HYDERABAD: The University Grants Commission issued a circular earlier this week, directing all higher educational institutions to send a report within a month, on the action taken regarding instances of caste-based discrimination faced by students on their campuses.
This may not be the first time that the regulatory body has urged colleges to monitor caste-based discrimination. But seeking a report on the previous cases hints at its intention to increase sensitivity on the issue. This, however, may not go down well with the varsities in the State, a majority of which have only ornamental SC/ST cells.
The 100-year-old Osmania University also does not have an ‘institutionalised anti-discrimination cell’. Coordinator of the cell, Prof D Ravinder, opines that since 90 per cent of their students are from rural areas, who have studied in Telugu medium, and belong to the SC/ST or OBC community, there is a kind of homogeneity on campus.
Thus there are very few instances of discrimination on campus anymore. “The SC/ST cell exists only for namesake. It is a defunct body. But the other point to note is that our campus is very inclusive. No teacher or student has ever faced any caste based-discrimination,” said Battu Satyanarayana, president of Osmania University Teachers Association (OUTA).
Meanwhile, at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University, there is a three-member SC/ST cell which has surprisingly no registered complaints. “We have received no such complaints even though we have a considerable number of SC/ST/OBC students. If any such issues do come to the fore, they are taken care of at the department-level,” said Abrar Ahmed, cell’s nodal officer.
At the University of Hyderabad, which grabbed headlines in 2016 after the suicide of its Dalit PhD scholar, Rohith Vemula, allegedly over caste-based discrimination, students and faculty allege that discrimination is now more subtle and disguised.
“It (discrimination) is there not just among students but also among faculty in the form of poor fund allocation, lack of promotion and recognition, among others. Most complaints that the cell receives are from faculty members. But I must say that the over the years things have gotten better, for instance, the enrollment of SC, ST in postgraduate programmes has increased, as has the number of faculty from these communities,” said Prof Ramdas Rupavath, co-coordinator of SC/ST cell of UoH.