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Ragged, Mumbai teen drops out of medical college in 3 days

The 17-year-old, who braved economic hardship and earned a merit seat at the Government Medical College in Akola, says seniors abused and picked on him constantly, causing him mental anguish

Getting through a medical institute was his dream but barely three days after he joined the Government Medical College, Akola, 17-year-old Anwar (name changed) withdrew his admission. The reason? Seniors ragged him on all three days, to the extent that it caused him mental stress and he began to feel scared of continuing in the college for five years.

Anwar has decided to take the MHCET again next year and  gain admission to a better medical college closer to home. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Anwar has decided to take the MHCET again next year and  gain admission to a better medical college closer to home. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

He is so afraid that he has refused to go back to the institute, and, instead, will reappear for the medical entrance test next year in the hope of getting through to another college. Anwar, who is now back in the city, has mustered the courage to lodge an official complaint with the medical education authorities as well as the dean of the institute about the incident.

Anwar lives in a Mumbai chawl with his mother, maternal uncles and their families in. He finished his junior college studies in the science stream from SIES College. Dreaming of becoming a doctor, Anwar burned the midnight oil to prepare for the MHCET the common entrance test for gaining entry to medical colleges.

“I got admission to this college in the fourth list and joined the institute on September 23. On the same night, some final-year students came to my room and enquired about my background and where I came from. I told them about myself and that my family was in Mumbai. This, I was told by my roommate, was my big mistake,” said Anwar.

His roommates explained to him that students whose families are not in the same city become easy targets for ragging. “Since we are on our own, seniors harass us, knowing very well that we will not run back to our families that easily,” he added. Pretty soon, the seniors started walking in and out of the first-year students’ hostel and picked on the newcomers, with Anwar being a regular target.

Scared and scarred
On September 24, the college had declared a holiday on account of the Navratri festival, and while most of his batchmates went to a temple close by, Anwar chose to study in his room. “We were informed that girls would be shifted into one of the buildings; so, the boys were asked to shift to another building.

A group of seniors picked on some of us and we were made to move luggage. They kept using abusive language all the time and behaved indecently with some of us. We were being told that this is not ragging and that no complaints would be entertained. Not a single batchmate was ready to complain to the authorities about the abuse, out of fear,” Anwar recalled.

He added that apart from the regular ‘questioning session’ that he had to face with the seniors, he was also asked to bow his head whenever he walked past a senior and greet them with respect. The harassment continued on the third day as well; by this time, Anwar was truly scared.

“I had also noticed liquor bottles in one of the storerooms in the hostel, but never mentioned it to anyone. I was too stressed to even complain about any of this incident,” he added. Anwar immediately enquired about the procedure to withdraw his admission and submitted his application the next day. “September 27 was supposed to be the last date to withdraw admission, and any delay after that would have resulted in a fine of Rs 5 lakh.

I didn’t even have the courage to tell the dean the correct reasons. I shared everything with my mother and she agreed I should leave the institute,” he added. Anwar had paid the fees with the help of funds raised by a junior college professor of his, Sheikh Mohammed Madni, and teaching in coaching centres. Anwar also confided in Madni.

“I’ve know this student for many years and seen how hard-working he is. Since his family’s financial situation was not very good, he used to take tuitions to raise money to pay his college fees. Despite all this, he managed to score 90.38% in HSC boards and got this seat through merit. It’s really sad he had to quit the institute because of such a bad experience,” said Madni.

Anwar has decided to wait for a year and appear for the MHCET again next year, in the hope of bagging a seat in a better college. “He had gotten through to a well-known dental college in the city, which he declined because his dream was to finish MBBS.

It is unfair that he has to lose an academic year because of an issue which is considered a crime now,” Madni added. Anwar has also lodged a complaint with the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) as well as the dean of the institute in Akola.

Ragging gone too far
While there have been a number of ragging cases reported, the case that highlighted the dire need for anti-ragging laws was that of medical student Aman Kachroo.

In March 2009, 19-year-old Kachroo, a student of Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College and Hospital in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, was found dead after being ragged by four seniors. A post-mortem report attributed the cause of death to brain haemorrhage.

With no action being taken against the culprits, the student’s father took the matter to the police and four students were arrested within two days. After a series of hearings, the college principal was suspended following Supreme Court orders.

While a fast-track court booked the four accused for murder, their punishment was changed to four years of rigorous imprisonment on the charge 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 the state’s book, the University Grants Commissions (UGC) finally released its Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009, which is now being followed by institutes across the country.

College speak
“While we have received the complaint now, this student never mentioned being ragged at the time of withdrawing admission. I personally counselled him for a long time, but he insisted he wanted to leave. Even his mother mentioned that her son’s health is deteriorating and that he would apply for admission next year.

They both refused to understand the situation,” said Dr Ashok Rathod, dean of Government Medical College, Akola. He added that it is not possible that seniors, who are also interns at the hospital and are usually busy, intimidated him.

“Had he mentioned this at the time of withdrawal of admission, we could have asked him to identify the said seniors. Now, we will call the complainant back to our college and start the process of inquiry,” added Rathod.

Anwar, however, maintains he will never go back to the institute. “Not only am I worried about being targeted by the seniors again, I’m worried this complaint will affect my future prospects in this field. I hope, next year, I get through to an institute closer to home,” he said.

Expert speak
Seema Hingorrany, a clinical psychologist, explained, “Ragging is a traumatic experience and, often, when students are far away from home, such an experience affects a child mentally as well as emotionally.

With no support system in a new environment, most students shy away from reporting such matters, which is a big problem. In cases where students are studying in far-flung areas, one should make sure that they are in touch with their family or friends back home regularly.

This ensures that they share their experiences regularly with someone, and get the emotional support they require. Even the government needs to work to set up more helpline numbers and anti-ragging cells to curb this menace from its very root.”

Definition of ragging
According to the UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009, the following constitute the act of ragging:
>> Teasing, treating or handling with rudeness a fresher or any other student
>> Indulging in indisciplined activities, causing annoyance, hardship, physical or psychological harm 
>> Asking a student to indulge in any act that causes a sense of shame or embarrassment
>> Any act by a senior student that prevents, disturbs or disrupts the regular academic activity of another student
>> Exploiting the services of a fresher or any other student for completing the academic tasks assigned to others
>> Any act of financial extortion or forceful expenditure burden 
>> Any act of physical abuse (sexual abuse, homosexual assaults, stripping, forcing obscene acts, gestures)
>> Any act of abuse or spoken words, emails, public insults which would include perverted pleasure or sadistic thrill which causes discomfort to any fresher
>> Any act that affects the mental health or self-confidence of any student

What institutes need to do
>> All educational institutes should display the anti-ragging rules, as well as the toll-free number, prominently on their websites
>> Students, at the time of admissions, should be made to sign an undertaking that they will not indulge in any form of ragging; they will also report ragging if they witness the same
>> All institutes should form an anti-ragging cell
>> Any incident of ragging should be reported to the institute as well as local police authorities

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