agging cases up by 70 per cent in 2017, and The Report Card for this year looks even grimmer. 15 MBBS students from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 batches of IGIMS (Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences) college were suspended on July 19, 2018. The suspension occurred on account of a ragging incident that took place earlier in the month. After a shocking incident where a postgraduate student at BYL Nair Hospital committed suicide, the State Health Department has set a committee to amend rules and regulations on ragging. Time and again, the amendments have challenged the fate of vulnerable students. There are several rules that have been designed to curb the menace of ragging. In spite of this, the problem still persists. It has become the new normal in college. Ragging is also another form of “structured bullying”, a tradition passed from one batch to the next. Senior students feel a sense of authority and power over the freshers — both mentally and physically. In most cases, college management either remains ignorant or unresponsive to the complaints.
Payal Tadvi, a 26-year-old postgraduate student committed suicide after her seniors Dr. Hema Ahuja, Dr. Bhakti Mehar, and Dr. Ankita Khandelwal allegedly harassed her with casteist remarks. The case has shaken up the medical fraternity, with doctors taking to social media demanding justice for Tadvi and strict action against the three senior doctors to set an example. Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) branch has suspended three doctors who were accused in this case. However, they haven’t been arrested yet. Tadvi belonged to the Adivasi Tadvi Bhil community and was completing her post graduation in Nair Hospital where she had to share the room with the three accused.
In 2018, Payal’s mother had complained to the authorities after they started harassing her daughter, however, the authorities turned a deaf ear and did not take any concrete steps to curb the ragging. Dr. Ahuja, Dr. Mehare, and Dr. Ankita Khandelwal have been booked for abetment to suicide and under sections of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act and the Prevention of Atrocities Act.
Even in Patna, a similar case happened where a few students from the 2016 batch lodged an FIR at a police station in Patna. The students, in their complaint, stated that they were “mentally and physically” harassed by seniors, continuously for two days. They also provided the names of the seniors in their complaint.
The problem of ragging is a major issue in many colleges across the country, despite these regulations. The premier institutions of our country, the IITs, NITs, and the NLUs have had major ragging incidents. Ragging is an age-old practice that has been continuing over the generations. The University Grants Commission (UGC) following the Supreme Court’s directive has set up a nationwide toll-free anti-ragging helpline 1800-180-5522. According to the law, “Ragging can send you to jail for 10 years. In India, ragging is banned on all campuses. Such acts are punishable by fines of up to Rs 50,000, jail terms ranging from six months to 10 years, and awarding of certificates that “the student had indulged in ragging” which can adversely affect career prospects.”
As per data collected by the UGC, 3,299 cases of ragging of students have been registered across India between April 18, 2012, and December 12, 2017. Incidents of ragging registered a 70 per cent increase in 2017. As per reports, only 957 students were punished in these cases. The Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar informed the Rajya Sabha about the drastic rise of ragging complaints in Higher Educational Institutions. As per UGC reports, the number of complaints has doubled in the last three years. Of the total of 1,839 ragging complaints, 423 were received in 2015 (most of them from West Bengal) and 901 in 2017. Of the total complaints of ragging, students have been punished in 812 cases, including suspension in 309 cases. On receipt of a complaint of ragging, the educational institution concerned constitutes an anti-ragging committee to investigate the incident. On the basis of the report, the institution takes action against the culprits and if requested, sends an action-taken-report to HRD Ministry. This is the situation even after UGC’s strict guidelines to colleges regarding effective anti-ragging measures.
Despite the alarming numbers, there are colleges where ragging hasn’t been an issue. In February, the police registered cases against students of NIT – Andhra Pradesh for ragging a junior student from Bihar. According to the reports, students of the 2nd and 3rd year were involved in the incident. In March, there was another ragging incident recorded in NIT- Agartala where some senior students had called a number of junior students to meet outside the hostel and they physically tortured them. The student suffered major injuries and was not even taken to the hospital. It was only after the victim’s parents arrived that he was taken to the hospital. Punitive action was taken against six senior students; two were suspended academically and the other four were fined Rs 5,000 and three among them were also asked to quit the hostel. The Anti-Ragging team of the campus held the enquiry and took action.
In September 2017, in another incident, the Management at IIT Kanpur suspended 22 students for ragging freshers. A nine-member committee was also formed to probe into the incident of sexual abuse that was done in the name of ragging. The sexual abuse charges were true, which led to the suspension of 16 students for three years and six students for a year.
Back in 2016, there was another ragging incident at Manjeri Medical College in Malappuram, Kerala. As many as 21 students were suspended after it was found out that they ragged few first-year students of the college. The junior students had complained about the ragging and preliminary action was first taken against the students. Later on, an anti-ragging cell was also formed. There have been several cases of ragging reported in the Coimbatore Medical College in 2016 where a senior student decided to step up on behalf of the juniors who were not willing to speak up. It’s unbelievable that a large chunk of the student community does not want to end this culture, despite all that has happened.