AIIMS Madurai students languish in GMC as dream education starts to seem like a pipe dream

For AIIMS Madurai students, the current setup not only affects their living conditions but also hinders gaining practical experience.

BySumit Jha

Published Apr 15, 2024 | 8:36 AMUpdatedApr 15, 2024 | 8:10 PM

AIIMS Madurai students languish in GMC as dream education starts to seem like a pipe dream

When BJP on Sunday, 14 April, released its manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, among the points mentioned was a commitment to healthcare.

It stated, “We have established 15 AIIMS in the past decade to provide affordable and quality healthcare for all. We will strengthen our network of AIIMS to provide quality healthcare across the country.”

Becoming a doctor and securing admission to the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is a cherished aspiration for millions of students across the country.

For Ritesh (name changed), a student from Bihar, getting accepted into AIIMS Madurai was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. “It wasn’t just my dream; it was a dream for my entire family, settled in Uttar Pradesh,” Ritesh shared with South First.

However, his journey at AIIMS Madurai took an unexpected turn. “Though I technically belonged to the 2021 batch, my admission was deferred to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of our anticipated campus, we found ourselves at the Government Medical College in Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu,” he explained.

“During orientation, the institution’s Director assured us that we would relocate to our permanent campus by September 2024 with proper facilities, including classrooms, laboratories, and hostels,” he recalled

Yet, as April 2024 approached, Ritesh and his peers — spanning across the 2021, 2022, and 2023 batches — found themselves still awaiting the realisation of this promise. “It’s disheartening,” Ritesh expressed. “Construction for our dedicated campus hasn’t even begun yet.”

Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Dr Bharati Pawar promised in December 2023 that the construction would be completed by October 2026.

Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandviya provided an update later that month on the progress of AIIMS Madurai in Parliament, stating: “Pre-investment work completed. Project Management Consultant (PMC) has been appointed. Master plan has been finalised. Tenders for main work have been issued to the prequalified bidders. MBBS classes commenced from a temporary campus.”

Interestingly, during the same period, AIIMS Rajkot and AIIMS Vijaypur (Jammu), which were initiated after AIIMS Madurai, made significant strides in their development. More than 70 percent of the work on these projects had been completed, showcasing a contrasting pace of progress compared to AIIMS Madurai.

So, for Ritesh and his batchmates, the dream of studying inside an AIIMS campus is not going to be fulfilled even though the degree he will hold will be from AIIMS Madurai.

Also Read: Team of AIIMS doctors revives 2-year-old in mid-air medical miracle

Life at ‘AIIMS Madurai’

Practical experience is integral to the education of medical students, complementing the theoretical knowledge imparted in classrooms. However, for students of AIIMS Madurai, the current makeshift setup poses challenges in gaining hands-on exposure to the field of medicine.

“While our faculty members are providing us with excellent theoretical teachings, the lack of adequate infrastructure hampers our practical learning,” another student explained to South First.

AIIMS Madurai Library (Supplied)

“Our temporary location at GMC Ramanathapuram provides us with limited resources. We have only two lecture halls, one laboratory, and one library. The classrooms are makeshift, separated from the faculty centres by cupboards,” he added.

“We have only one lab where we conduct sessions for Anatomy’s Histology, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pathology, Microbiology, Forensic Medicine — basically, all seven subjects. It’s definitely a tight squeeze, but we’re making do,” Ritesh explained.

The living conditions further compound the issue. “Our accommodation is cramped, with four to five students sharing a single room. Lack of space makes movement difficult, and studying becomes a challenge. Distractions are inevitable, affecting our concentration,” another student lamented.

Being affiliated with AIIMS Madurai comes with another set of drawbacks, noted the students.

“During the initial two years, preclinical and paraclinical batches are conducted. However, when clinical classes begin, it becomes imperative for us to have direct interaction with patients. Since we don’t have a designated teaching hospital, we miss out on crucial opportunities for clinical examinations in the wards or observing cases in the OPD,” said another student.

“We also lack access to operation theatres for hands-on experience. It’s theory-heavy with minimal practical exposure,” added this individual.

The library’s resources are similarly inadequate. “While there are books available for the first year, the selection for the second year is limited,” said Ritesh.

“To make matters worse, the library closes early, leaving us with little time for self-study after our classes end. And studying in the crowded room isn’t conducive either,” he noted.

In response to these challenges, students have taken to social media and staged protests. However, their efforts seem to have been met with only superficial responses from the authorities.

“Despite recent construction efforts, it’s disheartening to see the lack of genuine progress. The authorities seem more concerned with managing their image than addressing our concerns,” a frustrated student shared.

South First attempted to reach the executive director of AIIMS Madurai over the phone but did not receive any response. If there is any response from the institution, the copy will be updated accordingly.

Also Read: Pinarayi Vijayan urges Centre to set up AIIMS in Kozhikode

Delayed execution

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-led Union government announced in 2015-16 the plan to establish an AIIMS in Tamil Nadu.

The current DMK regime and its alliance partners, including Congress, have often criticised the prolonged delay in the construction of the medical institute at Thoppur, some 13.5 km from Madurai.

Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying the foundation stone on 27 January, 2019, the much-anticipated AIIMS project has faced significant delays. It was only in August last year that the Union government initiated the tendering process for the construction of the building.

The delay has been attributed to various factors, and the project’s funding received a boost with a loan of ₹1,978 crore from JICA. Thoppur is on the Madurai-Kanniyakumari National Highway.

The AIIMS Madurai issue has been much-debated in Parliament. Madurai and Virudhunagar MPs Su Venkatesan, and Manickam Tagore, respectively, have been raising questions over the delay.

When BJP president JP Nadda claimed in September 2022 that the structure was 95 percent complete, Congress MP Manickam Tagore and CPI(M) MP Su Venkatesan visited the AIIMS site and prepared a “ground report”, revealing the state of the project.

In the 2021 elections, the non-commencement of the AIIMS’ construction emerged as a major talking point.

Udhayanidhi Stalin, the DMK Youth Wing secretary, symbolically highlighted the absence of any building at the designated site by showcasing a red brick during his election campaign.

Also Read: Congress poses questions concerning Tamil Nadu to PM

The status of 15 new AIIMS

The first AIIMS was established in 1956 by the Jawaharlal Nehru government, solidifying its reputation for providing top-tier medical education and quality healthcare.

Subsequently, during the tenure of the Manmohan Singh-led government, seven additional AIIMS were established. These included institutes in Raebareli in 2009 and Bhopal, Rishikesh, Jodhpur, Bhubaneswar, Patna, and Raipur in 2012.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP government pledged to establish 15 new AIIMS across the country.

As of now, AIIMS institutes have been set up in Mangalagiri (Andhra Pradesh), Nagpur, Kalyan (Maharashtra), Gorakhpur, Bathinda (Punjab), Deoghar, Bibinagar, Bilaspur, Jammu, Madurai, Rajkot, Guwahati, Awantipora (Kashmir), Darbhanga (Bihar), and Rewari (Haryana).

However, the institute in Darbhanga exists only on paper, as the state Government has yet to provide encumbrance-free land, as stated by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandviya.

Similarly, while pre-investment work has commenced for AIIMS Rewari and tenders for main construction work have been floated, classes have not yet commenced.

Additionally, although 44 percent of the construction work for AIIMS Awantipora has been completed, classes have not begun.

Thus, out of the 15 proposed AIIMS, three are yet to start classes due to various reasons.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)