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Where the mind is without fear

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The UGC has asked universities and institutions of higher education to review seriously the security arrangements for women students and employees on campuses and ensure a safe working environment for them, writes G. KRISHNAKUMAR

TO LEARN WITHOUT FEAR:The UGC is alive to the threats faced by women on campuses and hence its renewed focus on their security.
TO LEARN WITHOUT FEAR:The UGC is alive to the threats faced by women on campuses and hence its renewed focus on their security.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has stepped up its efforts to ensure security of girls and women on campuses across the country.

The move is part of the initiatives being taken by the government and other monitoring agencies to provide security to women after the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi.

The UGC has asked universities and institutions of higher education to review seriously the security arrangements for girls and women on the campuses and ensure a safe working environment for women employees. It has recommended that every institution set up a task force to ensure women’s security and keep it informed of the action taken.

The commission has constituted a task force to review present arrangements, to identify any loopholes or inadequacies in them and to formulate remedial measures to address the concerns of girls and women and of the youth who study and live in the country’s numerous and diverse campuses.

Agenda

UGC Chairman Ved Prakash said education played a crucial role in promoting the egalitarian commitments of equality and justice enshrined in the Constitution. It was integral to processes that engender and expand horizons of opportunity for all disadvantaged and marginalised groups, including women.

Prof. Prakash said that promoting equity through higher education was at the very heart of the agenda of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and reflected its commitment to nurture and preserve democratic praxis in spaces of learning. Gender equality, consequently, was integral to this imperative.

“Unfortunately, the spate of recent disturbing events in the national capital and in other parts of the country have necessitated the UGC to review the existing arrangements that have been put in place on the campuses of all our institutions of higher learning to ensure the freedom, safety and security of girls and women in particular, and of the entire youth population in general,” he said.

In a recent order, the Chairman said the commission would strive to ensure zero tolerance of harassment, of any kind, of girls and women on campuses. With the help of the leaders of all educational institutions, the UGC would make concerted efforts to help institutions put in place a responsive mechanism focussing not only on careful supervision but also on educational interventions, counselling and quick redress.

The terms of reference of the task force constituted by the UGC include analysing and assessing the extent to which the existing arrangements for safety of women, both students and employees in particular, and youth in general, are adequate on the campuses of the institutions and to identify shortcomings in the existing system and to suggest measures to put in place strong safeguards.

Task force

The task force will evaluate a grievance redress-mechanism for gender-specific concerns and to suggest measures to strengthen them, besides suggesting academic measures and action programmes to bring about changes in practices and attitudes within society towards recognising the fundamental right to gender equality.

The commission has asked the task force to suggest how gender education and sensitisation can be made an integral part of the university curriculum in all subject domains and to suggest how awareness of gender sensitive issues be made an essential eligibility criterion in the future recruitment of university staff, both teaching as well as non-teaching.

The task force will visit campuses to evaluate the safety arrangements for girls and women before submitting a report on possible improvements and gender sensitivity programmes.

The report is expected to be ready by mid-March.


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