31 complaints from TN this year; experts say every case should be taken seriously

Despite having taken strict measures to control ragging in its colleges, Tamil Nadu has the fifth-highest number of calls made to the University Grants Commission (UGC) anti-ragging helpline.

In all, 118 complaints have been registered from students in the State since 2009, according to the UGC website. 

 The helpline has registered the maximum number of complaints from Uttar Pradesh at 461, while West Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh come next with 299, 245 and 217 complaints respectively. More complaints are recorded in the second half of the year.

 A UGC official handling the helpline said 31 complaints had been recorded in the State since the beginning of the year. He said most calls came from students in colleges on the outskirts of cities and suburban areas.

“They are mostly to do with bullying by seniors and mental harassment. Most complainants are students who have already raised the issue with their college managements but have not been taken seriously,” he said.

 According to the city police, action has been taken in at least 80 per cent of ragging cases.

“In some cases, the student withdraws the complaint because of pressure from the management or peers. In those cases, we try to investigate if the student is being pressured,” said an officer.

 The UGC started the national anti-ragging helpline a few years ago, as per Supreme Court directives to deal with, and eradicate ragging.

The directorate of technical education in the State too had asked institutes to adopt anti-ragging measures such as surprise visits by authorities in hostels, especially during nights, and institute-level meetings twice a year to educate students about discipline. 

Aman Movement, an NGO that has been recording ragging cases since 2009, has registered lakhs of written affidavits from students across the country.

Shobha Hariharan, a counsellor with city colleges, said students who complain against ragging are often not supported by managements.

“Colleges tend to suspend students only if the crime is serious. For instance, in cases where seniors ask students to wear a particular kind of outfit to college put up a dance/drama performance or use abusive language, or mockery, no serious action is taken. The offenders are let go with warnings. This affects the morale of the students who have been ragged,” she said.

 Experts recall that Tamil Nadu was the first to pass laws related to ragging in 1997.

R.K. Raghavan, former director of the CBI, who headed the committee formed by the Supreme Court to recommend anti-ragging measures said, “The numbers have to be evaluated in a collective context, considering we have a large number of colleges in Tamil Nadu and high levels of awareness too. We need to see how responsive institutes have been to complaints.”

 College managements, Mr. Raghavan said, have to treat every case of ragging as a test case and get into the specifics, he said. “There is also a tendency to sensationalise and bring non-ragging cases such as campus violence or politically-motivated disturbances under the ragging law. That is a distortion of the law and should be avoided,” he said.