A parliamentary panel has criticised Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for “overt and covert discrimination based on caste” in the premier Delhi-based institution for higher studies.
The panel asserted the presence of caste prejudice on the JNU campus, saying scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students were always subjected to psychological pressure.
“The committee is of the view that in an elite educational institute like JNU caste discrimination has no place; the committee is, however, perturbed to note there exists caste prejudice,” the panel said in its report presented in Parliament this May.
The report on implementation of reservation policy in JNU went on to say that the treatment experienced by “the reserved-category students … is indicative of overt and covert discrimination based on caste in this premier university”.
The scathing observation follows a raging debate over caste discrimination in Hyderabad Central University, where PhD student Rohith Vemula committed suicide in January after he and four other Dalit students were suspended on the charge of attacking an ABVP leader.
The panel on welfare of SC/ST, headed by BJP MP FS Kulaste, recommended a separate law to protect reserved-category students from prejudice in colleges and universities — akin to legal measures against gender bias and ragging on campuses.
Communist Party of India (CPI) parliamentarian D Raja, who was part of the panel, said the situation in JNU was perturbing.
“The reservation policy was not implemented and the committee found clear cases of discrimination against SC/ST students and faculty members,” he said.
JNU vice-chancellor Jagadesh Kumar couldn’t be contacted for comments but a senior administrative officer said the report was sent to the university’s SC/ST cell for a response.
“Right now we cannot comment on the committee’s report. It has been sent to relevant cells for their observation,” he said.
The 88-page report said SC/ST students clear written examinations “with flying colours” but often fail interviews. This “is indicative of latent caste discrimination on the part of college authorities and teachers”, it said.
It said the majority of SC/ST students are from the countryside, with inadequate language or communication skills. Such students should get concession in evaluation of marks and remedial coaching as well, the panel suggested.
“The committee thus would like to recommend that the pass marks for interviews be reduced for SC/ST students.”
No one from the faculty and non-teaching staff hired through the reserved category in JNU has been sent for foreign training in the past three years, the panel said.
Besides, it advised an assessment of the number of scholarships and fellowships programmes available for SC/ST students to check if these meet the requirement or not. Also, it recommended providing hostels seats to all SC/ST students.