So many students, so few shrinks

May 12, 2009, 09:12 IST | Omi Gurung

The Supreme Court wants every college to have a psychiatrist to counsel students against ragging, but Karnataka has only 250 registered practitioners for 1,527 colleges

The Supreme Court wants every college to have a psychiatrist to counsel students against ragging, but Karnataka has only 250 registered practitioners for 1,527 colleges

Karnataka does not have enough psychiatrists to counsel students against ragging and treat victims. Late last week, the Supreme Court directed all state governments to constitute committees with psychiatrists to look into incidents of ragging, but Karnataka has far too many colleges, and too few psychiatrists.

TOO MANY WOES: The state has too many colleges, and too few psychiatrists to handle counselling for students against ragging.

According to a 2007 report of Anuradha Foundation, the total number of registered psychiatrists in Karnataka is just 250 (of which 192 are in Bangalore). NIMHANS puts the number of registered psychiatrists in India at 3,500 psychiatrists.

The death of Aman Khachroo (19) in a ragging incident prompted the Supreme Court to take note of the menace. Society Against Violence in Education (SAVE), the country's only registered anti-ragging NGO, is worried about the shortage.

"Ragging exists mainly in medical and engineering colleges, mostly in hostels. There have been many complaints from Bangalore students but not many come out with details," said Dr Kushal Banerjee, founder-president of SAVE.

The Supreme Court banned ragging in 2001, and said every college prospectus should mention the punishment for ragging. And any institution that fails to curb ragging can be de-recognised.

"Those who rag have no proper upbringing. The parents are to be blamed for the incidents. In our college we have clearly mentioned that ragging in any form will result in expulsion. We plan to employ a psychiatrist from Nimhans soon," said Dr B T Venkatesh, principal of Sri Bhagawan Mahaveer Jain College. 

"Our prospectus mentions the punishment for ragging. Psychiatrists from KIMS hospital also counsel students on campus. We plan to have a permanent team of counsellors soon. We also give out important phone numbers to parents during the fresher's inauguration ceremony," said Dr H H Sudhakar, student welfare officer, KIMS College.

Many students drop out of college after being ragged. Save says nine teenagers are killed every year due to ragging in India, while hundreds of them get seriously injured, hospitalised or disabled.

First person

S Dhar, a ragging victim, told MiD DAY: "In 2002 when I joined Ramiah College, I was forced to have a hair cut, and not allowed to cross the college campus. In the hostel I was asked to gesture and tell stories using obscene words. There was lots of mental and physical abuse."

He said most of those who rag are also victims of ragging. "Juniors are sometimes ready to be ragged because they want to know their seniors, but they don't expect to be abused and tortured," he said.

Last year, a 16-year-old fired at two of his classmates from an air gun in Girinigar, apparently as revenge for ragging.

Academics in Bangalore welcome the court's decision that psychiatrists be employed to help ragging victims.
"Prevention is the only cure for ragging. And only when ragging is reported will the law be enforced," said M S Thimmappa, former vice chancellor of Bangalore University, and a psychologist.

"We welcome the Supreme Court order to have a counseling committee in every college. Ragging is an offence and offenders must be punished," said Dr K R Suresh , principal of BIT. 

Number of Colleges in state

Universities: 19
Medical Colleges: 172
Teacher training Colleges: 72
Engineering Colleges: 120
Art and Science Colleges: 930
Other: 214
Total: 1527

(Source: Ministry of Human Resource Department)

Ragging facts
>>Ragging was banned by the Supreme Court in   2001
>>It is known as hazing in the West
>>It kills nine teenagers in India every year

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