As the demands for women’s safety become more forceful, a father who lost his 19-year-old son to ragging has drawn attention to the fact that ragging has a sexual connotation as well and that a significant number of “ragged” students were also sexual abused.

“There have been a significant number of cases where rape has been guised as ragging,” said Rajendra Kachroo, whose son Aman lost his life after being mercilessly beaten up by his seniors while being ragged at a Medical College in Himachal Pradesh four years ago.

Mr. Kachroo, who runs an anti-ragging helpline, feels let down by the government’s half- hearted contribution to anti-ragging activities and says colleges have done little to connect with students.

“Recently, I received a call from a father who said his son had been sexually abused by his seniors at a college, but was so shaken up that he even refused to register a complaint. And this is not an isolated case. There are several such instances where girls and even boys are sexually abused,” he told The Hindu .

Despite Supreme Court guidelines and a national outcry against ragging that has claimed the lives of many and left a sizeable number physically and mentally affected, educational institutions and the government have been slipshod in tackling the menace, claimed Mr. Kachroo.

“There is insensitivity and disconnect on the part of the college authorities as far as students welfare is concerned. There is a Dean of Students Welfare in most institutions, but there is little involvement in the welfare of the students. A teachers’ role does not end with academics alone. A case in point is this recent case of ragging involving a student of the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, the college is on record, claiming they did not know what happened to their own student.”

Accusing colleges and institutions of not adhering to the laid down guidelines against ragging, Mr. Kachroo said there have been instances when his anti ragging helpline has had to send repeated reminders to the authorities to take action.

“As soon as the helpline receives a complaint we immediately connect with the college concerned and pass on the message, some colleges have been quick to take action, but there are many that don’t do so, despite our repeated reminders. We can push only to a certain point,” he said. Mr. Kachroo is not too happy with the way the helpline is run as well. He says limited funds from the government for the project have meant a limit on how much can be spent on running the call centre. Consequently, the call centre cannot employ those who are more suited for the job.

“There is a problem of quality; while we have sophisticated software and an adequate number of operators to take down and record the complaints, the operators are not entirely equipped for the job that requires sensitivity and seriousness.”

The call centre that has been in service for the past seven months has registered more than 350 calls this past year alone.

“Though the numbers have come down from the previous years, there are gaps in the way the campaign is run. Colleges and the University Grants Commission need to do more to popularise anti- ragging helpline [1800-180-5522] and to tackle the complaints. The rule says all colleges must report complaints of ragging within 24 hours to the police, unless they are minor problems,” he pointed out.

Mr. Kachroo is also intensifying efforts to get students to file affidavits as part of the anti-ragging prevention plan. As per the policy, students and their parents have to file an affidavit before the student is registered for the programme.

“The helpline has collected about 1.5 lakh signatures already, but are targeting a million by June next year. Urging colleges and the administration to act tough against ragging, Mr. Kachroo said: “Ragging is a betrayal of trust. When parents leave their children in colleges and hostels, they do so with a sense of security that their child will be looked after. They are given to believe that the staff and the administration will be responsible for the child’s welfare. But the trust of these parents is betrayed when their children are ragged.”