Under fire from the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) for complaints about the lack of mental health support on campus for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes students, the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay has revealed that it is now hiring one permanent Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe student counsellor for the campus.
IIT Bombay Director Subhasis Chaudhuri informed the NCST of this development after the Commission sent him a notice, seeking a report on the matter within three days. He added in the letter, “We remain committed to supporting our SC/ST students.”
Following multiple complaints, the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle on campus went to the ST Commission with a representation, following which the NCST took up the matter. The students had alleged that none of the student counsellors on campus were from SC or ST backgrounds and that for many students, meeting them was causing more harm than good.
They had also alleged that the head counsellor publicly held anti-reservation sentiments, which intimidated students from ever wanting to go to a counsellor on campus.
In response to the NCST, Mr. Chaudhuri said that the institute had already begun taking several measures to address the issues raised by the students. The administration was finalising the framework for a sensitisation course on caste-related issues and intended to make it mandatory for all students, faculty, and staff, according to a communication between the Education Ministry and the institute.
The institute added that it was also in the process of training existing student counsellors at the Student Wellness Centre on addressing caste-based mental health issues. The counsellors are holding “interactions” with an external agency specialising in this aspect, to be able to use it at IIT-Bombay.
The training programme will also extend to the student mentors in the campus’ mentorship programme for first year students, the institute said, adding that the Bandhu website would now also begin to feature services on mental health services for people dealing with caste-based issues.
As for APPSC’s demands for the termination of the head counsellor, whose anti-reservation post on Facebook sparked off the investigation, the institute said that she was asked to immediately take down the post and “warned” to avoid similar actions. The institute added that the same head counsellor had been working with the SC/ST Cell since April 2022, on a joint mental health survey, further saying, “Corrective measures have been pursued to sensitise all employees about caste-related issues.”