In a letter to health ministry, activists have demanded the suspension of Reshma Desai, principal of a city-based nursing institute, for allegedly forcing her students to sell lottery tickets for a fund-raising initiative for the 13th National Conference of Society of Midwives, India (SOMI), to be held on February 22 and 23.

Desai initially refused the allegations and claimed to have taken the tickets back. “These weren’t lottery tickets, but fund raising tickets, similar to the one sold in schools,” she said.

However, when asked why she asked the students to sell the tickets of an event which is not affiliated with the government, she said, “There is no such event. The information you’ve received is absolutely incorrect.”

Activists questioned the organisation’s authority to hold a fund-raising initiative as the event’s pamphlets, posted on social media, did not include the registration number of the trust. Desai has been appointed as the organising vice-chairperson of the event.

According to sources at the institute, Desai had handed out 11 booklets of lottery tickets to 150 students in December 2016. and asked them to sell the tickets at Rs20 each.

On December 25, more than 20 pediatric diploma students in the second-year wrote a letter to Desai requesting her to take the tickets back. “We (students) have come from distant parts of the state (to Mumbai) and we will have to shell our study time and money (for travelling), to sell the tickets which is not possible for us,” reads the letter.

RPY Rao, president, Society for Awareness of Civil Rights, said, “Desai coerced and forced the students to collect money which is a criminal act.” Rao has demanded that an enquiry be set up against Desai.

Sanjay Deshmukh, secretary, said, “If the letter has arrived in my office, I will look into the issue on Monday and act on it accordingly.”