The recent suicide of an engineering student in Andhra Pradesh has raised the question of why ragging still continues on campuses across the country. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court has appointed an Anti-Ragging Monitoring Committee and that there exists an anti-ragging helpline, ragging persists even though the punishment for the crime has been made more severe. The UGC is even threatening to stop grants to institutions found wanting in curbing the menace.
A first year engineering student, Usha Rani, had allegedly consumed pesticides after she was harassed by a senior on November 17. The parents of the 17-year-old girl claimed that she was a victim of ragging, however, the college authorities denied the charge.
While what prompted her action is still part of the investigation, what cannot be denied is that incidents of ragging are rising in the country.
According to Amanmovement.org, which maintains updated data on complaints of ragging, the year 2016 has witnessed a marked increase in the number of complaints received from across the country.
While the number of complaints had shown a steady decline from 2013 to 2015, this year, there has been a marked increase. In 2013, 640 complaints of ragging were recorded by the National Anti-Ragging Helpline and this number dropped to 543 in 2014 and further to 423 in 2015. But this year, it has increased to 480. This year the states which have reported the most number of incidents of ragging are Uttar Pradesh (up to 90 from 52 last year), Madhya Pradesh (52 as against 48 last year) and West Bengal (46 in comparison to 53 last year). Incidentally, of the complaints of ragging received this year, 58 of 478 were about women.
Aman Movement was launched by Raj Kachroo in the memory of his son, Aman, who was ragged to death by his seniors at a medical college in Himachal Pradesh in 2009. Aman, who was 19, had been beaten by his seniors and had sustained fatal injuries. His father later founded the Aman Satya Kachroo Trust to fund the anti-ragging movement, which now works with various government agencies to curb ragging.
Minister of state for human resource development, Mahendra Nath Pandey, discussed how the Ministry of Human Resource Development is trying to curb ragging, in the Lok Sabha on Monday. In response to a question, he said that the UGC had come out with regulations on June 17, 2009 and that these have been further amended and made applicable to all higher educational institutions across the country.
The minister said these amended regulations “provide for a number of punitive and prohibitive measures, including stopping grants by the UGC and also the withdrawal of affiliation/recognition or other privileges conferred, if higher educational institutions fail to comply with any of the provisions of the regulations, or fail to curb ragging effectively.”
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has also made it clear that it would not tolerate ragging. The apex court had appointed an Anti-Ragging Monitoring Committee under the chairmanship of R.K. Raghavan, a former CBI director. In its May 8, 2009, order, it had directed that a number of recommendations made by the Raghavan Committee be implemented. The committee has also been monitoring the cases of ragging regularly.
As far as the UGC’s role in curbing ragging is concerned, the minister said that it had issued a circular on February 23 this year. To further curb the menace of ragging, the UGC has issued a circular to all universities “to implement the anti-ragging regulations and take strict action against those flouting the guidelines. The UGC has also made it mandatory for all educational institutions to incorporate in their prospectus the directions of the government regarding anti-ragging.”
The government said the anti-ragging toll-free helpline has also been made operational by the UGC with call centre facilities to help victims of ragging, besides facilitating effective coordinated action by all concerned.
It added that a mobile application has also been developed for preventing ragging and in the last fiscal year a sum of Rs 5 crore was released to the UGC to create awareness about anti-ragging measures through the media.
However, as the rise in the number of complaints of ragging from all over the country suggests, the institutions are clearly not taking adequate safeguards to prevent ragging. The problem can only be solved if institutions actively persecute law-breakers and if the Centre clamps down on the institutes which fail to protect the lives and the dignity of their students.