Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ragged to tears

So there was a meeting presided over by this highly learned Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to look into ragging and what causes it and how to prevent it and the whole blah.

Except that this highly learned Committee showed that it was comprised of six impatient farts, who would give everybody just two minutes of airtime and not allow us press guys to ask the same kind of question over and over again.

Idea being, that this Committee would document the views of students', parents', educationists', government officials' and everyone else willing to talk about the subject. Their observations will then be sent to the Apex Court, which can merrily take it's own time to act on the recommendations and implement a strong law, if it so desires.

Interestingly, in both sessions that yours truly attended, (apart from the press meet organised after the two public sessions) some heads of institutions and hostel wardens came with heads of student councils from various parts of Maharashtra. Naturally, in the face of so much parental guidance, so to speak, every student could be heard parrotting, "There is no ragging in my college, none."

Yeah, right. Wonder how many of them were paid to say that.

I swear if I was still a Mid Day reporter, this Committee would have had it. Here's why:
- First off, the Committee is visiting Mumbai, Kolkata, Jaipur, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi and heaven knows where else, without any figures for those places.
- The Committee will visit Delhi tomorrow, and NGOs, student activists and central government guys have been invited to share their views. How come none of the above were present for the Mumbai meet, or indeed, in any of the other three meetings the Committee has presided over so far?
- What sense does it make to have a common session for students and faculty members? No wonder everyone clammed up, and Santosh Andhale (for the first time in his existence) succintly said that only 'goody-goody' things were said and a rosy picture of the ragging scene in Mumbai painted. Which will throw the findings off-kilter, you'd agree.
- How does one pass and enforce a strict law on ragging based on the comments of 50-odd people in every city? And when more than half of them are lying through their necks about no ragging existing in their colleges, what does it say for the already pitiably small sample size per city?
- How will the Supreme Court define what ragging constitutes, when not a single student or faculty member can judge when a line is being crossed? One student said, "If I am asked to sing a song in public and I'm okay with it, I'll do it. But I can't accept any vulgar challenges just to be accepted by seniors." Contrast this with the hostel warden of a ladies' establishment in Mumbai, who says, "If seniors make juniors work on their journals and homework, it will only help the juniors in the long run. Later on, even the juniors can ask help from their seniors. It is not wrong to help in college assignments."
Notice that both the student and the warden choose to draw their own lines about what is acceptable and what is not? So if this is such a subjective issue, how does the SC hope to cover us all with an objective 'ragging boundary'?
- Findings will be submitted to the Apex Court by mid-April 2007. There is no deadline on how quick the SC acts on it.
- The Committee is not drawing its own conclusions about which places show more incidences and why.
- There is no representation for places other than metropolitan cities. I suppose no ragging happens anywhere else.
- An issue of such import as ragging and how to prevent it is documented based on voluntary comments by a mixed group that insists on talking bollocks. The sessions last not more than one hour each. Imagine, a law is to be implemented based on this insightful talk.
- My biggest grouse is that not a single attempt, not one, is being made to explain the existing Anti-Ragging law for the State, and indeed, to explain students' rights to them. And Maharashtra has reportedly the best Anti-Ragging law with very slight lacunae.

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