As the drive against ragging is being stepped up, former CBI director R K Raghavan, who heads an anti-ragging committee, speaks on issues related to the menace.

The beginning of an academic year is the time to make new friends. But for many students it is also the time when the menace of ragging raises its ugly head in many institutions. Educational institutions, the government and NGOs have been working hard to make sure this bane goes away.

In Tamil Nadu, the Governor has issued a circular to all universities and colleges to take strict action against any such incident. Among the new measures brought in by the State government, especially for engineering colleges, the Tamil Nadu State Council for Technical Education plans to set up guidance and counselling centres for students in distress and this would include ragging victims. Similar measures are also being taken for students of other disciplines.

The University of Madras has taken up the issue of ragging seriously, with the vice-chancellor sending a circular to affiliated colleges to place complaint boxes and form committees in each college to ensure that no student is victimised. Many NGOs including Society Against Violence in Education (SAVE) and individuals like Prof. Rajendra Kachroo who lost his son to a ragging incident have been taking active steps to spread the message against ragging. They have also been running extensive campaigns and have pointed out issues with the steps taken by the government, offering their suggestions.

R.K. Raghavan, former director of the CBI and the head of the committee appointed by the Supreme Court to look into the ragging issue and suggest measures, talks to The Hindu Education Plus on some of the core issues relating to ragging.

How useful are the measures taken by universities and colleges against ragging for students who are entering a new environment?

My view is that such measures, if given good publicity in campuses, will certainly give freshers a feeling of security which they will not otherwise have.

What should freshers and their parents know about and do when they make the transition to college? What about hostel life?

They should know that college management and administration are obliged under law to protect students against ragging (both in college premises and hostels even if the latter are situated far away) and they should report violent incidents to the Police. The former should necessarily assist victim students and their parents to gain access to the Police if the victims/parents so desire. Any failure in this regard will entail serious action.

Seniors claim that there are different kinds of “ragging” and the harmless kind actually helps students bond together. Is this a valid idea? How are these lines drawn?

Not at all. I don't think there is a good or bad variety of ragging. The distinction has blurred over the years. It is my firm view that in no form should ragging be allowed in campuses or hostels away from campuses.

How does decentralisation through the distribution of powers to professors, lecturers help? Can student mentors play a bigger role?

We are talking here of ‘responsibilities and duties' and not of powers. Just as every citizen has a right of private defence or the right to protect a citizen against a crime in progress, professors and lecturers have a right to intervene without waiting for permission from the authorities. No need for their special empowerment.

How is the anti-ragging hotline number (1800-180-5522) useful for students? Is it regularly monitored? There have been reports that proper action has not been taken on complaints registered with the hotline.

The hotline is a useful tool to ensure quick action in cases of victimisation. I know it has not been working all that well. At the last meeting of my committee a few weeks ago, this was discussed in detail and the operator agency has been given specific instructions. I am hoping that the hotline will improve very soon. Any feedback to me on this is most welcome.

What measures are being introduced and what is the long-range direction of attempts to curb ragging?

There is always the scope for further innovation. I welcome suggestions from the public. We need to take stock after a year or so and think of new measures.

Suggestions to the committee may be sent to edufeedback@ and they will be forwarded to Mr. Raghavan and his committee.