The Union government on Wednesday told the Rajya Sabha, “No cases of caste discrimination and alienation in SC/ ST students have been reported from IITs in the last 5 years,” in response to a question about caste discrimination in higher educational institutes by MDMK MP Vaiko.
Mr. Vaiko had asked the Union government about cases of caste discrimination in IITs and Central universities in the last five years, measures taken to address the issues, the number of SC/ST student suicides in these institutes and the reasons for the same.
In reply, Minister of State for Education Subhas Sarkar said there was no reported cases of caste discrimination in IITs, in the last five years.
This, despite internal surveys conducted by IIT-Bombay in 2022, revealing widespread discrimination in the form of students being asked their surnames and ranks, and being made fun of for being a “reservation student”.
On discrimination cases in other Central universities, the government said, “With regard to Central Universities (CUs), no data of caste discrimination is maintained centrally.”
On measures to address issues of caste discrimination in campuses, the government said, “Institutes have set up mechanisms such as SC/ ST students’ cells, Equal Opportunity Cell, Student Grievance Cell, Student Grievance Committee, Student Social Club, Liaison officers, Liaison Committee etc. Further, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued instructions from time to time for eradicating discrimination among students.”
The government added that from 2018 to 2023, IITs across the country had seen seven suicides of students belonging to SC or ST category (6 SCs and 1 STs). Further, between 2017 to 2021, other Central universities had seen seven suicides of SC students.
The Education Ministry said that in such cases, besides an internal probe by the institute, both the police and district authorities conduct inquiries. “The reasons behind such suicides were found to be academic stress, family reasons, personal reasons, mental health issues, etc.,” the government said.
In addition, the Education Ministry listed out a slew of measures the institutes, government departments and the University Grants Commission had taken to address issues of language adjustment, mental health, psychological stress, academic pressure, etc. However, none of the listed measures included any specific measures to address issues of caste discrimination.
Migration and dropout
Meanwhile, in response to a separate question, the Education Ministry said that from 2018 to 2023, IITs and IIMs had seen 4,810 SC, ST, and OBC students drop out. At the same time, other Central universities saw 14,446 SC, ST, and OBC students drop out.
The Ministry said that this was because in many cases, students wished to migrate to another department or institute. It said, “The migration/ withdrawal if any, is mainly on account of securing a seat by the students in other departments/ institutions of their choice or on any personal ground.”