By Ashraf Padanna/Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy yesterday inaugurated India’s first medical college for former untouchables (Dalits) in Palakkad yesterday.

The medical college run by the state’s department for scheduled castes (Dalits) had officially started functioning with an initial intake of 100 students for undergraduate degree in medicine (MBBS) early this month.

“By opening a medical college under the SC department, Kerala has set another model for the whole country to emulate,” said Chandy who was scheduled to inaugurate the medical college on September 2.

He had to postpone the official opening ceremony as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological patron of the Bharatiya Janata Party, enforced a statewide shutdown protesting the murder of one their functionaries in the northern Kannur district.

The authorities said the hospital would cater not only to Dalits but the tribes in the district, the third largest after Wayanad and Idukki.

In the first two years, the medical college will function at the existing district hospital before the work on the Rs5.5bn campus of the medical college in 50 acres is completed at Yakkara on the national highway.

The chief minister, who had earlier opened another medical college in Idukki, justified his decision to tax bulk users of drinking water besides liquor and tobacco saying the government needed money to serve the less privileged.

“The objective of our government is to have a medical college in the government sector in each of the 14 districts. Works on 11 other medical colleges are in progress,” he said adding that it would soon take over the co-operative medical college at Pariyaram in Kannur.’s-first-dalit-medical-college-in-kerala