A circular issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) recently, has asked all universities and colleges to constitute a committee, and a separate cell to deal with issues of gender-based violence and gender sensitisation programmes, to ensure zero tolerance on campuses for harassment of women.
The idea behind it is to make the institutes take steps to make the environment safe for female teachers and students. ‘This cell could provide on-going management advice, supervision and oversight, as well as information material from time-to-time.
Senior officials as well as faculty members, including the institute’s principal should keep a close watch to ensure that such incidents do not occur at all,’ states the circular. The circular also highlights how this move will help eliminate the culture of impunity as well as the culture of silence and complicity so that no form of harassment goes unheard or unreported.
A college principal in the city highlighted how she works on these issues through their anti-ragging cell. “Any form of harassment is not tolerated on our campus and students are informed about the same at the time of their induction itself.
Students as well as parents are clearly explained the zero-tolerance attitude of the college towards harassment and violence,” said Marie Fernandes, principal of St Andrew’s College in Bandra (W). But the pro-vice chancellor of the University of Mumbai had a different view on the need for a separate cell to monitor and register complaints by women.
“The university and colleges have anti-ragging cells as well as a Women’s Development Cell, which cover all these issues. Colleges regularly conduct gender sensitisation programmes for the benefit of students. All institutes are well equipped as of now and students are also aware of these cells,” said Naresh Chandra, pro-vice chancellor.
The UGC circular further suggests that all colleges/institutes/universities can develop a page on their website for students to report any incidents of sexual violence or harassment. A similar complaint can also be lodged with the registrar/principal of the institute, states the circular. Action can be taken against the erring person after intimation to UGC.
Cracking the whip
In March 2009, 19-year-old Aman Kachroo, who was a student of Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College and Hospital in Kangra, HP, was found dead after being ragged by four seniors.
The student’s father approached the police. The college principal was suspended following directions from the Supreme Court. The four seniors were sentenced to four years of rigorous imprisonment on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Around the same time, the state assembly passed the Himachal Pradesh Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Ragging) Act, 2009, making ragging a cognisable and non-bailable offense. Taking a leaf from their book, the UGC released Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009, which are now being followed across the country.