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Ragging: the Indian experience

Ragging in our universities is still a brutal reality. A female undergraduate attached to the Ruhunu University has been suspended following a ragging incident that left a fresher semi-paralyzed on one limb.

The alleged incident took place inside the university premises recently and the suspect student is alleged to have led a pack of seniors in the ragging session. It seems that we still have a long way to go before the menace of ragging in our universities stops completely.

Meanwhile, the government is determined to take stern action against the students continuing practice of ragging in the country’s universities, the Minister of Higher Education S.B Dissanayake said. The objectionable practice of ragging in higher education institutes has come under severe criticism from the civil society as it has caused several fatalities over the course of years at Sri Lankan universities. It has also increased suicide risks among the freshmen student population.

Indian experience

India has wide experience in handling the ragging issue and their experience is worth recounting. India has made excellent headway towards minimizing the scourge of raggng in universities. However, the problem is not yet fully solved.

In 1997, the state of Tamil Nadu first passed laws related to ragging. Subsequently, a major boost to anti-ragging efforts was given by a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India in May 2001, in response to a public interest litigation filed by the Vishwa Jagriti Mission.

The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), following a directive by the Supreme Court, appointed a seven member panel headed by ex-CBI director Dr. R. K. Raghavan to recommend anti-ragging measures. The Raghavan Committee Report, submitted to the court in May 2007, included a proposal to include ragging as a special section under the Indian Penal Code.

The Supreme Court of India interim order(based on the recommendations) dated May 16, 2007 made it obligatory for academic institutions to file official First Information Reports with the Police in any instance of a complaint of ragging.

This would ensure that all cases would be formally investigated under criminal justice system, and not by the academic institutions own ad-hoc bodies.

Raghavan Report

The committee has made several recommendations.

(1) The punishment to be meted out has to be exemplary and justifiably harsh to act as a deterrent against recurrence of such incidents.

(2) Every incident of ragging where the victim or his parent/guardian or the Head of institutions is not satisfied with the institutional arrangement for action, a First Information Report must be filed without exception by the institutional authorities with the local police authorities. Any failure on the part of the institutional authorities or negligence or deliberate delay in lodging the FIR with the local police shall be construed to be an act of culpable negligence on the part of the institutional authority. If any victim or his parent/guardian of ragging intends to file FIR directly with the police, that will not absolve the institutional authority from the requirement of filing the FIR.

(3) Courts should make an effort to ensure that cases involving ragging are taken up on a priority basis to send the correct message that ragging is not only to be discouraged but also to be dealt with sternness.

UGC regulations

In addition, the committee also directed that the possibility of introducing in the educational curriculum a subject relating to ragging shall be explored by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the respective State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT). This aspect can be included in the teaching of the subjects ‘Human Rights’.

In 2009, University Grants Commission (UGC) passed UGC Regulation on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009.

These regulations mandate every college responsibilities to curb the menace of ragging, including strict pre-emptive measures, like lodging freshers in a separate hostel, surprise raids especially at nights by the anti-ragging squad and submission of affidavits by all senior students and their parents taking oath not to indulge in ragging.

The main features of the regulations are:

Responsibilities of educational institutions

Before and during admission and registration:

* Every public declaration, brochure of admission/instruction booklet or the prospectus to print these regulations in full.

* Telephone numbers of the Anti-Ragging Helpline and all the important functionaries in the institution, members of the Anti-Ragging Committees and Anti-Ragging Squads etc. to be published in brochure of admission/instruction booklet or the prospectus.

* Every student and his/her parents to file an affidavit avowing not to indulge in ragging.

* The institution to prominently display posters detailing laws and punishment against ragging.

* Anti-ragging squad to ensure vigil at odd hours during first few months at hostels, inside institution premises as well as privately commercially managed hostels.

After admission

* Printed leaflet to be given to every fresher detailing addresses and telephone numbers of the Anti-Ragging Helpline, Wardens, Head of the institution, all members of the anti-ragging squads and committees, and relevant district and police authorities.

* Identity of informants of ragging incidents to be fully protected.

* Faculty members assigned to students to make surprise visits and to maintain a diary of his/her interaction with the freshers.

* Freshers to be lodged, as far as may be, in a separate hostel block.

Head of the institution, at the end of each academic year, to send a letter to the parents/guardians of the students who are completing their first year in the institution informing them about these Regulations.

Anti-Ragging Committee and Anti- Ragging squad

* Anti-Ragging Committee to be nominated and headed by the Head of the institution, and consisting of representatives of civil and police administration, local media, Non Government Organizations involved in youth activities, representatives of faculty members, representatives of parents, representatives of students belonging to the freshers’ category etc.

* Duty of the Anti-Ragging Committee to ensure compliance with the provisions of these Regulations

* Anti-Ragging Squad to be nominated by the Head of the Institution for maintaining vigil, oversight and patrolling functions and shall remain mobile, alert and active at all times.

* Anti-Ragging Squad to make surprise raids on hostels.

* Discreet random surveys to be conducted amongst the freshers every fortnight during the first three months.

* The Heads of institutions affiliated to a University or a constituent of the University to submit a weekly report on the status of compliance with Anti-Ragging measures and a monthly report on such status thereafter, to the Vice-Chancellor of the University.

The Vice Chancellor of each University to submit fortnightly reports, including those of the Monitoring Cell on Ragging in case of an affiliating university, to the State Level Monitoring Cell.

Complaint of ragging

* First Information Report (FIR) to be filed within 24 hours of receipt of such information or complaint of ragging, with the police and local authorities.

* Head of the institution to forthwith report the incident of ragging to the District Level Anti-Ragging Committee and the Nodal officer.

Institution shall also continue with its own enquiry and remedial action to be completed with-in seven days.

Responsibilities of University Grants Commission (UGC)

* The Commission to verify that the institutions strictly comply with the requirement of getting the affidavits from the students and their parents/guardians as envisaged under these Regulations.

* The Commission to make it mandatory for the institutions to incorporate in their prospectus, the anti-ragging directions of the Central Government or the State Level Monitoring Committee

* The Commission to maintain an appropriate data base to be created out of affidavits, and such database to also function as a record of ragging complaints received, and the status of the action taken thereon.

* The Commission shall make available the database to a non-governmental agency

* The Commission to include a specific condition in the Utilization Certificate, in respect of any financial assistance or grants-in-aid to any institution, that the institution has complied with the anti-ragging measures.

* The Commission to constitute an Inter-Council Committee to coordinate and monitor the anti-ragging measures in institutions across the country.

* The Commission to institute an Anti-Ragging Cell within the Commission to provide secretarial support for collection of information and monitoring, and to coordinate with the State Level Monitoring Cell and University level Committees for effective implementation of anti-ragging measures

Anti-ragging movement

With the situation of ragging worsening yearly, there is emerging a spontaneous anti-ragging movement in India. Several voluntary organizations have emerged, who conduct drives for public awareness and arrange for support to victims.

Online groups like Coalition to Uproot Ragging from India (CURE), Stop ragging and No Ragging Foundation became the major Anti Ragging groups on the Internet. Among them, the No Ragging Foundation has transformed into a complete NGO and got registered as Society Against Violence in Education (SAVE) which is India's first registered Anti Ragging non-profit organization (NGO). These groups are working on issues related to ragging. Each of them is running anti ragging websites and online groups.

 

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