Ragging Menace: Few Solutions In Sight

Ragging Menace: Few Solutions In Sight

Why is there no respite for many students in India from ragging, and why the existing regulations are not enough to curb the menace? Here's the latest episode of our Podumentary!

Last Updated on September 30, 2022

https://youtu.be/nfPN0x4EdRk

 

Prof Rajendra Kachroo lost his son to ragging. Akshit Srivastava, another ragging victim, was let down by his college after he lodged a complaint against his senior for ragging. In Haldwani in Uttarakhand, many students were forced to shave their heads and were paraded with their hands tied on their backs. A homoeopathic medical college developed a ragging manual, and in another case, a student’s body was chopped into pieces because he resisted ragging.

In the name of breaking the ice, the lives of numerous students and their families continue to be broken in India because of ragging. In this Podumentary, we speak to ragging victims and experts on why the instances of ragging in colleges are not receding despite steps initiated by the University Grants Commission (UGC).  

 

Speakers: 

 

Dr Akshit Srivastava

Ragging victim

 

Dr Kushal Banerjee

Co-founder, SAVE
(Society Against Violence in Education)

 

Meera Kaura Patel 

Advocate, Supreme Court 

Legal head, SAVE
(Society Against Violence in Education)

 

Prof Rajendra Kachroo

Ragging victim Aman Kachroo’s father

Founder, Aman Movement

 

Rakesh Kumar Mishra, IPS (retired)

Chairman, Anti Ragging Committee 

 

Tejeswar Parida

Convener, Ragging Free Campus Abhiyan (RFCA)

 

Produced below are the abridged version of the transcripts of our Podumentary (audio documentary) titled: Ragging Menace: Few Solutions In Sight

Welcome to The Probe’s Podumentary. Our Podumentary is a series of audio documentaries on topics and stories that matter to people and are part of our public interest journalism in India. Here is a new episode of our Podumentary titled: Ragging Menace: Few Solutions In Sight. 

Professor Rajendra Kachroo’s son Aman Kachroo, a 19-year-old medical student, died in 2009 because of ragging. Aman died of injuries suffered after four drunk seniors ragged him in Himachal Pradesh. Over a decade has passed since the Aman Kachroo ragging incident, but ragging-related cases have not receded in India. Aman’s father, Prof Rajendra Kachroo, started the Aman Movement to eradicate ragging in our educational institutions. 

“I did not know that Aman, my son, could face this kind of violence in college. So, I was not prepared, and many parents whose children still suffer, for instance, the three kids… I have talked to their parents, who committed suicide this year. Their parents did not know that this level of violence could happen in a professional college. So, when Aman passed away, many of my friends and relatives said we wanted justice for the victim, but for me, justice was not to go and punish those four children who had committed the crime. I did not pursue that route. I pursued the route of ensuring that ragging does not happen in India. So, I went and designed a ragging prevention programme. Got it approved by the Supreme Court and Parliament and then fought for its implementation,” says Kachroo.

The Probe spoke to Akshit Srivastava, another victim of ragging. His seniors ragged Akshit within the college premises, but despite complaining to the management, the college refused to act and brushed the matter under the rug. 

Akshit says: “Initially, I complained to the college management, and they took note. Then they just called the senior and counselled him, but they did not take any action. Later on, the college even denied that something had happened to me. The college was more bothered about its image. These incidents are taking place because the colleges don’t act.”

In the name of breaking the ice, the lives of numerous students and their families continue to be broken in India because of ragging. A video of alleged ragging at a government medical college in Haldwani in Uttarakhand went viral this year in which numerous students with their heads shaved and hands tied at their backs were seen walking in queues around the college campus. Dr Kushal Banerjee, the Co-founder of Society Against Violence in Education, says he recently discovered another incident wherein the students of a homoeopathic medical college had developed a ragging manual. 

“Very recently, there was an event from a homoeopathic medical college. We found that the senior had developed a ragging booklet on how juniors must be ragged. We have taken this issue to the higher authorities. We have warned the college that we are going to the Prime Minister’s office, the Ayush ministry and the human rights commission. The college Principal has assured action and said they will install CCTV cameras.”

Meera Kaura Patel, an advocate and the legal head of Society Against Violence in Education, says much of the problem in India stems from the fact that we still don’t have a stringent national anti-ragging law. Some states in India have devised their own legislation on ragging, and under the existing framework, punishment for ragging is not severe.

“We still lack a national anti-ragging law. Some states have come up with their own legislation. Only a few of them really make ragging a cognisable offence. We need legislation that imposes some penalty on the students.”

Ragging continues to claim the lives of many students in India. This month a 19-year-old student was found dead at a university in Haryana, and the student’s family alleged that ragging was the cause of the death. The reluctance of police to register FIRs in cases related to ragging and the unwillingness of institutions to accept the prevalence of ragging on their campuses have only added to the problem.

Meera Kaura Patel says, “In some states, ragging is not even a cognisable offence. So what happens is, if the ragging incident involves a series of other offences along with ragging, for example, while ragging a student, if the student faces violence or molestation, then the police take it seriously. Police registers FIR only when there are serious sections. Ragging per se is not taken seriously”. 

A few days back, the University Grants Commission (UGC) wrote to all colleges and universities advising them to strengthen their anti-ragging mechanisms before the new semester begins. According to Tejeswar Parida, Convener of the Ragging Free Campus Abhiyan, colleges usually don’t disclose ragging-related incidents as it takes a hit on their image. 

“The problem is who will execute or implement these laws? The institution should implement these laws. But the problem is that the institution considers ragging a taboo. They think that a ragging case will tarnish their image. Therefore, they don’t disclose ragging-related incidents. If a case gets reported, they just pass it off as those related to fights amongst the students. FIRs are not registered. The UGC has started anti-ragging helplines, but if you call or email them, they are forwarded to the state-level institutions. When the institution sets up an enquiry, who makes this enquiry? A majority of the people in these anti-ragging cells are professors. The committee is not inclusive. The committee should have students from each year, but that is not the case. The committee should also have parents, but they are not present. There should be local social workers, police officers, and journalists on the committee. However, the committee does not include these people. The teachers in the committee do only what the principal and the dean ask them to. They don’t accept that ragging takes place in their institution. If it is accepted, then according to the UGC, the colleges won’t receive any funding. Regulatory authorities have also said that those colleges where ragging takes place won’t be offered any projects, which means they will not get any money. Due to this reason, they don’t accept the truth,” notes Parida.

The University Grants Commission has also requested educational institutions to take preventive steps, install CCTV cameras on college campuses and create anti-ragging cells. The Commission has asked colleges to hold anti-ragging training programs, workshops and seminars and update the institutions’ websites with the nodal officers’ contact details. Retired IPS officer Rakesh Kumar Mishra says ragging can only be contained when institutions that allow students to get away with ragging are derecognised. 

“All these colleges are under university or some national level commissions or committees. So, those committees will have to frame stringent regulations, take preventive action, and sometimes even derecognise those colleges where ragging is reported.”

In 2001 the Supreme Court of India banned ragging. In 2009, after the death of Aman Kachroo, the University Grants Commission set up a nationwide toll-free anti-ragging helpline. But Tejeswar Parida says our national action on ragging has been limited so far. Much more needs to be done to save the lives and careers of students who fall prey to ragging.

Bullying and ragging are not considered serious offences in India. Instead of providing relief to the aggrieved students, most institutions indulge in covering up the tracks of the aggressors. Prof Rajendra Kachroo says colleges must be downgraded and acted against if they are caught shielding the culprits. 

In India, like the Aman Movement, many movements have cropped up against ragging, but year on year, numerous cases of ragging get reported from institutions across the country. Meera Kaura Patel says India at 75 deserves better. Ragging is a crime, and the only reward for it must be jail. 

“I feel that a lot of awareness, counselling and psychological programs have to be organised in the institutions to make them understand the repercussions of their actions. Now, UGC regulations have said that it is mandatory to file an affidavit where the student must declare that they will not indulge in ragging. The worst case I had heard was one from the south where a student’s body was cut into pieces because he resisted ragging. What are we nurturing in our educational institutions? What do we really want these people to become? These are going to be the responsible citizens of India. Is this the India that we really want to create?” asks Patel.

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