Despite several pieces of state legislation and University Grants Commission orders, academic institutions in the country continue to be unsafe for students. On Thursday, police in Karnataka arrested five students of a nursing college at Gulbarga in connection with the ragging of a first-year Dalit girl student, who was allegedly forced to drink phenyl by eight of her seniors on May 9. This is not just a one-off case; the menace of ragging has become so widespread that the human resource development ministry is planning to rope in cricket star Virat Kohli for a massive anti-ragging campaign in universities across the country. The cricketer is likely to endorse the message through TV commercials, asking students to help curb ragging. Last year, a total of 390 complaints of ragging were registered on the anti-ragging helpline while this year it was 174.
According to a study funded by the University Grants Commission (UGC) on the directions of Supreme Court — Psychosocial Study of Ragging in Selected Educational Institutions in India — close to 40% students in colleges across the country face some kind of ragging, but only 8.6% have reported the incidents. It also found language and region to be the basis of more than 25% ragging incidents, while caste was a factor in 8% cases. Unsurprisingly, the study, which was done by a research team led by scholars from Jawaharlal Nehru University, found that ragging was more rampant in professional colleges, with nearly 60% students being targeted. Highlighting social discrimination in ragging, the report added that caste-based discrimination was admitted by 8% of students.
While high-voltage campaigns such as the one HRD is planning are definitely welcome to raise awareness, India now needs a national anti-ragging law that will standardise the definition of what constitutes ragging and the amount of punishment for such actions across the country, and make institutions accountable for such incidents. The problem now is that only about 15 states have laws banning ragging but punishments are different and accountability is not fixed on institutions. Such state laws are not effective also because students move from one state to another for educational opportunities and can fall prey to ragging in states that don’t have such laws.