15 MBBS students from the 2013, 2014, 2015 batches of IGIMS (Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences) college were suspended on July 19. The suspension occurred on account of a ragging incident that took place earlier in the month.
Few students from the 2016 batch lodged a FIR at a police station in Patna. The students, in their complaint stated that they were “mentally and physically” harassed by seniors, continuously for two days. They also provided the names of the seniors in their complaint.
There are several rules that have been designed to curb the menace of ragging. In spite of this, the problem still persists. It has become the new normal in college. Ragging is also another form of “structured bullying”, a tradition passed from one batch to the next. Senior students feel a sense of authority and power over the freshers, both mentally and physically. In most cases, the college management either remains ignorant or unresponsive to the complaints.
A nationwide toll free anti-ragging helpline 1800-180-5522 has been set up by the University Grants Commission (UGC) following the Apex Court’s directive.
According to the law, “Ragging can send you to jail for 10 years. In India, ragging is banned in all campuses. Such acts are punishable by fines of up to Rs. 50,000, jail terms ranging from six months to 10 years, and awarding of certificates that “the student had indulged in ragging” which can adversely affect career prospects.”
The problem of ragging is a major issue in many colleges across the country, despite these regulations. The premier institutions of our country, the IITs, NITs and the NLUs have had major ragging incidents. Ragging is an age-old practice that has been continuing over the generations.
As per data collected by the UGC, 3,299 cases of ragging of students have been registered across India between April 18, 2012 and December 12, 2017. Incidents of ragging registered a 70% increase in 2017.
As per reports, only 957 students were punished in these cases. The Union HRD Minister Prakash Javedkar on 23rd July informed the Rajya Sabha about the drastic rise of ragging complaints in Higher Educational Institutions. As per UGC reports, the number of complaints has doubled in the last three years.
“Of the total of 1,839 ragging complaints, 423 were received in 2015 (most of them from West Bengal), 5,215 in 2016, and 901 in 2017,” Javadekar said.
When asked how the culprits were being punished, Javadekar said, “Of the total complaints of ragging, students have been punished in 812 cases, including suspension in 309 cases. On receipt of a complaint of ragging, the educational institution concerned constitutes an anti-ragging committee to investigate the incident. On the basis of the report, the institution takes action against the culprits and if requested, sends an action-taken-report to HRD Ministry.”
This is the situation even after UGC’s strict guidelines to colleges regarding effective anti-ragging measures.
Despite the alarming numbers, there are colleges where ragging hasn’t been an issue. In the last three years, no complaints were received from varsities in Nagaland, Andaman and Nicobar, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Lakshadweep.
The Google CEO in an interview in 2015 recalled how he had to face ragging in IIT Kharagpur, back in 1989. When Sundar arrived in IIT Kharagpur, he was received by a few seniors at ‘Nehru Hall’. The new students were always ‘oriented’ in their own way by a room full of ‘raggers’. It was considered ‘norm’ to rag and very little has changed.
In February, the police registered cases against students of NIT – Andhra Pradesh for ragging a junior student from Bihar. According to the reports, students of the 2nd and 3rd year were involved in the incident. In March, there was another ragging incident recorded in NIT- Agartala where some senior students had called a number of junior students to meet outside the hostel and they physically tortured them. The student suffered major injuries and was not even taken to the hospital. It was only after the victim’s parents arrived that he was taken to the hospital. Punitive action was taken against six senior students; two were suspended academically and the other four were fined ₹ 5,000 and three among them were also asked to quit the hostel. The Anti-Ragging team of the campus held the enquiry and took action.
In September 2017, in another incident, the Management at IIT Kanpur suspended 22 students for ragging freshers. A nine member committee was also formed to probe into the incident of sexual abuse that was done in the name of ragging. The sexual abuse charges were true, which led to the suspension of 16 students for three years and six students for a year.
Back in 2016, there was another ragging incident at Manjeri Medical College in Malappuram, Kerala. As many as, 21 students were suspended after it was found out that they ragged few first-year students of the college. The junior students had complained about the ragging and preliminary action was first taken against the students. Later on, an anti- ragging cell was also formed. There have been several cases of ragging reported in the Coimbatore Medical College in 2016 where a senior student decided to step up on behalf of the juniors who were not willing to speak up.
“It’s unbelievable that a large chunk of the student community does not want to end this culture, despite all that has happened. What I have written here is only the tip of the iceberg as its too personal an account and students have recounted far worse incident”, is what a student wrote in an open letter to her seniors at NLSIU.
And, the list is never-ending.
Ragging has a deep impact also on the mental and emotional well being of the student.
Last year, a study, financed by the UGC, was carried out by a committee mandated by the Supreme Court (SC). The study came out with dreadful results on the growing menace of ragging in the higher education institutions in India.
With a sample of over 10,000 students studying in different parts of the country, the report indicated that 84% of students did not report ragging by their seniors or peers. Apart from the obvious fear of reprisal or lack of faith in the system to deliver justice, most students felt ragging was a necessary rite of passage that prepared them for the harsh realities of the world.
Other statistics of the report included; 33% of the students ‘enjoyed’ being ragged by their seniors; 40% believed that the experience helped them build solid friendships; 62% students who were surveyed from over 37 institutions across India, said that the seniors who ragged them as freshers went on to help them in curricular work in the later years.
What’s also problematic is that though almost all colleges have this culture, even the most sought-after colleges haven’t been able to remain outside of its loop, which is highly disturbing.
What this report showed was the sad affair of normalising the crime of ragging. Most students who involve in the activity do not realise the effect on the student. In many cases, the seniors are just replaying what was done to them when they were juniors.
Regardless of the “why” there have been several incidents where students suffer more than the momentary embarrassment. Only long-term suffering mirrors the true effect of this “norm of bullying”.