A few weeks ago, a 17-year-old student from a premier Maritime Education and Training institute on the ECR approached this newspaper seeking help to expose ragging from his seniors. The age-old menace, which is considered a rite of passage for junior students and is often confined to simple harassment techniques, had turned violent in his case and he feared for his life.
“In the beginning, the seniors just wanted me to buy them food and drinks, wear a particular kind of clothing etc. But, when I refused, they began to abuse me physically,” said this student from Kerala who sought anonymity. “When I resisted even that, they began threatening me and even assaulted me outside the campus. Now, I’m worried about returning to college.”
The student claimed that he could not approach the college management fearing repercussions. “I’m afraid to even approach the police as they are influential people. It’s like I have nowhere to go to,” the student told this newspaper.
Ironically, Tamil Nadu woke up to the dangers of ragging two decades ago when it claimed the life of a medical student, Pon Navarasu, who was brutally killed and chopped to pieces by a senior. That the victim was the son of a top university official forced the government to put up a slew of measures to curb ragging in campuses. But, none of the seem to work.
Academicians and experts claimed that ragging goes unnoticed in several colleges since the students who indulge in the act are usually from influential families. Many students, who come to second year of their course in the colleges, claim that soon after the college opens for new admissions (freshers), the first few days in the colleges were difficult.
They also say that freshmen orientation programmes were conducted in a few campuses and that the rules and procedures pertaining to ragging were explained to them.
“Still, I was also subjected to ragging. However, it was mild one. The seniors asked me purchase cool drinks from the canteen”, K Balaji (name changed), a second year student of a private engineering college here in Chennai said. Another student also claimed that in his college, the faculties’ tries to explain ragging is part of college life.
As an indicator of the extent of the menace, Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, who is also chancellor of state-run universities, chaired a meeting a few days ago to deliberate on measures to eradicate the menace of ragging in educational institutions.
The ninth State Level Monitoring Committee for eradicating the menace of ragging in educational institutions met under the Governor on September 8, 2018. Commenting after the meeting, higher education Minister KP Anbazhagan said that it was emphasised in the meeting that all colleges and institutions will have anti-ragging committees and was ensured that the present monitoring mechanism will be further strengthened.
“There will be zero tolerance and severe punishment will be imposed on the students indulging in ragging practices,” said the minister. “Anti-ragging committees will work on ensuring to build positive attitude among student community and curb ragging menace completely which will create a congenial ambience in educational institutions,” he added.
Anbazhagan further said that expeditious steps would be taken to eradicate ragging throughout the state by forming Monitoring Cells at all institution and district levels to make Tamil Nadu a ragging free state. “Though we take strict measures, students, who are being affected by the ragging, should come and boldly report about the incident and then only action will be taken against the culprits. Most of the students do not reports as they fear that they would face any further problem with their seniors,” he said.
The latest Ministry of Human Resources Development’s (MHRD) report states that only 10 ragging incidents were reported in Tamil Nadu in 2018. The number stood at 40 in 2017. Following the drop in the number of complaints, and suspecting that the result may be indicative of students hesitating to file complaints, the MHRD involved All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), Dental Council of India (DCI), Medical Council of India (MCI), University Grants Commission (UGC) and Indian Nursing Council in its anti-ragging initiative.
Tamil Nadu Federation of University Faculty Associations (TANFUFA), the prime academician’s body in the state, said that action taken by the government against those students was not that stringent. “Many colleges are not taking ragging seriously despite the formation of strong anti-ragging cell in all institutions. Ragging takes place in the colleges that do not maintain discipline,” said TANFUFA president Dr I Arul Aram, who was also a former member of anti-ragging cell in a college.
He added that the college managements should spread positive aspects of socialism in the colleges to stop ragging. “Special care should be taken of migrant students so that they should not fall easy victims to ragging,” he added.
If the severity of the ragging is more, the student, who involved in the act, should be expelled from the college, state other academicians. “College staff and management in some education institutions become avoidant bystanders when they deny the existence of ragging or deny that ragging is a problem” said Dr Lakshmi Kumar TV, assistant professor (research), department of physics atmospheric science, SRM Institute of Science and Technology.
Joint Action Council of College Teachers (JAC), Tamil Nadu, convenor Dr R Dhamotharan said that unless there is a full awareness about the implications of ragging among students and faculties, the menace would continue. He said that JAC would send circulars to all higher educational institutions across Tamil Nadu to strengthen the anti-ragging cell.
Latest moves to curb ragging
- Students will be expelled if found guilty.
- Anti-ragging cell in Tamil Nadu will be enhanced.
- Even ragging outside the campus will not be spared.
- Students will get separate numbers and portals to file complaints.
- The institution have the right to file FIR in cases of severe bullying.
- Ragging committee should decide the gravity of the offence.