By Aashna Sheth

Edited by Namrata Caleb

14-year-old Adarsh Singh, the son of Bihar’s Cooperative Minister, Jai Kumar Singh, allegedly attempted to commit suicide after months of nefarious ragging in his reputed high school. This contentious yet appalling issue highlighted the severity and importance of tackling this persistent problem in educational institutions. Established in 2009, Anti-Ragging Rules and Regulations along with an Anti-Ragging hotline signaled a step forward in confronting this pressing matter. Yet, this solution is not all encompassing.

 The Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 887/2009 (The University of Kerala v The Council of Principals of College in Kerala & Ors) wherein 20 year old Aman Kachroo died of a brain hemorrhage after being persistently ragged led to the historical Supreme Court Judgment resulting in the framing of ‘The Regulation On Curbing The Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions’. These rules framed and regulated by the University Grants Commission clearly defined ragging, methods to prevent it and punishments to those who aided, abetted and engaged in this misconduct.

The UGC emphasizes upon restraining this malpractice in Higher Educational Institutions (namely colleges and universities) where this misdemeanor has historically been a part and parcel of the college experience. The ragging of ‘freshers’ by the seniors in a college/university is something students have come to accept. Nevertheless, the UGC rules, which require students to sign undertakings, set up Anti-Ragging Committees and Squads along with preventive measures such as psychological counseling to those who have been affected by this practice has further alleviated the harshness of this college centric practice and ameliorated the lives of students.

However, in the light of the recent Adarsh Singh case, these rules do not apply. The UGC regulations are solely limited to Higher Educational Institutions. As the document clearly states, the rules are pertinent only to institutions for a program of study beyond 12 years of schooling. Thus the question we need to ask is an imperative albeit confounding one; why haven’t these regulations been applied to schools as yet?

It can invariably be argued that ragging is commonplace in higher educational institutions and hasn’t been widely encountered in the schooling system. Adarsh Singh’s case however illustrates the dire need to introduce a system of rules and regulations for schools as well. The importance of this problem though, has not gone unnoticed. The Ministry of Women and Child Development under the leadership of Maneka Gandhi endeavored to make changes to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. Attempted amendments to the bill included criminalizing ragging and corporal punishment. Corporal punishment could lead to a jail term of three years whereas those accused of ragging could be sentenced to three years of imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 10,000.  Although these changes have not been approved of (till date), the attempts by the Ministry of Women and Child Development indicate a move in the right direction.

What is all the more necessary however, is the setting up of a committee to discuss this matter in relation to schools. Although schools do establish their own set of rules, a universal set of rules similar to the kind established by the UGC can be constructed specifically for schools. The concept and problem to confront is essentially the same and the UGC guidelines establish comprehensive and workable solutions. Rules such as signing undertakings, publicizing the school’s anti-ragging policy through posters, convening sessions by the heads of the school and establishing an Anti-Ragging Committee and Squad to regularly monitor activities are fairly easy to implement. If not, the UGC rules could be extended to schools although the section on punishments could be altered keeping in mind the age and maturity of the children being dealt with. If these steps are universally established and paid heed to, the problem that arose in the case of Adarsh Singh has relatively lower chances of taking place.

Ragging is a problem that has been plaguing schools and colleges for decades now. Even though Anti-Ragging Rules can be framed and established, what’s essentially critical is the effective implementation of these provisions. The rule of law without adequate execution amounts to nothing but pretty ideas on a piece of paper. Thus, in order to avoid a repeat of the Adarsh Singh incident, what we need is an effective set of regulations to curb this malpractice in schools along with the efficacious implementation of the same.

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind