Still seeking an effective shield against ragging

Nat

Four years since the death of medical student Aman Kachroo, ragging remains a worry for freshers and a problem for various institutes, which are yet to tackle it effectively despite calls to put measures in place before and after that death.

Last week, the Himachal Pradesh High Court upheld the jail sentences of four students who had ragged Aman at Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College, Kangra, and enhanced the fine on each from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

Years before Aman died in 2009 at age 19, the Supreme Court had ordered mandatory "proctorial committees" at institutes, and a court-appointed committee had recommended anti-ragging cells. Anti-ragging activist Harsh Aggarwal says few colleges have the committees while most have the cells, but court guidelines are rarely followed.

After Aman's death, the UGC introduced a national helpline, run by a trust set up by his father. It says it addresses the calls it gets, but Supreme Court advocate Meera Patel, who represents a fresh ragging victim, says its role has been limited.

Patel represents Navin Kujur, who suffered permanent knee damage after seniors at School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, allegedly made him do push-ups with bricks on his back. In January, management student Mohammed Rafi suffered burn injuries after an alleged assault by seniors at their Karnataka college.

This year, the helpline has received 102 complaints till April 7, after 375 in 2012. Anti-ragging activists believe the actual number might be higher because not every victim wants to report ragging.

Keeping it secret

"Students, parents and teachers internalise violence and believe it is part of the education system," says advocate Patel, also legal head of SAVE, or Society Against Violence in Education. "Freshers are told ragging is part of college culture, and hence acceptable."

Besides, students fear possible reprisal after disclosure, being dependent on seniors for help in studies and sometimes placements. "Seniors would say if we did not keep them happy, they would not use their connections to get us jobs," Navin had told The Indian Express at his Ranchi home last year.

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