Ragging, a method that was initiated as a way of breaking down social barriers, toughening up young students, and preparing them for the challenges of life, has now become a more extreme and harmful practice, with many cases of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse being reported. In many countries, ragging has been banned or heavily regulated in educational institutions due to its negative effects on the mental and physical well-being of students. The terminology used for this practice is different in other countries, including “hazing” in North America, “bizutage” in France, “praxe” in Portugal, and “fagging” in Britain.
The problem of ragging has plagued Indian universities for many years. Despite efforts to prevent and punish it, ragging continues to occur, causing physical, emotional, and psychological harm to the victims. The culture of ragging is often perpetuated by seniors, who consider it a tradition and a rite of passage for newcomers, creating a toxic environment for many students.
This blog will explore the issue of ragging in Indian universities, examining its causes, consequences, and potential solutions.
DEFINING RAGGING AND EXPLORING ITS CONSEQUENCES ON YOUNG STUDENTS
Ragging refers to a form of bullying, harassment, or initiation method that takes place primarily in educational institutions such as colleges and universities. It involves the mistreatment, humiliation, or intimidation of newcomers or junior students by their seniors or peers. In Indian universities, ragging can take many forms, ranging from harmless pranks to extreme physical abuse. Some of the common forms of ragging include forcing freshers to perform embarrassing tasks, making them strip or undress, forcing them to consume alcohol, and subjecting them to physical violence, sexual harassment, and verbal abuse.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulation on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009 defines ragging as, “Any 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 perform 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.”
Young students who have ever been victims of ragging can suffer from severe consequences like anxiety, depression, a loss of concentration in their academics, falling prey to alcohol and drugs, or, in the worst cases, suicidal thoughts. Many students are reluctant to speak out against ragging, either because they fear retaliation from their seniors or because they feel that it is a vital part of growing up.
DISCOVERING THE ROOT CAUSES OF THIS MENACE
- A sense of authority over juniors: Ragging is used by seniors at any college institution to establish a sense of seniority and dominance over juniors over time. This boosts the senior’s morale and elevates him/her to a higher social status in their college.
- Previous history of being a victim of ragging: Ragging is often done by seniors who have had previous instances of being victims of ragging themselves. Those instances have quite often created vast amounts of frustration, anger, and insecurity for the perpetrators, which is satisfied by subjecting young students to the same act.
- Lack of proper regulations in universities: Lack of preventive and redressal mechanisms as well as the absence of adequate supervision in college institutions further adds fuel to the fire of ragging, where perpetrators of ragging consider it their right with no fetters attached to it.
- Lack of sufficient awareness: There is a lack of awareness and knowledge among students (seniors and juniors) about the consequences that ragging can have on their physical and mental health, which leads to the persistence of this behavior in colleges.
UNVEILING THE LAWS AND CASE STUDIES RELATED TO RAGGING
LAWS AND REGULATIONS IN THE COUNTRY
- The Tripura Educational Institutions (Prevention of Ragging) Act, 1990: The state of Tripura pioneered the formation of an act to govern cases of ragging in educational institutions in the state. This act, apart from defining what constitutes ragging, duly penalizes and punishes the perpetrators of the offence with imprisonment of up to four years, or a fine, or both. It also suspends convicted persons from the educational institution apart from classifying ragging as a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
- The Telangana Prohibition of Ragging Act, 1997: An act of a similar nature as that of the state of Tripura, with a slight difference in that this legislation penalizes five types of ragging with harsher punishments for the more severe nature of the offence.
- UGC guidelines regarding ragging: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has framed the guideline, Regulation on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009, which addresses ragging to a vast extent, including definitions, punishments, measures of prohibition and prevention of ragging at the institutional level, the setting up of an Anti-Ragging Committee, an Anti-Ragging Squad, and a Monitoring Cell on Ragging.
It’s not just the states of Tripura and Telangana that have taken steps to curb this menace; other states, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, and Jammu and Kashmir, have formed laws for the same.
- Vishwa Jagriti Mission Through President V. Central Govt, Through Cabinet Secretary and Ors. (2001): The apex court, in the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by Article 32 and Article 142, issued guidelines for educational institutions to create awareness amongst students, teachers, and parents that ragging is a reprehensible act, initiate anti-ragging movements, and carefully guard hostels and accommodations where freshers are accommodated.
- University of Kerala V. Council, Principals’ Colleges, Kerala and Ors. (2009): The Supreme Court of India necessitated the formation of an Anti-Ragging Committee and an Anti-Ragging Squad in every educational institution. It further obligated the Ministry of Education and the UGC to form a central crisis-hotline and anti-ragging database.
STEPS TO REDUCE THE CASES OF RAGGING: ADDRESSING THE UNADDRESSED
- Raising awareness about ragging: As was already said, many students are not aware of the dangerous ramifications of ragging. The root of this issue is located here, so to eradicate this threat, college administration must closely coordinate with the UGC to educate students and teachers about the negative effects of ragging on the physical and mental health of the ragged students.
- Stringent application of laws and regulations: A lax attitude towards the implementation of anti-ragging laws and UGC regulations could be harmful at a time when ragging has established deep roots in Indian universities. A strict attitude towards incidents of ragging would work as a deterrent for students engaging in these acts.
- Establishment of anti-ragging committees addressing these acts: Adequate reporting, redressal, and awareness regarding incidents of ragging could be guaranteed by the creation of anti-ragging committees on college campuses involving faculty members, college staff, and student representatives.
- Sensitization programmes for seniors: The college administration should ensure the conduct of workshops and sessions to sensitize senior students and promote the importance of treating juniors with respect.
Ragging is a social menace that must be addressed through collective efforts from educational authorities, policymakers, students, and society as a whole. To ensure that this threat to our educational system is completely eliminated, the UGC and the Ministry of Education should collaborate with the appropriate college administration to focus on the stringent implementation of existing rules and regulations. An educational institution is a place where a freshman develops his/her knowledge and set of skills over a sustained period of years. It is only through collective efforts and a zero-tolerance policy towards ragging that we can create a safe and nurturing environment in these institutions that fosters personal growth and academic excellence.
NOTE: If any of the readers have faced ragging or anyone in their contact list has been a victim of it, the same can be reported at https://www.antiragging.in/, the 24×7 toll-free number 1800-180-5522, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author(s) Name : Akshat Sharma (Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar)