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'We are affected by the seniority syndrome'

 

For Rajendra Kachroo, who lost his son Aman Satya Kachroo in a brutal case of ragging, fighting this campus menace has become the leitmotif of his life. Aman, 19, a student at the Rajendra Prasad Medical College and Hospital in Himachal Pradesh's Kangra district, died on March 8, 2009, after being ragged by four drunken seniors, who have since then been charge sheeted. From approaching the Supreme Court for directions which led to the Ragging Prevention Programme, to an independent probe by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), he has fought a lonely battle against a system which refuses to give way. Operating from his Gurgaon home, this single-man army has compelled the government to change the way things are processed at the Human Resources Development (HRD) Ministry. In a candid interaction with Aditya Raj Kaul, Kachroo, who is in-charge of the anti-ragging helpline (18001805522), speaks his heart out for the first time.
ADITYA RAJ KAUL | Issue Dated: August 26, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : Rajendra Kachroo | Aman Satya Kachroo | ragging case | campus menace | |
 

It has been three years since Aman died after being ragged savagely. You have campaigned  extensively for eradicating ragging through the Aman Movement. Has there been any significant change in mindsets?
Yes and no. Yes, because it has been in the public domain, not because of me but due to the media which helped create awareness. I have only pushed the media. Authorities such as the President of India's Office, CAG, CVC, NHRC – all have played a significant role. The involvement of every high office impacts an issue, if not immediately. My contribution has only been to prompt, argue and pursue. Ragging as an issue is in the mainstream. Colleges, universities, the Parliament and the press are talking about it, which is a positive impact. From our experience, metros like Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi have benefited but there is not much beyond that. Ragging continues. We cannot rejoice and say it is over. We have at least one complaint a day, all 365 days, which we receive at the call centre.

What according to you is a long-term solution to the menace of ragging?
The solution is what I took to the Supreme Court in 2009. It comprises three components. One, tuning up the complaint redressal system, the help line is part of it. Follow-up of the complaint, its management – all fall under it. But, this is not going to cure the disease. In my opinion, the disease has many factors – society, family and culture. One component common to all is the lack of communication. There is no communication between students and the authorities, only a very formal and limited contact. Contact  between colleges and universities or universities and the University Grants Commission (UGC) is nearly negligible. The flow of information gets stuck at every stage. Also, we believe in the hierarchical system. We assume that the older are wiser, we accept their wisdom blindly. That is why we are affected by the 'seniority syndrome'. It is in our society, I alone cannot change it. But, what we argued before the Supreme Court is that if we improve communications at least between student bodies, parents and teachers, we will resolve 30 to 40 per cent of the problem. This is the prevention aspect. The third aspect, as I emphasised, is that of awareness which is an ongoing process. We have been able to do a great deal, not through the ministry and the NGOs, but because of the media.

The HRD Ministry recently made you in-charge of the anti-ragging help line in India. How did that come about?
I argued before the Supreme Court that projects like these need a review. The state machinery cannot continue to go on in the manner in which they have been doing in the past. If we have a complaint, we cannot create a physical file which will go from one desk to another and by the time all formalities are done, the victim has been beaten ten times over. We need to change the methodology and that is not possible within the regular functioning of the government. That is why we argued for a non-governmental agency for monitoring this project. The project is on track but to create a link between the call center and the regulatory authority, there is a lot of work to be done. The order of the government in our favour was very specific: a non-governmental agency should be created. Three years ago the HRD Ministry hired a company owned by the government for setting up the call centre. Six months after its formation in December 2009, I reviewed its progress, following up each date and complaint. The results were very poor. There must have been about 300 complaints, out of which 150 were still lying on the table after three months. There was a lot of commotion and confrontation with the government on many issues. It was only after the NHRC report proved my allegations that I was finally allowed to take the job up.

Who, according to you, indulges in ragging? Where does this mindset evolve from?
Ghettoisation and the environment are fertile breeding grounds. It is like a bacteria, and grows in a conducive environment. The bacteria is not created in the university.  This inherently sadistic individual was created at home by the family, the school or even genetics.

Will the anti-ragging help line prove beneficial? What do statistics on ragging indicate?
The call center started on June 20, 2009, but until this year it was handled by the government machinery, with the help of a company which had no management system in place. We have received about 1,500 calls in the last three years – on an average one call a day. There are five states that top the list – Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar; even Maharashtra to an extent, the rural areas outside Mumbai. In the last two months, we now have a proper management structure whereby on receiving a complaint, within minutes we inform the college principal, we log this information and if the complaint is very serious, we inform the police. All conversations are recorded. We follow up on it, issue reminders and close the case only when the victim agrees.

adityaraj@thesundayindian.com

 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017