Sunday, March 27, 2011

Harsh Agarwal’s on a nationwide tour to root out ragging from campus

It is that time of the year when freshers will tread their first few steps into the college with fear and apprehension. In a couple of months, a new academic year will begin, and freshers will walk in with the nagging fear of being ragged.

The icebreaker has far reaching consequences, explains Harsh Agarwal, co-founder, Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (CURE).

In his month-long tour in which he covered 12 cities from Nagpur, Nasik, Pune, Surathkal, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Kolkata and Lucknow, Agarwal says that there are a number of misconceptions associated with ragging that he hopes to demystify.

“There is no such thing as mild and severe ragging. Bullying is not the way to make friends,” said Agarwal, pointing out that from July 2009 to June 2010, there were about 164 cases of ragging registered across the country, out of which 19 resulted in death/suicide and over 60 students had to be hospitalised. “Most times, cases are not registered, and victims just suffer silently,” he added.

Those who get bullied are sadly, victims of circumstances, and the trauma they go through is unparalleled. “It is a herd mentality. It is all about being in the popular group; there are probably 10-15 hard core raggers, and just to be part of the so-called popular group others join in, not wanting to be left out,” said Agarwal, former consultant to the Supreme Court Committee on Ragging.

While many assume that ragging is a global phenomenon, it is actually quite restricted to our country. “It is for students to understand the issue. Students are actually shy and reserved when it comes to talking about it. The college also has a huge role to play. It is not sufficient to have laws which are not followed and helplines which are rarely used,” said Agarwal.

He suggested that colleges conduct anti-ragging workshops or even an anonymous survey, and find out the prominent places where students are ragged, or what the mentality of the students is. Having a complaint box is of little use, because the victims rarely reveal it,” he felt.

During the one hour session that Agarwal is conducting at various engineering and medical colleges in the city, there will be a screening of a documentary on ragging followed by an interaction with the students through informal activities to make them think on this issue and condemn this practice. However, he says that the response he has received from the colleges in Bangalore is disappointing.

“Before I began the tour, I had written to several colleges and many of them had been keen on the session.Now many are backing out, particularly in Bangalore. Incidentally, my stay in the city is the longest, because of the number of medical and engineering colleges here, and I am finding them very uncooperative,” said a disappointed Agarwal, adding that he was particularly let down by Bangalore Medical College, where he claimed that the principal did not show keen interest and asked him to come back next week.

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