Highly reputed Indian colleges have a history of ragging especially Medical colleges. It has become increasingly unpopular due to several complaints of serious injury to the victims and stringent laws pertaining to ragging. Ragging is now defined as an act that violates or is perceived to violate an individual student's dignity.
Following Supreme Court orders, a National Anti-Ragging Helpline was launched by the Indian Government.
A high-level committee in 2009, which probed the death of Aman Kachroo, revealed that alcohol was the main reason leading to serious form of ragging and violence in the campus.
A report from 2007 highlights 42 instances of physical injury, and reports on ten deaths purportedly the result of ragging:Ragging has reportedly caused at least 30-31 deaths in the last 7 years. In the 2007 session, approximately 7 ragging deaths have been reported. In addition, a number of freshmen were severely traumatised to the extent that they were admitted to mental institutions. Ragging in India commonly involves serious abuses and clear violations of human rights. Often media reports and others unearth that it goes on, in many institutions, in the infamous Abu Ghraib style: and on innocent victims.
However, the Anti-Ragging NGO, Society Against Violence in Education (SAVE) has supported that ragging is also widely and dangerously prevalent in Engineering and other institutions, mainly in the hostels.
Following a Supreme Court Order, a National Anti-Ragging Helpline was created which helps the victims and take action in cases of ragging, by informing the Head of the Institution and the local police authorities of the ragging complaint from the college. The main feature of the helpline is that the complaints can be registered even without disclosing the name by the victim, through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through phone at 1800-180-5522.
Anti-Ragging Helpline, and anonymous complaints
India's National Anti-Ragging Helpline started working in June 2009 to help students in distress due to ragging. It consists of an email id and a 24-hour toll-free number. Provision for anonymous complaints was considered of utmost important at the time of establishment of the helpline, since the victim after making the complaint remains with or close to the culprits, away from a fully secure environment. Since many ragging deaths, like Aman Kachroo's occurred due to seniors taking a revenge of the complaint made, anonymous complaints were equally allowed at the helpline.
As per UGC regulations, it is mandatory for a college to register an F.I.R. with police against the culprits if any violence, physical abuse, sexual harassment, confinement etc. takes place with any fresher. After receiving any such complaint from the helpline, it becomes the duty of the head of the institution to register the F.I.R. with police within 24 hours. In 2013, a police case was registered against the director, dean and registrar of a reputed college in Delhi for, among other charges, not informing the police and registering F.I.R. within 24 hours of receiving the ragging complaint.(failing to inform a public authority, IPC 176).
The database of the Anti-Ragging Helpline indicates that it has been to an extent successful in ensuring a safer environment in colleges from where it registered the complaints. In many a cases though, it forwarded the complaint to the University Grants Commission (UGC) for an action against those colleges which refused to take any action against the culprits.
A major concern that was highlighted against the helpline was that it registered a minuscule percentage (0.1%) of the total phone calls it received, and that meant it registered complaint in one out of one thousand calls it received. Specifically, the toll-free helpline (1800-180-5522) received 165,297 calls in the three months of November 2012 to January 2013, hence 77 calls an hour and at least a call a minute. But, only 190 complaints were registered in this period. In its defense, the helpline said that most of the calls it received were of inquiry in nature, of the eager students to know whether the helpline number worked or not. Many a times students changed their minds also midway not to register the complaint. It also said that many of the calls were hoaxes as it was a toll-free number.
In 1997, the state of Tamil Nadu first passed laws related to ragging. Subsequently, a major boost to anti-ragging efforts was given by a landmark judgement of the Supreme Court of India in May 2001 in response to a Public Interest Litigation filed by the Vishwa Jagriti Mission.
The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), following a directive by the Supreme court, appointed a seven-member panel headed by ex-CBI director Dr. R. K. Raghavan to recommend anti-ragging measures. The Raghavan Committee report, submitted to the court in May 2007, includes a proposal to include ragging as a special section under the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court of India interim order (based on the recommendations) dated 16 May 2007 makes it obligatory for academic institutions to file official First Information Reports with the police in any instance of a complaint of ragging. This would ensure that all cases would be formally investigated under criminal justice system, and not by the academic institutions own ad-hoc bodies.
The Indian Supreme Court has taken a strong stand to prevent ragging. In 2006, the court directed the H.R.D. Ministry of the Govt. of India to form a panel which will suggest guidelines to control ragging.
The panel, headed by the former director of C.B.I. Dr. R.K.Raghavan, met victims, guardians and others across the country. The Raghavan committee has placed its recommendation to the Hon'ble Supreme Court, which has given its order on the issue.
Welcoming the Supreme Court's recent judgment on ragging Dr. Raghavan, the former CBI director, who is the chairman, Monitoring Committee for the Prevention of Ragging, said, "there are finally signs that the recommendations to prevent ragging in colleges will be taken seriously."
Supreme Court in 2007 directed that all the higher educational institutions should include information about all the ragging incidents in their brochures/prospectus of admission.
2009 UGC Regulation
In 2009, in the wake of Aman Kachroo's death, University Grants Commission (UGC) passed UGC REGULATION ON CURBING THE MENACE OF RAGGING IN HIGHER EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, 2009. These regulation mandate every college responsibilities to curb the menace of ragging, including strict pre-emptive measures, like lodging freshers in a separate hostel, surprise raids especially at nights by the anti-ragging squad and submission of affidavits by all senior students and their parents taking oath not to indulge in ragging.
Subsequently, UGC has made few amendments to the Regulation.
As per these,
- It is no longer required to get the verification of the affidavit done by an Oath commissioner.
- The definition of Ragging is updated as:
- "Any act of physical or mental abuse (including bullying and exclusion) targeted at another student (fresher or otherwise) on the ground of colour, race, religion, caste, ethnicity, gender (including transgender), sexual orientation, appearance, nationality, regional origins, linguistic identity, place of birth, place of residence or economic background."
With the situation of ragging worsening yearly, there is emerging a spontaneous anti-ragging movement in India. Several voluntary organisations have emerged, who conduct drives for public awareness and arrange for support to victims.
Online groups like Coalition to Uproot Ragging from India (CURE), Stopragging, No Ragging Foundation became the major Anti Ragging groups on the Internet. Among them, the No Ragging Foundation has transformed into a complete NGO and got registered as Society Against Violence in Education (SAVE) which is India's first registered Anti Ragging non profit organisation (NGO). These groups are working on issues related to ragging. Each of them is running anti ragging websites and online groups.
The Indian media has been playing a crucial role by exposing ragging incidents and the indifference of many concerned institutions towards curbing the act. The Supreme Court of India has directed, in its interim judgement, that action may be taken even against negligent institutions.