In a shocking incident at Jadavpur University, the apparent suicide of a first-year student has once again exposed the dark underbelly of ragging, a prohibited form of student misconduct that continues to plague Indian colleges. The 18-year-old student's tragic demise has ignited discussions on the prevalence of abuse and coercion disguised as initiation rituals within the country's educational institutions.
The young student's family alleges that he fell victim to ragging, a term that belies the extent of the humiliation and pressure imposed by senior students on newcomers. Authorities at the university and law enforcement agencies currently conducting investigations into the matter. As the legal process unfolds, this incident underscores the urgent need for education administrators and student bodies to unite against this distressing practice that has left lasting scars on countless young minds.
For many students, the transition from school to college is a pivotal phase in their lives, particularly for those hailing from rural areas and small towns. While these institutions promise upward mobility, the unfamiliar environment can be overwhelming, often dampening the excitement of new beginnings. Educational institutions must take it upon themselves to ensure this transition is positive for their students. Unfortunately, historical evidence suggests that some universities have fallen short in this regard.
The recent case at Jadavpur University has brought to light a disconcerting trend where senior students, who have already graduated, continue to wield power over newer entrants by occupying hostel rooms and subjecting them to bullying. This issue is not isolated, as other institutes also grapple with a toxic mix of seniorism and privileges based on caste, class, and gender. Disturbingly, this continues to persist despite two verdicts by the Supreme Court.
In 2001, the Supreme Court directed higher educational institutions (HEIs) to establish proctorial committees and internal mechanisms for addressing ragging complaints. Subsequently, in 2009, the court took further action following the death of a 19-year-old medical student due to senior-induced torture. A committee led by former CBI director R K Raghavan was formed, and its recommendations were accepted by the University Grants Commission (UGC) the same year.
The UGC mandated HEIs to create committees comprising faculty, administrators, and students to facilitate healthy interactions between freshers and seniors. However, the persistent cases of bullying within these institutions suggest non-adherence or ineffective implementation of these guidelines. Furthermore, it has been noted that Jadavpur University's response to inquiries regarding the student's death lacked adequate details about preventive measures against ragging incidents.
Shockingly, an RTI response from the UGC this month has revealed that since 2018, 25 students have taken their own lives due to ragging-related distress. This distressing statistic underscores the urgency for HEIs to take decisive action against such brutal practices and adhere rigorously to the norms established by the Supreme Court and UGC. It's high time to end this cycle of abuse that has tarnished the educational experience for countless young minds.
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