(G.N.S) Dt. 29
Heads of colleges in B’luru say all precautions being taken to prevent any unsavoury incident, This is one fact that can’t be swept under the carpet. Nobody talks about it openly anymore because it is banned under law, but ask any student about his/her first few days in college and chances are that (s)he would have come across seniors asking freshers to ‘introduce’ themselves or ‘perform’ a few tricks for some cheap laughs.
After sustained steps to stem it, ragging seems to have returned to college campuses in Karnataka. In fact, in 2017 cases of ragging doubled (48) as compared to those in 2016 (24). The Human Resource Development ministry has revealed that there were 115 cases of ragging that were reported to the University Grants
Commission (UGC) between 2014 and 2017.
Ragging is a dreaded word and a touchy subject on campus; while extreme cases of ragging in professional colleges led to the deaths of students forcing the government to crack down, votaries of the practice say it is a tool of social interaction and helps juniors break the ice with their seniors. However, ragging is banned on campuses through various state laws, regulations of the UGC and other institution-specific rules. Students also have recourse to various sections of the Indian Penal Code if they are subjected to brutal ragging.
Earlier this year, Bangalore Mirror had reported about 10 students who were arrested in Dakshina Kannada on charges of ragging as these students had thrashed another student for not ‘respecting’ his seniors. (‘Respect’ is the central theme of ragging; while seniors say this helps them command respect among freshers, juniors say respect should be earned and not demanded).
Recently, responding to a question in the Lok Sabha, Satypal Singh, the junior HRD minister said: “UGC has brought out the UGC regulations on curbing the menace of ragging in higher education educational institutions, 2009, which defines ragging. These UGC regulations have been further amended and are applicable to all higher education institutions across the country. They provide for a number of punitive and prohibitive measures. The perpetrators have also been punished.”
But what exactly have institutions in Karnataka done to curb this menace, given that the number doubled in 2017 after showing a steady growth from 2014 onwards?
Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS) Vice-Chancellor’s Secretariat official MK Ramesh told BM, “We set up an anti-ragging committee and the number of cases or complaints came down after it came into force. The committee is assisted by the student welfare association which raises issues, if any, and we take immediate action.
“One or two cases were found in medical colleges and when probed, we found that they were not real ragging cases. Till date, in medical colleges, we have not heard of any kind of physical violence in our university,” he said.Extreme forms of ragging were earlier limited to medical or engineering colleges (especially in hostels) but have now to spread to some arts and commerce colleges (and also those which have only day scholars). But BU maintains that its campus is free of such incidents.
Bangalore University (BU) Registrar BK Ravi said, “Every university is supposed to constitute an anti-ragging committee. We know that innocent students should not be disturbed. Till date, we have not got any such complaint.”
But, what is the anti-ragging committee supposed to do? Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) Registrar Jagannath Reddy said, “Once the committee receives the information, it should immediately escalate it to the higher-ups or it should strongly write a letter to the concerned colleges and ask for a report and probe the matter and take action against the perpetrators.
When asked if there have been any cases in VUT, Reddy said: “Two-three cases were brought to our notice but when we probed them we found they were nothing, g serious. We at VTU strive to keep every child safe, especially women from any form of sexual harassment.” Other colleges/universities trying to keep their campuses ragging-free need to learn from the National Law School of India University (NLSIU). Vice-chancellor, R Venkata Rao, told BM, “Fortunately, we have not come across a single case of ragging till date. NLSIU is a ragging free campus and we follow zero-tolerance policy. We live in a small family where students stay in a hostel as well. That way, each one knows another and moreover, we have built a system like that.“We have had ice-breaking sessions, teachers keep on interacting with students and vice-versa. When we treat students as one of our family members and we live with each other in harmony, then not a single case will crop up. Not every student is a problem, but every student has a problem and ultimately it is a human issue,” added Rao.