ANTI-RAGGING LAWS IN INDIA
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Picture Courtesy: The Times of India
Context: An 18-year-old student died after falling from his hostel's second floor at the Jadavpur University campus in Kolkata. The family alleged that he faced ragging on campus. Ragging involves activities that violate a student's dignity and is often done under the guise of welcoming fresher students to college or university.
Legislation and Laws against ragging
- Tamil Nadu's Ban (1997): In 1997, the state of Tamil Nadu took a significant step by becoming the first Indian state to ban ragging completely. This decision was prompted by the increasing severity of the issue and the need to protect students from physical, mental, and emotional harm caused by ragging activities.
- Supreme Court Ban (2001): In 2001, the Supreme Court of India issued a landmark ruling that banned ragging across the entire country. The court recognized the widespread negative impact of ragging on students' lives and the need for a unified approach to address the issue.
- Aman Kachru Case (2009): The tragic death of Aman Kachru, a medical college student who fell victim to a severe raging incident, had a profound impact on the country. In response, the Supreme Court of India directed all educational institutions to strictly enforce anti-ragging laws and take strong measures to prevent and address ragging incidents.
- Central Legislation and UGC Regulations: In addition to the Prevention of Ragging Act, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is also relevant in cases of ragging. Furthermore, the UGC has issued specific regulations, such as the UGC Regulations on curbing ragging in higher educational institutions, 2009, which provide detailed guidelines and directives to institutions on how to prevent and respond to ragging incidents.
- Regulations for Specific Bodies: Bodies such as the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Medical Council of India (MCI) have developed their regulations to address ragging under their respective acts. These regulations are tailored to the specific needs and characteristics of technical and medical education institutions.
University Grants Commission (UGC) Rules and Initiatives
- To address the pressing issue of ragging in Indian higher education institutions, the University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex regulatory body for higher education in India, implemented a series of comprehensive initiatives.
- The UGC introduced the "UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009," which serves as a framework for preventing and tackling raging incidents.
- These regulations require all higher educational institutions to strictly adhere to UGC guidelines aimed at eradicating ragging from campuses. Failure to comply with these guidelines can lead to severe consequences.
- To make the reporting process easier and more accessible, the UGC established a toll-free helpline (1800-180-5522) where victims can lodge complaints about raging incidents. This helpline is available in 12 languages, ensuring that victims from diverse backgrounds can seek assistance.
- The UGC's initiatives emphasize the creation of safe and inclusive environments within educational institutions by prohibiting actions such as making comments on appearance, using derogatory language based on a student's background, caste, or region, and coercing students into performing tasks. These actions are recognized as forms of ragging and are strictly prohibited under these rules.
AICTE and Medical Council Laws
- The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) Act, 1987, encompasses regulations specifically addressing ragging. The regulations are titled "All India Council for Technical Education (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Technical Institutions, Universities including Deemed to be Universities imparting technical education) Regulations 2009." These regulations provide a comprehensive framework for preventing and prohibiting ragging in technical institutions, universities, and other institutions imparting technical education.
- Similarly, the Medical Council of India (MCI), which oversees medical education in the country, formulated regulations known as the "Medical Council of India (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Medical Colleges/Institutions) Regulations, 2009." These regulations are tailored to the unique context of medical colleges and institutions, outlining measures to prevent and prohibit ragging within medical education settings.
- The Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (CURE) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) in India that is dedicated to eliminating the practice of ragging in educational institutions.
- CURE was established in July 2001 in Delhi, and its primary mission is to create awareness about the harmful consequences of ragging and advocate for its complete eradication.
- The organization comprises around 470 members, mainly students from various educational institutions across the country, who collectively work to promote safe and respectful learning environments.
- In 2007, CURE played a significant role by providing valuable guidelines to the Raghavan committee, which had been appointed by the Supreme Court of India to address the issue of ragging in Indian universities. The committee's goal was to formulate effective strategies to prevent and curb ragging, and CURE's input contributed to the committee's recommendations and eventual actions.
The initiatives taken by organizations like AICTE, the Medical Council of India, and NGOs like CURE underscore the collaborative efforts by various stakeholders to combat ragging in educational institutions. These initiatives aim to create a positive and nurturing atmosphere for students, ensuring that they can focus on their education without fear of harassment or harm.
- Ragging refers to a form of bullying, harassment, or abuse inflicted on junior students by their senior counterparts in educational institutions, particularly in colleges and universities. It involves various types of physical, mental, emotional, and sometimes even sexual torment.
- Ragging typically takes the form of humiliating rituals, teasing, hazing, or subjecting junior students to forced tasks or activities against their will.
- The intent behind ragging is often to establish a sense of dominance and superiority by seniors over newcomers, but it can have severe negative consequences for the victims and the overall educational environment.
- A 2017 survey showed that around 40% of India's students faced ragging and bullying, with medical and engineering colleges reporting the most incidents.
The impact of ragging can be devastating on multiple levels:
- Mental and Emotional Well-being: Ragging subjects victims to intense emotional distress, anxiety, and humiliation. These negative experiences can lead to long-term psychological scars, impacting their mental health and overall well-being. Students who experience ragging may develop trust issues, fear, and feelings of vulnerability that persist beyond their college years.
- Physical Safety: Some forms of ragging can escalate into physical violence, posing a serious risk to the safety of students. Stopping ragging is crucial to prevent physical harm or injuries to individuals, ensuring that students can pursue their education without fear of harm.
- Academic Performance: Ragging disrupts the learning environment by diverting students' attention away from their studies. Victims often struggle to focus on their academic responsibilities, leading to poor performance and hindering their educational journey. This not only affects individual students but also impacts the overall educational quality of the institution.
- Healthy Campus Culture: A culture of respect, inclusivity, and empathy is crucial for creating a positive and conducive learning environment. Ragging goes against these values and disrupts the formation of healthy relationships among students. Stopping ragging promotes a supportive atmosphere that fosters collaboration, understanding, and personal growth.
- Mental Health Consequences: Extreme cases of ragging can lead to severe mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety disorders, and even suicidal tendencies. Preventing ragging is essential to protect students from such harmful outcomes and ensure their mental well-being.
- Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem: Ragging can erode victims' self-confidence and self-esteem due to constant humiliation and degradation. Stopping ragging helps protect students' sense of self-worth, allowing them to develop a positive self-image and achieve their full potential.
- Social Integration: Ragging can isolate victims from their peers, hindering their ability to form meaningful relationships and fully participate in the college community. Stopping ragging promotes social integration, allowing students to build strong connections and engage in enriching experiences.
- Learning Environment: A safe and nurturing learning environment is crucial for effective education. Ragging creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, undermining the quality of education. By stopping ragging, institutions can foster an environment where students can focus on their studies and personal growth.
- Legal and Reputation Concerns: Ragging is not only ethically wrong but also a criminal offence in many jurisdictions. Educational institutions can face legal consequences and damage to their reputation if incidents of ragging are not addressed promptly and effectively. Stopping ragging is crucial to uphold the institution's integrity.
- Ethical and Humanitarian Reasons: Ragging is a violation of basic human rights and ethical principles. Every individual deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. By stopping ragging, institutions uphold these principles and create a culture of compassion and understanding.
- Long-Term Impact: The effects of ragging can extend beyond college years, affecting victims' personal and professional lives. Stopping ragging helps prevent the potential long-term consequences of trauma, allowing students to pursue their goals and aspirations without the burden of past experiences.
- Fostering Positive Values: By actively discouraging ragging, educational institutions promote values of empathy, kindness, and cooperation among students. This contributes to the personal growth and character development of students, preparing them for responsible citizenship and leadership roles.
- Retention and Enrollment: A safe and welcoming campus environment is more likely to attract and retain students. Stopping ragging enhances the institution's appeal and reputation, leading to higher enrollment and improved retention rates.
- National Development: Graduates who have suffered the negative effects of ragging might not reach their full potential, impacting their contributions to society and national development. Stopping ragging ensures that students are equipped to excel in their chosen fields and positively contribute to the progress of the nation.
Overall, stopping ragging is not only an ethical imperative but also a strategic decision that benefits both individuals and educational institutions. It creates an environment where students can learn, grow, and thrive while upholding values of respect, empathy, and dignity.
- Lack of Awareness: Many students may not fully comprehend the long-term negative consequences of ragging, either for themselves as perpetrators or for the victims. Raising awareness about the psychological, emotional, and even legal implications of ragging is crucial to deter such behaviour.
- Peer Pressure: Peer pressure can be a powerful force that compels students to conform to the actions and behaviours of their peers. Students might engage in ragging due to the fear of being left out or ostracized by their group. Breaking this cycle of peer pressure requires creating a positive and inclusive environment where students feel valued without resorting to harmful practices.
- Ineffective Reporting Mechanisms: Victims of ragging may hesitate to report incidents due to fear of retaliation or lack of faith in the reporting systems. Educational institutions need to establish confidential and trustworthy reporting mechanisms that protect the identity of the victims and provide them with the assurance that their concerns will be addressed seriously and promptly.
- Inadequate Punishments: If those responsible for ragging are not appropriately punished, it can perpetuate a culture of impunity where perpetrators believe they can get away with their actions. Implementing strict and consistent disciplinary actions for raging cases is essential to send a clear message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
- Strict Enforcement: Enforcing anti-ragging laws with severe penalties sends a strong message that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Clear consequences for offenders can deter potential wrongdoers and make them think twice before engaging in ragging.
- Sensitization: Conducting regular sensitization programs helps in changing attitudes and fostering a culture of respect among students. Education about the negative consequences of ragging can help students understand its impact on victims and the entire educational community.
- Technology: Utilizing technology for anonymous reporting and real-time monitoring can empower victims and witnesses to report incidents without fear of retaliation. Real-time monitoring can also help institutions respond promptly to incidents, ensuring a quicker resolution.
- Support Systems: Establishing counselling centres is crucial for providing emotional support to both victims and potential offenders. Addressing the underlying psychological factors that contribute to ragging behaviour can help prevent it in the first place.
- Collaboration: Involving various stakeholders like NGOs, students, parents, and society at large creates a collective effort to eliminate ragging. Different perspectives can contribute to comprehensive solutions and sustain the efforts over the long term.
- Institutional Accountability: Holding educational institutions accountable for campus safety creates a sense of responsibility among administrators and staff. An inclusive and safe environment is essential for effective learning and personal growth.
By implementing these steps in a coordinated manner, educational institutions can significantly reduce or even eliminate the practice of ragging. It's important to continuously assess the effectiveness of these measures and make necessary adjustments to ensure their success. Also, ongoing awareness campaigns and education about the consequences of ragging will be essential to maintain a culture of respect and safety on campuses.
- The persistence of ragging challenges despite the existence of anti-ragging laws emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach that goes beyond just legal measures. The combination of strict enforcement, sensitization efforts, and the engagement of various stakeholders is crucial to completely eradicate ragging and create an educational environment where every student feels safe, respected, and able to focus on their learning and personal growth. This holistic approach holds the potential to bring about lasting change and pave the way for a more positive educational experience for all students.
Q. Can you elaborate on the practice of ragging in educational institutions, discussing its impact on students, the steps that have been taken to address it, the challenges faced in combating this issue, and the proposed way forward to ensure a safer and more respectful environment for students?