Thursday, May 24, 2007

[NewIndPress] City colleges need to act tough

Monday May 21 2007 04:09 IST

KOCHI: As the new academic year is all set to begin, colleges across the city will have to form a strict anti-ragging policy as the Supreme Court has come down heavily on ragging on campuses.

Acting on this, the UGC will soon issue directives to universities to make the colleges totally student-friendly and form guidelines regarding ragging.

In the last seven years, around 25 cases of suicide due to ragging were reported by Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (CURE). Their website says that 60 percent of the ragging cases are physical, of which around 20 percent are instances of sexual harassment. Sadly, most of these are seldom reported.

In response, the Supreme Court has declared ragging, including the conspiracy to rag, infliction of physical injury and aiding a party in the act as criminal offence.

If a victim or the guardian of the victim is unsatisfied with the action taken on their complaint, an FIR must be filed. Failing to do the same would indicate ignorance on the part of the institution. A school or college that neglects the direction can be de-recognised by the UGC/AICTE.

The Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat had also instructed the education boards in the country to include ragging and its evils as part of the curriculum to teach students the consequences of such physical and mental abuse in places of education.

“The ban on ragging was implemented in Kerala years ago after the initial directive of the court. With the induction of girl students in the college last year, the anti-ragging cell has been working twice as hard. All that is allowed is monitored interaction between senior students and freshers,” says Robert Stanley, principal of St Albert’s College.

Instances of harassment of first year students have declined over the years in the state with ragging controversies being reported sporadically.

“However,” says KSU state president Hibi Eden, “there is a tendency to book people on ragging charges to settle political and party-based vendettas. This should be done away with, especially now that it is a criminally-chargeable offence.”

In order to stop such occurrences, the case should first be presented before a neutral commission that is free of political lenience, he says.

Professional colleges in Kerala have taken measures to control ragging, especially after the SME School of Medical Education episode.

“Anti-ragging squads have been deployed in all the departments of the university,” says P K Abdul Azis, Vice-Chancellor of Cochin University.

Cases of harassment in colleges in other states have taken appalling dimensions. Even when Kerala has been prompt in implementing action against such troublemakers, the truth remains that another version of the SME case may be lying dormant, and even a law charging those with criminal intentions may not be enough to deter the worst of their kind.

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