Ragging is a disturbing reality in the higher education system of our country. Despite the fact that over the years ragging has claimed hundreds of innocent lives and has ruined careers of thousands of bright students, the practice is still perceived by many as a way of ‘familiarization’ and an ‘initiation into the real world’ for young college-going students.
The Supreme Court defined ragging in the Vishwa Jagriti matter (1999) as, "Any disorderly conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness any other student, indulging in rowdy or undisciplined activities which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in a fresher or a junior student or asking the students to do any act or per form something which such student will not in the ordinary course and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or psyche of a fresher or a junior student." ( Raghavan Committee Report, 2007, para. 3.19).
Other organisations/bodies working in this field have also attempted to define ragging, the variety of definitions being reflective of differences in perspective and interpretation. In 2007, the Committee of Consultants to Raghavan Committee considered ragging "neither a means of familiarization nor an introduction with freshers, but a form of psychopathic behaviour and a reflection of deviant personalities. Further, ragging reproduces the entrenched power configurations prevalent in civil society" (Raghavan Committee Report, 2007).
According to the UGC Regulation on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Institutions, 2009, ragging constitutes one or more of any of the following acts:
The Coalition to Uproot Ragging from Education (CURE), an NGO working against ragging, in its reports mentions that a total of 717 cases of ragging were reported in the English print media across the country from January 2007 to September 2013.
The highest number of incidents was reported from Uttar Pradesh (97), Andhra Pradesh (75), West Bengal (73), Tamil Nadu (54), Kerala (48), Madhya Pradesh (48), Maharashtra (42), and Punjab (35).
During this period, there were 199 cases of ragging that led to major and minor injuries to students, including 81 incidents leading to hospitalization and causing permanent disability. A total of 128 cases reportedly involved sexual abuse of freshers. Furthermore, 129 cases of ragging led to serious group clashes, protests, strikes and violence between students. Drugs and alcohol abuse, and forced smoking was noted in 35 cases while 25 cases involved caste, region or religion as determining factors.
Analysis of media reports indicates high percentages of incidents from Engineering and Medical Colleges with a total of 314 cases (44 per cent of total cases). Hostels and paying guest accommodation for students seem to be the breeding ground for ragging as 358 cases (50 per cent of total cases) were reported from residential places located in and around the campus area.
It was in the late 70s in the aftermath of the death of two freshers in a Regional Engineering College that the Government of India for the first time issued a notification banning ragging in the country.
The anti-ragging campaign got an impetus in 1999 when the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in response to a PIL filed by the Vishwa Jagriti Mission, asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to issue guidelines to universities to curb ragging. The UGC formed a four member committee under Prof K.P.S. Unny, Registrar of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, to examine and submit a report on ragging. In their recommendations, the Unny Committee put forward a Prohibition, Prevention and Punishment proposal i.e. prohibition by law, prevention by guidelines and punishment if the prohibition and punishment do not work. They recommended that central and state governments should enact laws against ragging. They suggested punishments ranging from cancellation of admission to a monetary fine of up to Rs. 25,000 and rigorous imprisonment of up to three years. The Committee also recommended various measures to be undertaken for sensitisation against ragging and highlighted the need for incentivizing wardens and students for their good conduct and anti-ragging activities. It was also suggested that institutions failing to curb ragging should be disaffiliated.
In 2006, the issue of ragging was once again brought to the forefront when the Supreme Court expressed its disappointment in the implementation of its previous guidelines and constituted another committee under Dr. R K Raghavan, Director CBI, to suggest means and methods to prevent ragging; to suggest possible action that can be taken against persons indulging in ragging; and to suggest possible action against institutions that fail to curb ragging. The committee made several important observations. It noted that ragging has many aspects, including psychological, social, political, economic and cultural, and that it adversely impacts the standards of higher education. It considered ragging as our failure to inculcate human values from the schooling stage. The Committee made some strong recommendations to curb ragging.
State Laws against Ragging
UGC Regulation on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009
In order to address the issue of increase in ragging cases in campuses, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has brought out the UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009. These regulations are to be followed mandatorily by all Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs).
Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on receipt of any complaint of ragging in a school affiliated to it, takes action as per the Affiliation Bye-laws and existing guidelines which are available at www.cbseaff.nic.in and www.cbse.nic.in, respectively.
All India Council for Technical Education
All India Council for Technical Education (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Technical Institutions, Universities including Deemed to be Universities imparting technical education) Regulations 2009” under Section 23 and Section 10 of the AICTE Act, 1987.
Medical Council of India
The Medical Council of India has made "Medical Council of India (Prevention and Prohibition of Ragging in Medical Colleges/Institutions) Regulations, 2009" under Section 33 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.
UGC has established an Anti-Ragging toll free “helpline” 1800-180-5522 in 12 languages for helping victims of ragging. The UGC has developed an Anti-Ragging Website - www.antiragging.in. The Portal contains the record of registered complaints received and the status of the action taken thereon. Anti-Ragging Mobile Application for Android and Windows platform is also available for filing the complaint on ragging/ filing the anti-ragging undertaking/ for calling the helpline number. To get the details, click here.
Videos on Anti ragging are available at UGC website.
According to the UGC Regulation on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009, depending on the nature and gravity of the guilt established by the Anti-Ragging Squad, those found guilty may be awarded one or more of the following punishments, namely;