Coffee with Students

Coffee with Students

Activism is ingrained in me since my student life. In my college days, as Secretary of NSUI, we used to take matters relating to students and fight with the Management for better amenities.

Since then, I have always connected with students as I believe that as citizens of tomorrow, they should be nurtured and mouldedproperly.

As destiny would have it, my mentor Shri Sharad Pawarsaheb gave me the responsibility of becoming a Cabinet Minister of Medical Education and Horticulture in Maharashtra and my tryst with students restarted.

To get a feel of what problems students face, what are their aspirations, their expectations, I decided to interact with them directly.

This is how the concept of Coffee with studentswas born.

I started from Mumbai, then Pune and then went across the state, meeting students on this informal platform, inviting them to share their expectations, narrate their grievances, and then try to solve them.

It has been a fascinating journey with the doctors of tomorrow and I narrate here some of my moments with them.

Coffee with Students at Dhule – It was disheartening to know that students face problems in basic amenities like drinking water, sanitation and other basic needs.

Basic needs not being provided shows the medical institute in a very poor light. I decided to move into their shoes and see that the problems of drinking water and sanitation was resolved immediately.

For several years in the past, focus of medical education has changed from students to hospitals. The need now is to concentrate on the well-being of the students because they are tomorrow’s pillars on which Maharashtra’s health & well-being is going to rest.

My interaction with students of Chhatrapati Shahu Government Medical College, Kolhapur, exposed several issues the students are facing, such as lack of class rooms and teachers not giving lectures. The students also sought change in the examination pattern to ensure that the students are not burdened unnecessarily.

The students shared their problems only after getting assurance that no disciplinary action will be taken against them if they bring to light the issues.

The students’ demands included merit scholarships, inclusion of multiple choice questions in the entrance examination for post-graduation, avoidance of clinical posting during vacation, increase in classrooms and in the number of PG seats, and up-to-date library.

I assured the students that all these problems will be solved, and asked the dean of the college, Dashrath Kothule, to immediately initiate work on the issues that come under his jurisdiction.

During the event, a third year student said, “Currently, every subject is divided into two parts and there are separate tests with fixed syllabus for each. But, as per the new pattern of examinations, there will not be any division of syllabus and questions from the first part may appear in the second and vice versa. This increases our burden as the syllabus is vast.”

The student’s argument had merit and I promised to change the examination pattern.

One final year student complained, “One of our teaching faculty took only three lectures in a whole year and we had no option but to do self-study. We had taken the issue to the higher authorities but no action was taken. We did not complain officially as we fear that we may be punished during practical exams and it will ruin our career.”

I promised the students that all their problems will be solved and would soon organise a meeting of the members of the academic council, vice-chancellors and three representatives from every medical college. It will help us get direct interaction with the students and address their problems in the presence of the authorities that take decisions on these issues.

Keeping view and needs of changing times, we took decision to make the premises of all medical colleges Wi-Fi enabled and libraries and classrooms to be air-conditioned. Besides, special courses on stress management and communication skills will be organised in the college, along with regular curriculum.

The Coffee with students at Nagpur has been very eventful. I announced at Mayo Hospital and College building a free wi-fi, air-conditioned reading room, spacious rooms.  

Feedback of all students will be looked into. Also took review of OPD, casualty ward, feedback from patients and instructed all officials to improve conditions immediately. Teacher should become guardians of students. 

Visited hostels, mess and canteen, and placed immediate orders to rectify and upgrade the outdated facilities.

Obviously there is much more to it than just coffee – it’s a platform to connect and resolve issues of the medical students. 

I am happy to have opened up a direct communication channel with medical students via this concept and glad that students continue to interact with me and write to me on a regular basis. I encourage not just youth of the Nation but everybody in general to verbalise issues in the right manner and the right channel as the first step to solving them. Sincerely want ideal conditions for students so that medical colleges of Maharashtra churn out doctors of the best quality.

Another Hitler in the making?

When Hitler got elected in Germany with a thumping majority, he sent a dictate instructing for his photographs to be displayed all over streets of Germany and classrooms of Germany. He encouraged mass participation of his public addresses in every manner possible.

Is our Prime Minister Narendra Modi influenced with this leadership style? He has issued a dictate for his Teacher’s day speech to be telecast live and made it MANDATORY for every school student to watch it. “Where there are no television sets, we have asked to hire TV sets, and where there is no possibility of electricity, we have asked to arrange generators for that day,” a senior ministry official said. 52 news channels, radio, FM channels would broadcast the programme. The EDUSAT system, wherever available, will be utilized. Websites of the HRD Ministry and all state governments’ education departments will stream the programme. Every mode of electronic communication is going to be utilised to show the PM’s programme to every school-going child in the country. And top sources have also reported to have said that the PMO has informally directed that it would like to have data on the programme’s viewership!

Clearly seems to be a strategy to include mass participation. But giving students no choice but to listen to him, how fair is that? What kind of democracy are we talking of? No Prime Minister in the history of independent India has ever demonstrated such dictatorship. Acche din aa gaye hain?!


Cause communal disharmony. Spread trouble. Be a threat to the society. And get protected. How does the BJP Government rationalise this? Is Z security to ‘riot accused’ MLA Sangeet Som justified?

Last year, Sangeet Som was accused of making inflammatory speeches and uploading a fake video on Social Media. This had incited communal tension in Muzaffarnagar which killed over 65 people and displaced thousands. Earlier this year, the controversial leader was caught on camera for threatening Uttar Pradesh Cops. He is notorious for creating communal disharmony.

And to a notorious leader who is a threat to the society, a security ring of an army of personnel, security cover by the ITBP, CRPF and the local police, an escort car? Isn’t it ironical that while on one hand the riot victims are still living under appalling conditions in the relief camps, crores of rupees are being spent for protection of the accused?

Z-security cover is entitled to highly important people like chief ministers, ministers of the cabinet rank, high court and Supreme Court judges and a few bureaucrats who are of National Importance. Which of these categories does Som fall under?

It is alleged that Intelligence reports suggested a threat to his life. What is the threat perception to Som’s life? Who will protect the victims of the communal riots he creates? Why were the Intelligence reports not shared with the State Government? Are they being tutored by the BJP Government? Wouldn’t police protection by State Government have sufficed?

These are questions people are asking. People are asking why is BJP making heroes out of criminals? People are asking why these changes before and after general election? People are asking questions on divisive politics. Wonder who has the answers to these and many more such questions.


Three months after storming to power at the centre, the BJP, for second time running, took a knock in the state by-polls losing 4-6 to the RJD- JD(U)- Congress combine in Bihar and yielding two strongholds to the Congress in MP and Karnataka.

Out of the 18 seats in Punjab, Bihar, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh for which bypolls were held, Congress and its allies have won 10 seats to BJPs 8. This shows a clear downward trend for the BJP, with its vote-share percentage dipping by 7% compared to the Loksabha elections.

Incidentally, in all these assembly constituencies, the recently-conducted Lok Sabha elections had given phenomenal leads to BJP.

With the by-poll results, one can gauge the mood of voters. They have slowly but surely started to realise reality. Facts count not promises. In the history of Independent India, no ruling party has ever lost by-elections conducted within 3 months of election.

Elections are an exercise of faith for the Indian masses. We need to wake up to the fact that it is the masses who decide the fate. The voter today is far more discerning, alert and politically aware. He may be poor in pocket but and he surely knows his mind.

Implicit in the outcome is another message – that state elections may be a different story from the Loksabha polls. Uttarakhand had delivered a similar message recently.

The Indian voter is clever. He was propelled by the Modi wave in the general election but was equally quick to rebuff the BJP when he realized that the ‘Acche din’ slogan doled out to them was in reality a piped dream.

High Court’s decision on Dahi Handi celebration

High Court’s decision on Dahi Handi celebration

Since yesterday’s High Court decision on Dahi Handi celebrations and the subsequent media coverage on the same, I have been inundated with questions, ideas, criticism but most of all my stand was misunderstood by the self-professed votaries of righteous behaviour. Let me take this opportunity to clarify my viewpoint.
At the onset, let me state that I am as sensitive as any of you and let me assure you that as organizers of the festival, people’s safety is of paramount importance to us and utmost care is taken to avoid accidents.
Govinda celebration is an important part of our Marathi culture. Besides the cultural sentiment associated with the festival, I have been fighting that Govinda be declared as Adventure sport and guiding principles be defined for mandals.
Every sport played worldwide has a certain degree of risk & threat to one’s life. However, the risk & threat to life is continuously monitored to mitigate the risk as far as possible by putting in safety measures without IMPACTING the LIFELINE of that sport. Take the example of the just concluded World Cup Football Tournament. Neymar, the star performer from the home country Brazil fractured his vertebra. In cricket, one can cite numerous instances where players were grievously injured or in some cases even lost precious lives. What about Motor Racing and Boxing – to name a few most risky sports. Has the speed of the cars been reduced or a boxer asked to land his punches in slow motion or a cricket bowler asked to bowl at a slower speed so that no injuries take place? Just imagine, if these things are put into practice what will happen to these sports? Any naive person can confidently vouch that they will seize to exist within no time.
If you think of most popular sports and question what are the LIFELINES which attracts spectators to these sports? Answers would be speed, skill, endurance, strength, power, ability, compactness of the game, test of the player’s nerves to delivery in adverse situations, spirit and so on. In short, the more adrenalin is pumped, the more connect it has with the audiences.
Dahi Handi as a sport is no exception to this rule. I was able to take this local Indian sport to National & International level only because of its most unique lifeline – The HEIGHT. Over the years participation of the Govindas kept on increasing exponentially as they strived harder to reach higher & higher each passing year. For them, achieving just one more layer of ring was not less than conquering the highest summit in the world – Mt. Everest. The biggest gift of God to mankind is the sense of satisfaction one achieves upon overcoming a challenge. It is to preserve this gift of God & spirit of the game that I want to challenge it in the Supreme Court. Let the LIFELINE of this sport be preserved albeit with all the safety measures arrived at, amicably, by having open discussions with affected parties. I wholeheartedly embrace the honourable High Court’s decision of limiting the age of participation to 18 years. However, any move to thrust a decision upon us without even allowing us to share our thoughts is objectionable.
It has taken 40 years to bring this Marathi Indian sport on the global map – first as an enthusiastic participant & later as a visionary organizer. Do you want me to just let it vanish into the annals of history?
– Dr. Jitendra Awhad
12 August 2014