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Ragging?

education Updated: Jun 28, 2011 17:11 IST
Pankti Mehta
Pankti Mehta
Hindustan Times
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There have been suicides, psychological trauma, even deaths. Though not as prevalent in Mumbai as in some other cities — ragging, which is disguised as the initiation of new junior class students into college by some senior students, remains a serious concern. To avoid any more casualties, the Mumbai University came up with some detailed preventive measures. One of these requires each college to have a mentor programme, ie every new student is assigned to either a trusted senior student or faculty member, who is delegated the responsibility of protecting the student.

So who is a mentor?
A mentor is someone who doesn’t just keep an eye out for troublesome seniors, but also helps a fresher with adjustment issues, shows him/her around campus, and is there for any counselling or to help sort out any emotional issues.Each mentor is assigned anywhere between 10 – 20 students, depending on the college. “The mentor’s job is to basically act as a big brother,” says Prakash Gopalan, dean, student activity, IIT-Bombay. “At IIT-B, we have about 85 mentors made up of volunteering senior students, with about 11 students each. They meet regularly and the mentor introduces them to life at IIT in general, from academic rigour to where to buy books to dealing with issues.”

Do mentors work with hostelites?
Ragging cases are most prevalent in colleges with hostels, which, for a large part, are medical and engineering colleges that students come to from different cities. In these professional colleges, the age difference between a fresher and a senior is four to five years on an average, as opposed to regular colleges where the difference would probably be two years. “The main problem is in hostels,” acknowledges Dr. Mehera Bhoir, professor and mentor at Nair Hospital and TN Medical College. “The mentors can be called on at any time, but once in the hostel, their power is limited. They can’t be around all the time to ensure the gap between the juniors and seniors is bridged. That’s where the wardens come in and have to be vigilant.”

However, if you do face an unpleasant ‘ice-breaking session’ in your hostel, make sure to inform your mentor at the earliest. “The mentor and committee will decide if there needs to be a formal police complaint,” asserts Fr Frasier, principal, St Xavier’s College.

Does having a mentor really help?
“I’ve been a great beneficiary of the mentor programme,” says Suman Rao, now going into his second year at IIT-B. “It really helps to have someone make sure you don’t get bogged down by the whole experience. A peer who is a few years wiser can help immensely. Of course, you want them to help you, not parent you by making your decisions, but just give you valued insights.” Initially, the mentors meet their mentees several times a week, which reduces to once a fortnight as time passes. “It is important to have someone who understands the process especially if you’re living in a hostel, away from your parents and you suddenly having to adjust with a roommate and a whole new scenario,” asserts Rao.

What if my college doesn’t have a mentor programme?
While colleges including St Xavier’s, Jai Hind, Nair, IIT and VJTI all have specific mentors assigned to groups of students, others like KC and RA Podar appoint an anti-ragging squad. “This brigade of students is given T-shirts with anti-ragging slogans, which makes them easily identifiable,” says Mehek Gwalani, vice principal, KC College. “They’re stationed at various locations around the college and in higher density in ragging-prone zones. Their phone numbers are put up on posters around the campus, so if students every feel the need to approach them, they can.”

Meet a mentor
‘It’s important to have someone to guide you through a fairly daunting process’
Rahul Srinivasan,
head mentor, 2010,
IIT-Bombay

“Each freshman is assigned to a mentor, and thus becomes what we call a ‘mentee’. The mentors meets the mentees every day during the first week, taking them through the facilities, helping them with selection of classes, finding their way around and definitely keeping check on whether they have any adjustment problems, ragging or otherwise. Gradually, the meetings become less frequent, down to about once a fortnight at the end of the year.

It’s important to have someone to guide you through a fairly daunting process, and having someone teach you from experience will save you trying to re-invent the wheel.

Moreover, the relationship between the mentor and mentee will strengthen over time, and in most cases, continues over the next five years. Since the mentor is a point of contact with the seniors, his or her fellow seniors won’t rag you because he or she will be answerable. It’s been very successful so far.

The mentors are usually assigned stream-wise, so that they can help you with academics as well and address questions like which classes to take, what sort of internships, etc.

At IIT, it’s easy to get distracted by other opportunities or get bogged down by pressure, both of which result in a loss of academic focus. It’s the mentor’s job to bring you back on track or even take you to a counsellor if necessary.”

Anti-ragging campaigns
RA Podar College: An anti-ragging squad spreads itself between Dadar station and Matunga station, between which the college falls. They work in shifts from 8 am to 6 pm, keeping an eye out for malicious activity.

VJTI: Keep freshers’ classes at a time when seniors aren’t in college. The newbies’ hostels are also out of bounds for seniors as a pre-emptive measure.

Jai Hind College: A ragging prohibition committee has been set up, which consists of students, staff and representative members from police, press and an NGO. Phone numbers of the squad’s students are put up. Each class representative is asked to report any ragging.

SIES College: Counsels students against ragging throughout the year.

KC College:
Has a brigade of students as part of the anti-ragging campaign, easily identifiable by their matching T-shirts. They can be approached in case of any intimidation.

HR College: Staff and trusted students are stationed inside and outside the campus when new students come in, to prevent ragging.

St Xavier’s College: Has an anti-ragging committee of staff members and senior students, and a mentor programme.

What’s missing?
According to Somesh Kamra, who is part of an organisation called ‘SAVE’ which promotes anti-ragging measures, while the problem isn’t as serious in Mumbai, various measures need to be corrected. “The college anti-ragging cells are run by senior students. If they commit to crime, there aren’t enough people to monitor them. Cells should consist at least of two teachers, two senior students and two junior students. There is a huge, unbridged gap between the law enforcement and the monitors, that is, the college anti-ragging cell and the police. Police don’t take the complaints seriously.”