Draft bill for ‘Rohith Act’ by AICC SC department

A draft bill for enforcing constitutional rights and equality of opportunity for students belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was prepared by the SC department of the All India Congress Committee under the name ‘Rohith Act’, and was released here during a round table meeting on Tuesday.

The draft bill is named after Rohith Vemula, a Dalit scholar from the University of Hyderabad (UoH), whose suicide in January triggered nation-wide protests.

Titled, ‘The prevention of discrimination and promotion of equality in higher educational institutions bill, 2016’, it proposes a wide range of measures against caste-based discrimination and harassment during all stages of student life right from enrolment to leaving the institution/university.

Besides listing out 47 punishable offences and punishments, the bill also proposes establishment of an ‘Equity Cell’ and an ‘Equity/ Protection Officer’, and state and national level Equity Commissions. AICC SC department convenor Sirivella Prasad, while addressing the conclave, said the list of offences was not exhaustive, and would be reviewed based on the suggestions received during meetings to be held in different universities and colleges across the country.

Demand for Rohith Act gathered steam after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited the UoH campus to express solidarity with protesting students.

TJAC president M.Kodandaram welcomed the bill and said it should be taken seriously and discussed across the country to include more forms of discrimination.

“Students from underprivileged backgrounds enter the higher learning institutions with huge gaps in terms of opportunities vis-à-vis other students.

Gap widens

The atmosphere in the institutions furthers the gap, rather than shrinking them. Discrimination begins right from admission and continues throughout, and forces the students to form their own student organisations for social interactions on equal footing. Persecuting such an organisation is what led to Rohith’s suicide,” Mr.Kodandaram who retired as professor from Osmania University felt.

His suggestion for incorporating rights for remedial courses was strongly contested by Satavahana University teacher Sujatha Surepally who said the students should be evaluated on their performance in their respective subjects, and not on other skills easily acquired through privilege by other students. Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president N.Uttam Kumar Reddy criticised the Telangana chief minister K.Chandrasekhar Rao for not fulfilling his promise made in the State Legislative Assembly on taking up Rohith’s issue with the Centre. He pledged his support for the draft bill and promised to see that it is presented in Parliament. TPCC working president Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka said Rohith losing his desire to live was indicative of the sick society we lived in. Rohith Act is a remedy, he said.

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