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April 25, 2009

Ragging menace

— Dr Arup Kumar Hazarika The merciless killing of a 19 year old youth Aman Kachroo by his seniors in Himachal Pradesh, which is known for its splendid natural beauty and general people’s myth that fanatic ragging can never occur in such peaceful regions got shattered with it and to add to it this incident happened in a medical college from where our society will get the future doctors who will serve us tomorrow and try to be our saviours, but some of the would be saviours of this college decided to become savages first and decided to commit savagery in a brutal way in the form of cruel ragging, ultimately killing Aman. Do we need such savage and brutal doctors in the future to serve our society?

Ragging is a practice involving human rights abuse in educational institutions in South Asia, the worst forms of which are found in engineering, medical and military colleges. It is committed by “senior” students (those in second year or higher) upon “freshers”, in and outside on-campus residence, or hostels.

But most ‘survive’ ragging, and are taken aback with the transformation of enemy into friend, and are only too happy to forget their trauma and move on. Ragging is thus the fresher’s passport to joining the college/hostel community, and many trudge along the ragging period because they wish to belong to the college community. Those who rebel against it are ostracized; retribution may also take the form of physical assault, leading to fatal injuries as we have already seen in the case of Aman Kachoo.

Some states in India have anti-ragging laws. The major boost to anti-ragging efforts was given by a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India in May 2001, in response to a PIL (Public interest Litigation) filed by the Vishwa Jagriti Mission

This is how the Supreme Court of India defines ragging: Any disorderly conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act which the effect Of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness any other student, indulging in rowdy or in-disciplined activities which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship or psychological harm or to raise ‘fear or apprehension thereof in a firesher or a junior student or asking the students to do any act or perform something which such student will not do in the ordinary course and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or psyche of a fresher or a junior student

In an attempt to stamp out ragging in educational institutions, University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to recommend that ragging be treated as a cognizable offence on par with rape. Significantly, even “freshers who do not report the incidents of ragging either as victims or as witnesses shall also be punished suitably,” says the UGC’s policy draft on curbing the menace of ragging.

A senior UGC official said the regulations, when notified, would serve as a framework on the basis of which the police could take action on complaints from educational institutions and students. “The Supreme Court had entrusted to the UGC the responsibility of preparing the draft regulations,” he said.

“The institution shall strictly observe the provisions of the Act of the Central Government and the State Governments, if any, or if enacted, considering ragging as a cognizable offence under the law on a par with rape and other atrocities against women and ill-treatment of persons belonging to the SC/ST, and prohibiting ragging in all its forms in all institutions,” says the draft regulation. Currently, not many states have enacted legislation banning ragging, which makes it difficult for law enforcers to book culprits. The regulations are expected to help provide the legal framework for the police to act quickly.

According to UGC’s proposals, ragging in all its forms will be totally banned “in the entire institution, all its premises (academic, residential, sports, canteen, etc) whether located within the campus or outside, and in all means of transportation of students whether public or private”. As per the regulations, even abetting ragging is an offence.

The UGC has recommended Rigorous Imprisonment for three years, besides a fine _ of Rs 25,000 for those caught in the act and urged state and Central governments to enact a law against ragging wherever it does not exist.

In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (g) of Sub Section (1) of Section (26) of University Grants Commission Act 1956, the University Grants Commission hereby makes the following Regulation namely-

‘These regulations shall be called the “ UGC Regulations on curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009”; they will come into force with immediate effect and the regulations shall apply to all the universities established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provisional Act, to all institutions. The latest draft of 20th April 2009 of the apex Commission puts the following ingredients of Ragging which are punishable under the court of Law. They are 1) Abetment to ragging 2) Criminal conspiracy to rag 3) Unlawful assembly and rioting 4) Public nuisance created during ragging 5) Violation of decency and moral thought 6) Injury to body 7) Wrongful restrain 8) Wrongful confinement 9) Use of Criminal force 10) Assault as well as sexual offences or unnatural offences 11) Extortion 12) Criminal tresspass 13) Offences against property 14) Criminal intimidation. Etc.

A copy of the UGC Draft Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009, has been circulated to heads of all higher educational institutions in the country to elicit their opinions.

To facilitate easy reporting about ragging, students should have unrestricted TV access to mobile phones and public phones in hostels and campuses, except in classrooms, seminar halls and libraries where jammers will be installed, the droll suggests. The apex higher education body has also promised financial incentives to institutions which succeed in putting an end to the menace that has taken the lives of dozens of young students over the years. ASSAM TRIBUNE

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