Dow Medical College in Karachi has evicted all the students in its boys hostel, including international ones, as the Sindh government is converting the building into the Sindh Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
DMC comes under the Dow University of Health Sciences. DMC housed the hostel in three buildings called Hostel, Hostel 2 and Haribhai Pragji Karia Building. In 2007, the buildings were temporarily converted into the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Institute of Medical Technology. At the time the students were promised that once the institutes had their own buildings the DMC hostels would be returned.
In the interim period, the students were moved into the Sindh Medical College Hostel, which was under the DUHS administration at the time. But in 2013, when Sindh Medical College became affiliated with Jinnah Sindh Medical University, the students were told to leave again.
In 2019, the Sindh Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation was legally established as an independent degree-awarding institute. The Act said: “[The institute] shall be established by reconstituting and re-organising the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi.”
However, the act fails to mention that the institution did not have a building and the temporary IPMR building originally belonged to DMC which has originally used it for the boys hostel.
DMC and the students are now separately fighting the case to get the hostels back.
According to DMC Principal Dr Amjad Siraj Memon, they met Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah who said DMC would get an ownership letter for the buildings. But the government has already formed a committee for asset transfers to the IPMR after obtaining permission from Parliament.
The students say they’ve written many letters to the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council, which is the regulatory body. As many as 20 applications were sent to the Sindh government and then forwarded to the Secretary, they said. However, the students said they have been unable to secure a meeting with Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho.
PMDC requirements for hostels
If DMC does not have a hostel, it risks losing its registration with the PMDC.
The PMDC rules say a hostel must have the capacity to house at least 20% of the total male students. If the boy’s hostel is shared with an associated medical college, the housing capacity must be for 20% of total male students of medical and dental colleges combined.
The hostels must have television and internet access, indoor game facilities, a mess with security, recreational facilities. Absence of a mess will deduct 100% marks during review, says the PMDC.
Another rule of establishing hostels is that they should be located near the teaching hospital, the DMC Principal told SAMAA Digital. Our prospectus says we provide accommodation to students, he added.
Dr Siraj joined DMC last year and has been pursing the case given the need of the student body. “Our top merit students come here from [rural] Sindh,” he said. “Earlier they had to pay only Rs1,500 to stay at the hostel. Now they’ve resorted to buying substandard and expensive rental flats.”
The problem is that this is a matter of a simple infrastructure shortage. Of course, Dr Siraj says that DMC entirely supports the “excellent new institute” of IPMR and its director Dr Nabila Soomro, but it is his responsibility to see to DMC’s concerns. “I cannot see my own alma mater lose its PMDC registration because of this.”
The PMDC has warned that it has deferred the results of its review (of DMC), Dr Siraj said. But if DMC scores less than 50% on the PMDC review it will risk being no longer recognised as a degree-awarding institution.
Evictions from DMC hostel
The evicted students, most of whom have no other accommodation in Karachi, have no choice but to rent apartments. Many had come to study here from across Pakistan, and even Afghanistan.
Mohammad Ramin, for example, is a fourth-year medical student who came from Ghazni, Afghanistan. “If we are deprived of our hostel I don’t know where I will live,” he said. He hoped the Afghan embassy in Islamabad, consulate in Karachi and the Pakistan government would step in.
Usama Saeed came from Mastung in Balochistan under the HEC’s Higher Education Opportunities for the Students of Balochistan and FATA programme. “Leaving my hometown wasn’t easy for me and my family but as the scholarship provided financial and hostel facilities, I decided to move to Karachi,” he said.
The DMC-IPMR hostel crisis is only the latest in what has been a history of insecurity over student housing.
Deedar Nanjiani from Tharparkar, who was in the top five among 15,000 students who qualified for DUHS, says he wasn’t given a room at the hostel when he joined. “I am in my final year now and I don’t remember a single time when we didn’t have the constant looming fear of unexpected eviction from the hostel,” he said.
Shehzad Baloch, a fourth year MBBS student, says he wasn’t offered accommodation for six months when he joined, and had to bear the expenses in a new city on his own.
“Once I was allotted a room, I faced continuous threats of eviction,” he said. “This decision will affect our academic lives terribly, and from now on students from interior Sindh will be reluctant to join DMC.”
Sharifullah Momand, a fourth year student, is from Afghanistan who came on an HEC scholarship. “Now I don’t have anywhere to live,” he said.
Hostel conditions at DMC
In addition to the stress over the shortage of student housing close to campus, the students have to put up with hostels in poor condition. Five years ago, the roof of the Haribhai Pragji Karia Building collapsed and nearly killed a student named Dr Syed Annas Parvez. A mess worker fell to his death from the balcony of this building, the students told SAMAA Digital.
Protests were held after which the administration decided to allot the students a portion (two out of six floors) of the IPMR building. There was no reading hall, gym, sports ground, common room or a mess, even though these are PMDC hostel requirements.
Later, four to five students were crammed into a “dingy and stuffy room” which could hold only two people, “with a single bedbug infested mattress to a person.” They were not given furniture for six months despite multiple visits to the previous principal’s office.
When the students asked the DUHS administration for these facilities, they were often rebuffed and told to “go back to your villages in Sindh.”
DMC hostels: action being taken
The students have not lost hope yet. “Our protests went well,” said Abdul Karim, a final year student at DMC from district Qambar Shahdadkot, referring to their agitation before the Eid holidays.
We will continue after Eid, Karim added. The students say it has been very tough to risk their own health and that of their family members by staging protests during a pandemic.
We haven’t met DUHS Vice Chancellor Dr Saeed Qureshi, said Karim. The VC did not respond to SAMAA Digital’s request for comment. This story will be updated accordingly.