UGC bid to give teeth to anti-ragging measures

The court’s directions were part of the judgment in the Aman Kachroo ragging case of 2009, pursued by his father Dr Raj Kachroo.
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only. (Photo | EPS)

What happened with Aman Kachroo in 2009 in a medical college in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra was repeated with J S Siddarthan in a veterinary college in Wayanad in 2023. While Kachroo was beaten to death, Siddarthan was bullied, assaulted and driven to suicide. Many more students have endured ragging, which continues to cast its shadow on campuses. In this scenario, it is hoped the University Grants Commission (UGC)’s latest guidelines for higher education institutions will curb such delinquent behaviour.

The UGC has already up drawn up a number of commendable initiatives, including a round-the-clock toll-free helpline and dedicated email ID for students to complain. It has now asked states to set up district-level committees to monitor institutions; the committees will include the district magistrate, additional district magistrate, university head, superintendent of police, local media and student organisations—a robust setup that brings together a number of public stakeholders which will, hopefully, prevent and even eliminate this evil. The UGC also suggests regular counselling, identification of troublemakers, surprise inspections of hostels, besides infrastructure like CCTV cameras and posters to raise awareness.

Regrettably, it has taken the UGC 15 years to comply with the SC’s 2009 directive on setting up committees at the local level, designed to give students a sense of security. The court’s directions were part of the judgment in the Aman Kachroo ragging case of 2009, pursued by his father Dr Raj Kachroo. The SC recommended that every institution must have an Anti-Ragging Committee and an Anti-Ragging Squad, and also sought to sensitise all college staffers, be they administrative or contract labour, to report any untoward incidents. There have been cases of college authorities attempting to downplay ragging cases and muffling student voices in a bid to protect the institution’s reputation.

Notably, ragging is an activity common among males—of the 1,240 ragging cases reported in the past year, 82 percent involved boys. Whether bullying as a form of socialisation is accepted among boys is moot, but when it crosses a certain line, authorities should step in. Besides prevention, there should be stringent punishment for students who attack vulnerable juniors; criminal charges should be slapped, instead of limiting the penalty to rustication. It is hoped these measures and doses of counselling will eventually end this campus activity, and parents will be spared the pain of losing young teenagers.

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The New Indian Express