Ragging on campus has been a source of concern in higher education institutions for years, and while the pandemic brought such cases under control last year when universities were forced to go online, the number of occurrences in 2021 will be double that of 2020. Experts point out that while the total number of complaints received this year is still half of what it was before the epidemic, the fact that the majority of these cases include online harassment makes it a more serious issue.
According to data from the University of Gujarat’s www.anti-ragging.in and the Aman Satya Kachroo Trust (which may be reached via the national anti-ragging helpline number 1800-180-5522), 511 instances were filed across the country this year, up from 219 in 2020. In 2019 and 2018, there were 1,070 and 1,016 cases reported, respectively.
In college, there was a case where a male student made unwanted comments about a female classmate, either in class or on WhatsApp groups, and this happened more than once. The principal of a suburban college claimed that “this was brought to our attention by a female student, and we promptly reported it to the institute’s anti-ragging squad, which rectified the situation.” The male student was barred from taking his end-of-semester exams.
Colleges first resumed virtual classes in July-August 2020, following the initial days of lockdown. Several colleges in the city and state received reports of online abuse, and while locating the perpetrator in some cases proved difficult, strict action was taken against those who committed it in others.
Three students at Mumbai’s St Xavier’s College have been suspended for revealing their lecture’s login ID and password to outsiders, who then entered the class and interrupted it. Similarly, four female students at the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) reported being harassed by exam proctors who allegedly made comments about how they appeared during the exam and sent text messages to their mobile phones. All four proctors were sacked, and all four culprits were charged with sexual harassment.
While most higher education institutions have been giving lectures online for the previous 20 months, medical schools began in-person seminars earlier this year, which has resulted in the highest number of ragging complaints yet this year. According to the University of Georgia, 181 of the total occurrences of ragging documented this year originated from the university.
“Ragging was always rampant in residential institutes before the epidemic, particularly in medical and engineering institutes, whereas cyberbullying would be termed online ragging.”With online classes, more cases of ragging and sexual harassment are being reported from various colleges, and the line between ragging and sexual harassment is sadly blurring,” said Meera Kaura Patel, Supreme Court advocate, and Honorary Legal Head, Society Against Violence in Education (SAVE), a non-profit organization dedicated solely to the protection of students’ lives and dignity in educational institutions.
When a student was suspected of distributing obscene drawings in the middle of a class presentation, a Mumbai college’s anti-ragging unit filed a complaint. The culprit was suspended even though no First Information Report (FIR) had been filed.
“The anti-ragging regulations have been constructed in such a way that the major duty of preventing such occurrences lies with the institute’s head, and most educational institutes end up covering up the matter to save their reputation.” Most of the time, this has resulted in light punishment for culprits, “Patel noted. Victims have been persuaded to dismiss charges in some situations, according to her. “The need of the hour is for state governments to make ragging a crime criminally offensive to ensure that students receive an education free of violence.” Only then will ragging be eradicated. “