? What could Dr Payal’s workplace do to avoid a mishap like this?
What can we as women do for other women and as a society to stop such hate crimes seeped in age-old systems that make saviours like doctors, commit a crime?
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