Once college admissions are over after the usual hiccups, orientation courses are conducted to bridge the gap between schools and colleges for freshers stepping into colleges for the first time. For undergraduate students entering into professional courses like engineering, law and medicine, colleges conduct introductory sessions where students are introduced to the teaching faculty and their curriculum. A glaring miss-out during this interaction of orientation is colleges failing to create awareness about ragging among students. Orientation courses are conducted to put students at ease, to familiarise students of their college culture but students cannot be at ease if they are ragged. The confusion and difficulties of admission which confront college administrators at the commencement of the new academic year leave them with little time and inclination to address the serious issue of ragging in colleges. This is unfortunate. In the students’ interest, counselling them about ragging and more importantly informing them of its penalties should be given top priority and this should be done unfailingly at the beginning of the academic year.
Ragging by definition is the doing of any act that causes or is likely to cause any physical, psychological or physiological harm or apprehension, shame or embarrassment to a student. It is disturbing that in spite of the Supreme Court cracking its whip on ragging and warning colleges of penalties such as stopping government funding and affiliations by the affiliating bodies like the UGC, fresh cases of ragging keep springing up, much to the sorrow of civil society. CURE (Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education), a voluntary organisation in Delhi, has reported the number of ragging cases between July 2008 and June 2009 as many as 88 of which 12 were fatal. While these reported cases have come to the surface, there are many instances where the victims of ragging do not report the cases due to fear of a backlash. This clearly indicates that despite the tall claims made by the Human Resource Development Ministry, University Grants Commission and various regulatory bodies the situation has not improved a bit, says Harsh Agarwal, a senior functionary of CURE. Principals, the teaching faculty, student coordinators and counsellors all have a profound role to play in creating an awareness among students as regards ragging. But this is not being done, which is why the increase in ragging cases.
The psychological trauma caused by ragging can at times haunt a student life long. In extreme cases of ragging students have known to commit suicide. The sensational ragging case of Indu Anto who jumped from the terrace of the Sophia College Hostel to escape from ragging is a pointer at how senior students enjoy sadistic pleasure at the expense of humiliating their juniors. Many senior students euphemistically sugar coat ragging as an exercise in interaction between seniors and juniors. This lame excuse for ragging is wholly unacceptable; there is a sharp difference between interaction and ragging. While congenial interaction among students is positive, ragging is harmful and downright negative. Only psychos indulge in ragging. Senior students should adopt the role of elder brothers when it comes to treating their juniors. There could be fun and mild teasing as it would be among siblings but nothing beyond that.
Andhra Pradesh has reported the highest number of ragging cases. On July 18, 2009, eight students of Sri Venkateshwara University Tirupathi and six students of Pragati Mahavidyalaya were arrested for ragging. The victim-a post-graduate student of the Venkateshwara University was forced to drink and dance all night. According to Nasreen Rustomfram-Dean of students affairs at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, ragging usually takes place in colleges where there has already been a previous history. Colleges should conduct Orientation Programmes where values and mission are instilled in students for a healthy college culture and anti-ragging notices should be put up in hostels.
The Raghavan Committee, formed after the death of 19-year-old Aman Kachru who died a few hours after allegedly being ragged by four final year students of Rajendra Prasad Medical College at Tanda town in Kangra district, is a toothless committee. It has done little to curb ragging. The only silver lining is that a few colleges have made it mandatory at the time of admission that students sign a statement that they will not resort to ragging and if found guilty they can be expelled from the college with a heavy fine of 2.5 lakh slapped on them. The fear of losing a year and of paying a heavy fine could go a long way in curbing ragging. Others colleges too should follow the same policy.