Ragging — still an ugly truth of city colleges, rampant but not reported

Between April 17, 2012 and October 29, 2014, the National Anti-Ragging Helpline received 30 calls from Pune students

Written by Ardhra Nair , Garima Rakesh Mishra | Pune | Published: October 31, 2014 3:45 am
The National Anti Ragging and Anti Racial Discrimination helpline receives about 15,000 calls per week from across the country. (File photo) The National Anti Ragging and Anti Racial Discrimination helpline receives about 15,000 calls per week from across the country. (File photo)

Between April 17, 2012, and October 29, 2014, the National Anti-Ragging Helpline received 1,389 calls from across the country, including around 30 calls from Pune students. The names of the colleges mentioned on the helpline website includes some prominent institutes of the city — Symbiosis Law School, GH Raisoni Institute of Engineering & Technology, Bharati Vidyapeeth’s Medical College, Vikhe Patil College of Arts, Science and Commerce, National Institute of Virology, Abasaheb Garware College, Sinhgad Institute of Technology, Symbiosis School of Photography, Army Institute of Technology, Cummins College of Engineering for women, MIT College, Armed Forces Medical College and a few colleges affiliated to Savitribai Phule Pune University.

“The figures clearly state that students are being ragged but the cases are not registered by colleges,” said Dr Kushal Banerjee of the anti-ragging NGO No2Ragging.

The answers received to the Right To Information (RTI) applications filed by The Indian Express with four city-based institutes stated that there were either no or negligible ragging cases reported at their respective institutes after  the anti-ragging committees were formed.
At the College of Engineering Pune (CoEP), where the anti-ragging committee was formed in 2009, only one case has been reported so far. In 2011, seven students were accused of harassing a first-year student by locking him up in a hostel room. After a thorough investigation, the college had cancelled their current and next term hostel admission and had also withheld their hostel fee. CoEP has anti-ragging committees at two levels — institute and hostel. Anil D Sahasrabudhe, Director of COEP, said, “We have all the required committees and squads to deal with cases of ragging. Whenever inquiries are conducted, we make the general secretary, who is a student, a part of the committee. We do not take first-year students because they do not know much about the college. But whenever cases come up, we also ask one junior student to be a part of the group.”

In reply to the RTI filed at B J Medical College (BJMC), authorities said an anti-ragging committee was formed every year at the time of admission. “The last one was formed in February, 2014. The number of cases registered so far (from the time the anti-ragging committee was formed till date) were nil,” they said. Interestingly, while the RTI reply claims that no ragging case was recorded, UGC’s anti-ragging helpline has a detailed report about a complaint given by a nursing student of BJMC in February, 2013. The details mentioned in the call logs on the helpline website stated, “Victim said  college authorities were torturing him and they threatened that they would rusticate him.”
Another log (March 14, 2013) said, “The victim asked us to forward the complaint to the monitoring agency as he was depressed and would commit suicide.” The log recorded on April 17, 2013, stated, “He (the victim) called and said that the college authorities were still harassing him. They teased him because he registered a complaint, and he was insulted by the V-C in class.” The call made by the victim on June 3, 2013, stated, “The victim said he was mentally harassed by the culprit and college authorities too. Some nonsense was written on his room’s door. He was forcefully asked to give in writing that he had withdrawn the case, though he was not willing to do so.” As on date, the status of the call on the website stated ‘INC’ (complaint active in call centre).

While responding to the allegations, Preeti Dilip Londhe, principal of College of Nursing, BJMC, said, “The case was not of ragging. Our student fought with one of his batchmates. He is psychologically disturbed. We deal with him very carefully and counsel him frequently. A few of his friends from an engineering college called the helpline and complained. Yet, the person accused was rusticated by the college dean. We could have got those engineering students arrested, but we didn’t want to spoil their lives and careers at such a young age.”
At the National Defence Academy (NDA), apart from the standing committee instituted to investigate ragging cases, some additional measures were also observed to prevent occurrence of ragging, including briefing by squadron commanders, presence of battalion duty officers, surprise checks, academy honour code and disciplinary action. The response to the RTI application stated that just one ragging case was reported in February 2013 and that “the case was investigated and there was no truth in the allegations.”

From the time an anti-ragging committee was set up at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in 2009, till date, just one written complaint about “oral abuse and harassment was received in March 2013 from the parents of one of the students, almost after six months of the said incident.” A detailed inquiry was conducted by the committee. However, the student discontinued the course and did not return to record the statement, despite repeated request by the institute. The RTI reply further revealed that a second case was registered in March, 2014, wherein a telephonic call was received by one of the anti-ragging committee members regarding harassment of a student by a senior on social media. “After examining and recording the statement, it was concluded that the case was not of ragging. A  warning was issued to the senior student by the dean (films) and a written apology was submitted by the student,” stated the RTI reply.

D J Narain, director of FTII, said, “Unlike most institutes, the structure of FTII is such that students have to work in groups. There is a lot of inter-dependency and interaction. Hence, they do not indulge in such acts.”

According to an engineering college student (name withheld on request), the intensity of ragging has come down from what it was six years ago. “That does not mean ragging has stopped. Abusive language is so common that nobody notices it anymore,” he said, adding that it was compulsory for juniors to call seniors ‘sir’ and ‘madam’, and teachers did not interfere.
“On several occasions, college officials are hand-in-glove with the perpetrators of ragging. We have also observed that college officials often try to settle the matter by attempting mediation between victims and perpetrators, instead of reporting the matter to the police as per the UGC Regulations, 2009,” said Meera Kaura Patel, advocate, legal Head, SAVE (Society Against Violence in Education). She added, “If students report the matter on the anti-ragging helpline or to SAVE or police, college officials build pressure on him/her to either withdraw their complaints or leave the institute.”

Chavi Rajput, supervisor of National Anti Ragging and Anti Racial Discrimination helpline number, said the helpline received about 15,000 calls per week from students across the country, wherein the representatives registered their complaints, which were sent to head of the institution concerned. “After they inquire about it, they are supposed to send a report to us. We follow up on every case. After receiving the report, we call up the student to ask if the action taken by college authorities was satisfactory. If not, we refer the case to the UGC,” said Rajput.

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