Sunday, December 12, 2010

Agri students allege ragging by seniors

Vishwas Kothari, TNN, Nov 24, 2010, 03.28am IST

PUNE: One of the oldest institutions for agricultural studies, the College of Agriculture, Pune (CoAP) was at the centre of a row over alleged ragging of four first-year BSc (Agri) course students by their seniors studying in the second year of agriculture as well as horticulture degree courses.

The college has independent hostel blocks for junior and senior students, which are located a stone's throw from each other and near the main administrative block. The four complainants hail from Jalna, Beed and Washim districts, while the nine seniors named by them in the complaint also hail from the Marathwada region.

Although the students allege that they were being 'ragged' by the seniors for almost a month-and-a-half, the incident came to light only around 10.30 pm on Monday when one of the victims called his uncle on the phone and told him about the ragging.

The uncle, along with a politically-affiliated students' union activist, rushed to the hostel premises to check out the matter. Sensing trouble, the seniors started running away from the spot. One of them was apprehended by the students and handed over to the college authorities.

The drama, which stretched well past midnight, had the sprawling college campus abuzz, with the police moving to the site to ensure that there was no trouble. The college's associate dean and principal, B R Ulmek, had reached the hostel block by this time.

The CoAP has since set up a multi-member committee, headed by G B Gutal, professor of agriculture engineering, who is also vice-president of the college's students' council, to probe the incident and furnish a report. Officiating rector for the boys hostel R M Naik, chief counsellor P R Surve, hostel monitor S H Mane and student welfare officer T S Bhondwe are on the seven-member probe panel.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, all members of the probe committee met in the ante chamber of Ulmek's office to conduct the inquiry proceedings, including recording the statements of the four juniors and the nine seniors, who have been named in the complaint.

Incidentally, practical examinations were being held on Tuesday for the second-year degree course students. The authorities had to wait for them to get over before starting the inquiry proceedings.

Ulmek told TOI, "We are strictly going by the process laid down by the Maharashtra Council for Agriculture Education and Research (MCAER) as well as the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act, to ascertain facts and will take action based on the outcome of the ongoing inquiry. The prospect of lodging a police complaint depends on what the inquiry panel submits."

According to rector Naik, "The four junior students have given written statements naming nine second-year students from the agriculture and horticulture degree courses (all residing at the senior's hostel) for ragging them on one pretext or the other over the last one-and-a-half months.

"The complainants have stated that the seniors would force them to complete their academic tasks such as practical journals; browbeat them in different ways like making them stand with their heads hung low for hours, slapping them and using abusive language," added Naik.

The incident on Monday night seems to have been the outcome of such browbeating. Some seniors entered the hostel block by using the drainage pipe at the rear to climb up and move into the first floor through the windows, which have no grills. "As a usual practice, we close the main entrance of the juniors hostel block at 9 pm every day," said Naik.

Once inside, the seniors started asking the juniors to complete their practical journals, which the latter refused to do. Instead, one of the juniors got in touch with his uncle.

Students at the juniors hostel said the college authorities had barricaded the windows with tin sheets on Tuesday, following the incident. The terrace door, which would otherwise remain open, had also been locked.

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