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Sunday, February 21, 2016

State cannot define what is nationalism: IIT-Bombay faculty - Indian Express


Meanwhile, faculty members of other IITs have also issued a joint statement “condemning” the arrest of JNUSU leader Kanhaiya Kumar.

A student shouts slogans even as JNU teachers and students form a human chain inside the campus in protest against arrest of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar on Sunday. Express photo by Oinam Anand. 14 February 2016

FORTY-TWO faculty members of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) have come out in support of JNU students, saying that the “state cannot define who is an Indian and what is nationalism”. They have also condemned state intervention in various educational institutions, terming it as “attempts to stifle dissent and suppress differences”.

Meanwhile, faculty members of other IITs have also issued a joint statement “condemning” the arrest of JNUSU leader Kanhaiya Kumar.

“We, the faculty of IIT-B, are deeply concerned with the recent events that have undermined the autonomy of institutions of higher education in this country. We believe that these institutions are spaces of critical thinking and expression. Matters of contention that might arise in the conduct of intellectual and social engagements need to be addressed democratically and rationally. These methods in turn should be within the purview of institutional procedures that are responsible and accountable,” said the IIT-B faculty members in a letter released on Thursday.

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“The state cannot dictate on the many meanings of what it is to be ‘Indian’ or mandate the meaning of ‘nationalism’. Rather, the state should be the one that makes sure that multiple ways of imagining one’s relationship with the nation are allowed to flourish, especially when it might contradict dominant ways of thinking,” they said.

Among those who have signed the letter are: D Parthasarathy, professor and head of department, humanities and social sciences; V S Borkar, professor, department of electrical engineering; Aftab Alam, professor, department of physics; A Sanyal, professor, department of computer science and engineering; A Chatterjee, professor, department of aerospace engineering; Anil Kottantharayil, professor, department of electrical engineering; Dibyendu Das, professor, department of physics; Kushal Deb, professor, department of humanities and social sciences; Madhu N Belur, professor, department of electrical engineering; N C Narayanan, professor, Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA); Purushottam Kulkarni, professor, department of computer science and engineering; Raja Mohanty, professor, Industrial Design Centre (IDC); Ravi N Banavar, professor, systems and control engineering; Supratik Chakraborty, professor, department of computer science and engineering; Aliasgar Q Contractor, professor (retired), department of chemistry; M S Raghunathan, distinguished guest professor, department of mathematics; Shrikrishna G Dani, distinguished guest professor, department of mathematics; Douglas Allen, professor of philosophy, University of Maine, USA, and visiting chair professor in Gandhian philosophy, IIT-B.

The faculty members, however, clarified that their letter reflects their stand and not that of the institution.

“A few professors at IIT-B have been discussing the increasing interference of the government as well as the drastic cuts introduced in funding for higher education including IITs. Both Rohith Vemula’s suicide and what happened at JNU is against all democratic norms and we have put out our support in the form of this statement,” said a senior IIT-B faculty member who did not want to be named.

“On February 15, the police stood by as mute spectators as a group of lawyers and hooligans attacked students and faculty of JNU… Isn’t this a ploy to silence all voices raised against this dictatorship. Hence we call upon students, faculty and staff of all higher education institutions to unite to fight intolerance against dissent and ensure that the right to freedom of expression, especially in academic institutions, is not undermined,” said another professor from CTARA.

Meanwhile, some faculty members of Pan-India IITs also issued a joint statement on Thursday. “We, the scholars and faculty of departments of humanities and social sciences of IITs across the country, condemn the police action in JNU and the arrest of the JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar on the charge of sedition. We also denounce the repeated acts of violence unleashed by some lawyers and others at the Patiala House Courts against faculty, students and the media, as well as police inaction regarding the same. We also criticise the general atmosphere of fear and intimidation that is being created to target the entire university,” they said.

“We see the attack on JNU as one of a series of attacks on academic autonomy and the liberal ethos of learning. The attempt to ban the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle at IIT-Madras, questionable appointments at various institutions of higher education, and the recent attack on the Ambedkar Students’ Association at the University of Hyderabad leading to the death of research scholar Rohith Vemula, must be seen as a part of a very disturbing trend,” said the statement.

- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/state-cannot-define-what-is-nationalism-iit-bombay-faculty/#sthash.uyhcIuDA.dpuf

Friday, February 19, 2016

Failed to crack IIT, but now helps to 'shape' best minds - TNN

Shoeb Khan | TNN | Feb 18, 2016, 09.42 AM IST

Jaipur: Twenty-one-year-old Suresh Kumar Sharma of Jaipur, originally a vegetable vendor, failed to crack the JEE three years ago, but at present he is the most sought-after memory trainer at coaching institutes for IITs in Jaipur and Kota. He helps enhance memory for teachers, many of whom are IITians, and best performing students at the coaching institute.

Not just this, Sharma, a first year engineering student, before his newfound fame has achieved a rare distinction of memorizing 70,030 digits of the value of Pi, which got him an entry in the Limca Book of Records recently . It took him 17.30 hours to recall all the values which is equivalent to remembering 7,000 cell phone numbers.

He claimed that his training module helps teachers and students memorize hundreds of chemical reactions, periodic table, physical and mathematical formulas, paragraph and points learning.

"I don't train them in rote learning. I make them learn different techniques which helps them to link subject content with objects, location and peg. I push them to follow the old Vedic system of learning by connecting everything with an image," said Sharma, who hails from Mansarampura village in Niwaru, Jaipur.

His life was not the same always. He has been an average student who managed to get 60% marks in Class X and 71% in Class XII, which was the hig hestever score by any student in his school and village. Having studied from a Hindi medium government school with minimum facilities, he landed in Kota after some of his friends advised him to try his luck at the coaching `mandi'.

He took admission in a coaching institute, which had the lowest fee structure and was ready to take multiple instalments in 2012.

However, within a month he found the rigorous classroom teaching added to the long study hours at home very stressful. Keeping pace with the classroom training was a challenge for him.

An event which changed his life was a suicide by a student from his hostel. "That suicide was third in last 15 days and had shocked the entire Kota including all of us. I was heartbroken to see an aggrieved family come for the body . He to ok the extreme step as he failed to score well in exams. That moment I thought of quitting my coaching and leaving Kota, but by then my family had borrowed lots of money for me," said Sharma.

He did appear in the exam and was nowhere close to the IIT score. "I realized that this is not my cup of tea. During those depressing days the only option I had was to start selling vegetables again or do something that could provide a remedy to thousands of students who struggle to memorize like I did. A ray of hope came from my grandfather, a scholar in Sanskrit, who used to share how people in Vedic period used to enhance their memory," said Sharma. He did his independent research on Vedas and modern memory enhancing tools to devise his own system to increase one's memorizing power.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Action plan on prevention of suicide among Idu-Mishmi Community - Arunachal Times

February 11, 2016



[ Karyir Riba ]

Roing, Feb 7: 

An Action plan will be prepared with the outcome of the Workshop on Suicide Prevention among the Idu-Mishmi Community of Arunachal Pradesh’ organised under the aegis of the Idu Mishmi Cultural and Literary Society(IMCLS), with Samaritans Mumbai, here at Cheta Rehko on Feb 6-7.
Post Doctoral Fellow, RGU Dr Tarun Mene informed that a Core Committee that will be responsible to put the outcomes into action is underway.

“All our findings and suggestions from the experts, including views and suggestions from the participants, have been taken into consideration, and soon our Action Plan will be ready for implementation, he said.

“Suicide, especially in the tribal society, is considered a taboo and hence, we are not supposed to talk about it. However, such a huge participation shows that everyone agrees that suicide is a serious problem that our community is facing, and that it is preventable too”, said Organising Secretary Assistant Professor(History) Govt. College Yachuli, Dr Rajiv Miso.
DC Anini Tamune Miso said, “Rate of suicide in the community is indeed alarmingly high, and such workshops are a need of the hour. With such awareness creating programmes, we can reduce the number of deaths because of suicide”.

He urged the organisors to conduct similar workshops at Anini, Italin, Hunli, and other parts of both the districts too.

Rintu Borah, a scholar from IIT Guwahati, shared some of his findings from his study on ‘suicide amongst the students of IIT’.

“The most common factor that I have come across is that most of the students belong to lower middle class families, and the path of suicide is chosen mainly because they cannot cope up with the pressure of the debts families accumulate for supporting their studies”, he said.

Separate interactive sessions for students with Consultant Psychiatrists Dr Pakha Tesia and Dr Sonali Tesia were held.
“Many vulnerable cases have been identified during the interactive sessions. We have the names of these students and necessary help will be provided to them”, said Dr Mene.


BJP stifling students' voice: Congress on IIT Madras circular to bar political activity - First Post

Feb 10, 2016 21:51 IST


New Delhi: Congress on Tuesday accused the BJP of "stifling" students' voice, as it reacted sharply to IIT- Madras reportedly issuing a circular to bar all kinds of political activity.

Representational image. Reuters

"BJP stifling student's voice-FTII, JNU, ban on Ambedkar Study Circle, Rohith Vemula's death & now ban on political activities by IIT Madras," AICC Communication Department Chief Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter.

A newspaper report had it that IIT-Madras has issued a circular with an aim to bar all kinds of "political activity" because that is "against the apolitical nature of the institute".

IIT Madras had courted a controversy in past over banning Dalit students' group, a decision which it revoked later following nationwide protests.

The report mentioned that one clause in the circular — an undertaking to be signed by students, scholars, project associates and others said that they shall not indulge in any activity that will adversely affect the image of the university.

Congress earlier took up the issue of Vemula's suicide aggressively with Rahul Gandhi visiting the Hyderabad University Campus twice.

HRD Minister Smriti Irani had accused the rivals of BJP of attempting to "instigate" students across the country over the issue.

PTI

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Campus Row: IIT-Madras circular bars all ‘political activities’ - Indian Express


Director calls it a ‘mistake’, says no intention to impose such rules; students slam move, link it to Rohith Vemula protests

Written by Arun Janardhanan , Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Chennai | Published:February 10, 2016 2:05 am

IIT-Madras

LESS THAN a year after IIT-Madras banned a Dalit students’ movement, and then revoked the decision following nationwide protests, the authorities, it has emerged, have issued another circular, this time with an aim to bar all kinds of “political activity” because that is “against the apolitical nature of the institute”.

Another clause in the circular — an undertaking to be signed by students, scholars, project associates and others – says, “I shall not indulge in any activity that will adversely affect the image of the university”.

Taking objection, students and students’ group representatives said these were vague clauses that will be open to interpretation, and can be used against any student at any point to drive him/her out of the hostel, which is the last point in the undertaking. In fact, as one student pointed out, something not very dissimilar had been done with Rohith Vemula, a PhD scholar from Hyderabad Central University, who was suspended, leading to his suicide that sparked nationwide protests.


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Official response of IIT-Madras varied from initial denial to lack of knowledge to admission of mistake “if such a circular went out”. The Indian Express has accessed the document being circulated in hostels.

Earlier, students were required to submit three affidavits – two anti-ragging undertakings from students and parents, and an “honour code”, or a set of rules or ethical principles for the academic community.

Specifying that he was not aware of any such new rule being implemented, Sivakumar Srinivasan, Dean of Students, said, “May be (it was) a mistake if such clauses are added in the list…or it may be something done by the hostel authorities.”
Srinivasan was blamed for the decision to ban Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC) in May 2015 based on an anonymous complaint forwarded by the Union HRD ministry. It alleged that APSC members were inducing “hatred” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindu community.

K Sethupathi, Chairman, Council of Wardens, initially said no such rules were circulated. When told specifically about the clauses and cited with instances of students being served the document for the last two weeks, Sethupathi said he had never “intended” doing so. “(It) may be a mistake,” he said. “If students have a problem, I will send them a clarification mail to not follow any such rule. (A) similar form uploaded on the website has no such clauses.”

IIT-M Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi also initially claimed ignorance but later told The Indian Express that it could have been a “mistake” by his colleagues. Asked how such clauses could be added by mistake, he said a similar rule was implemented in July last year, and revoked following students’ objection. “Officials must have used those papers again. Anyway, I have no intention to impose such rules,” Ramamurthi said.

A senior APSC leader said: “What do they mean by ‘indulging in political activity within the campus…’? It is a very vague rule that can be used against students in different contexts. When the authorities turn indifferent to APSC and other independent student groups, right-wing student groups propagating political ideology of the RSS and inviting their leaders are being treated like official bodies. Groups such as Vivekananda Study Circle or Vande Mataram are allowed to take students on campus buses for temple visits, and they have a permanent room when others have no such privileges.”

Condemning the document, Chinta Bar, an independent students’ movement in IIT-M, said in a statement that it may not be a coincidence that this document comes into circulation soon after student uprisings on campuses across the country following Rohith Vemula’s suicide. “Even in the absence of such undertaking, student activities are under constant surveillance. This undertaking would help administration take action against any student for anything under the tag of “tarnishing the image of IITM”…. This is to silence dissenting voices and crucify independent student bodies,” the statement said.


- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/dalit-banned-rohith-vemula-campus-row-iit-madras-circular-bars-all-political-activities/#sthash.iE7zrUWq.dpuf

Sapan Verma’s Rant On Student Suicide Shows How IIT Entrance Is Now A 3rd Degree Torture - Story Pick

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The discrepancies of being a reserved category student at IIT Tirupati - Pagal Guy


04 February 2016


The recent suicide incident at IIT Hyderabad had triggered a few questions. Does caste-based discrimination still exists? Does this mean that intolerance in India is indeed increasing?

When I asked these questions to myself, I thought it is unfair to generalize the whole country on the basis of a few incidents. So, as a student who secured a reserved category seat at IIT Tirupati, I decide to answer myself with reference to my college life only.

On my first day at IIT Tirupati, we were asked to forget about the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and All India Ranks. We were told that everyone here is equal. And as far as I have seen, everyone is being treated equally, which rules out the intolerance question. Problems arise when we discuss about JEE. It is not easily forgettable. Indian Institutes of Technology and National Institutes of Technology admits students on the basis of a system in which 49% of seats are reserved. This means half of the students here have used the privilege of reserved seats to get admission. Statistics are an open testimony to the fact that it is easier to get a particular seat being a candidate from a reserved category than to get the same seat being a candidate from the general category. This fact plays the biggest role in the conversations in my atmosphere.

Though some strict rules, and laws of the institute, and the government are in place to protect the reserved category students from any kind of discrimination, no one directly or indirectly intends to discriminate a person based on his/her community. Yet the fact that it is easier to secure seats if one is from reserved category, is repeatedly being said and heard in various forms.

While talking in a group, some student from general category proudly says that he/she fought a tough battle to get into IIT Tirupati and if the same reply comes from a reserved category student (which rarely happens), his/her words aren't appreciated. So most of the times, the reply to the above statement is an awkward silence or an effort to divert the topic. This is where I think people who used the privilege of reservations (maybe) are getting hurt.

After answering myself, I think about the origin of the reservation system and end this article with a question to be answered. The government implemented the reservation system to ensure the social, economic and educational upliftment of the depressed classes. But now I am being made to feel guilty for taking advantage of the system. I am thinking whether I deserve to be where I am today. Has the system served its purpose?

Rohith Vemula suicide: An ugly show of power-political nexus in India - Newsgram

By NewsGram News Desk -February 4, 2016



By Arnab Mitra
New Delhi: A student committed suicide in the wee hours of January 17 sparking a nationwide protest against political interference in the educational institutions. Rohith was a PhD student at the University of Hyderabad and he was expelled on the charges of assaulting an ABVP student in the University Campus.

This incident has its roots to a chain of events that spurted in August last year. Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), along with Ambedkar Reading Group, University of Delhi, Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, IIT Madras, ASA (TISS) in Mumbai and some concerned students from IIT Bombay had issued a joint statement condemning an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) attack on screening of ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hain’ and death sentence awarded to Yakub Menon. Later, ASA’s University of Hyderabad chapter organised a protest demonstration and according to a report they had assaulted ABVP leader Susheel Kumar.

But the University authorities became pro-active only after the involvement of Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya and HRD minister Smriti Irani in this case and which led to a decision against five Dalit students including Rohith Vemula. The authorities asked the students to vacate their accommodation and their living spaces were also blocked.


As the incidence has flared up, questions have been raised regarding the involvement of Union ministers in the internal matter of the University. And it was quite shameful when the BJP spokesperson in a leading TV show said, “As Bandaru Dattatreya is the MP from Hyderabad, so he has every right to interfere in the University matter”. Supporting the statement a RSS leader said, “These students are anti-national and for that reason they were against the death sentence of Yakub Menon”.

Almost all the political parties tried to capitalize on Rohith Vemula’s suicide, including remote regional parties like AAP who have no presence in Hyderabad. They played politics on a young death, making it a Dalit issue. Unfortunately, politics will continue over Vemula and more so in the states like West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh since assembly elections are due.

Two issue emerge here: One, political interference in campus life. Second, as the  experience from the past tells, incidents of campus violence often become political in nature. “But do we need political interference in the educational institution, and are educational institutions for study or for doing politics?”, asks Dr. Santwam Sarkar, professor of International Relation, Jadavpur University.

Dr. Akansha Ganguly, a columnist of a reputed English daily says, “It is too shameful to understand that a student committed suicide on the force of a democratic union and its ministers and now everyone is doing politics on ‘Vemula’ and it will be a good object for some political parties to win the upcoming assembly election in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh”.


Dalit scholar suicide: Time to reflect on institutional response to student diversity in higher education - DNA

Analysis


NIDHI S SABHARWAL | MALISH CM | Thu, 4 Feb 2016-04:05pm , New Delhi , dna

Caste dynamics on campus.

Rohith Vemula’s suicide should make us reflect. Though discrimination in education is not new in India, the current public response towards the issue must be understood in the context of the changing nature of the higher education scenario in India. The higher education sector in India has experienced an unprecedented expansion in recent decades. With this expansion an elite-centric system moved to a stage of massification. Recent data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) indicate that the gross enrolment ratio in higher education in India stands at 23%. The expansion of higher education has been accompanied by social diversity in student population.

Non-elite and non-traditional social and income group learners have entered the higher education system. In 2014, 63% of the student population in higher education belonged to the Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and other backward classes. The social composition of the faculty and administrators however, remains largely homogeneous. Recent data from MHRD shows that 61% of the faculty in higher education belong to the upper castes, followed by the OBCs (23.5%), SCs (7%), Muslims (6%) and other minorities including STs (2%) and PWDs (0.5%). 

Upper-caste representation further goes up in centrally-funded institutions like IITs, IIMs and NITs.

While public policy promotes expansion and diversity, the important question is how institutions and structures rooted in tradition are responding to this period of transition in higher education. The findings of the ongoing study being conducted by the authors reveal that faculty perception goes against the spirit of diversity. Based on meritocratic argument, students belonging to the Scheduled Castes — the former ‘untouchables’ — are now viewed as the ‘unteachables’ in higher education spaces. Also, their mannerisms, accents and sartorial preferences are devalued and made fun of in the campus. This puts pressure on students to behave ‘appropriately’ and it results in alienation. This can be read along with the fact that peer group formation is based on group-identity. This takes an extreme form when student elections are contested on the basis of caste. Since they are in minority, the students from the Scheduled Tribe group find minimal representation in college unions and student representative bodies. Girls from Scheduled Castes experience heightened vulnerability to harassment because of their gender and caste. It was found that, irrespective of institutions being studied, SC students are hesitant to reveal their identity. This reflects a fear of discrimination.

To institutionalise equality and protect students from discrimination, there are clear directives from higher education authorities to create Equal Opportunity Cells in institutions. 

According to the directives, there has to be appointment of anti-discrimination officers and ombudsman for redressal of grievances of students. Legal methods have been also implemented in higher education spaces to safeguard students of the discriminated groups such as women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from possible discrimination (UGC ‘Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutions Regulation’, 2012). We found that although all types of cells such as equal opportunity, anti-ragging and women’s cells exist, most of them are not functional and certainly not effective. Similarly there is limited institutional-level planning, monitoring and coordination of the cells.

There is a gap between policy for expansion of higher education system and institutional capacity to adapt to changing nature of student diversity. The major reasons for negative attitudes towards student diversity can be attributed to insensitivities of institutional leaders and faculty members towards socially and educationally disadvantaged social groups. They often forget that equality of opportunity in education is not just the removal of disability, but also development of abilities of populations who were historically denied educational opportunities. Where removal of discrimination is a distant dream, one cannot even talk about developing abilities.

We also find rays of hope. In one of the colleges the students said that the principal of the college made them feel safe and secure in the campus. Students had a direct contact with the principal and that the students felt free to approach him anytime if they faced problems on campus. The students shared feedback to the effect that the ‘Principal is friendly, sensitive, helpful and his proactive interventions improve the climate of the campus’. The proactive nature of the principal was reflected in his regular meetings with the students to enquire about their well-being. He encouraged them to raise any issue and report undemocratic practices.

We found some of the faculty members taking proactive steps to encourage inter-group interaction in classrooms. These include strategies of mixed groups for interactions, debates and discourses that helped the students to come together and remove ignorance based on identities. It was difficult initially as the students wanted to retain their identity-based peer group and did not want to mingle with others. Some of the faculty members were also sensitising students to the culture of diverse social groups in society. These examples show that the institutional leaders and faculty members can make a difference. However, sustainability of such examples is possible when these are institutionalised.


There has to be an institutional mechanism to respond and adapt to the changing nature of social diversity amongst the student population. The teaching community and education managers must provide and promote the spirit of democracy, where opposing ideas may be expressed and innovative ideas can emerge. The socio-cultural space of campus must be receptive and sensitive to students of diverse backgrounds and campuses must cultivate a culture of respecting diversity and sharing. Lack of inter-group interactions and formation of peer groups on the basis of identity is a symptom. This, in fact, undermines the very idea of campus as a democratic, social space where young minds engage with diverse peers and learn from each other. It is also time to critically look at leadership patterns in our higher education institutions. From individual-centric leaders, our system has to move to collective and shared leadership wherein each stakeholder is incorporated into the decision-making system. Treating symptoms alone may not cure the disease.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rohith Vemula suicide: Don't try to 'crush' Indian youth, Rahul - First Post

Feb 2, 2016 22:37 IST


Bandlapalli, Andhra Pradesh: Continuing his broadside against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday accused it of attempting to impose the "failed RSS ideology" on everyone and alleged Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula was "crushed" by the ruling dispensation.

He also took on External Affairs Minister Minister Sushma Swaraj over her reported statement that Rohith was not a Dalit.
"Your government crushed FTII students and beat up JNU students. Why all this is happening because you are trying to impose one ideology on youth of the country. He (Rohith) alleged that you were trying to finish off the education system at universities and IITs.

"You are attempting to forcefully impose the failed ideology of RSS on everyone. Just try to do it and see what
the youth of India will do to you. You will see Rohith in every school, college and university. Don't try to crush
Indian youth. This is my advice to Central government," he said.

"Our students in colleges and universities are being suppressed. Rohith Vemula was made to commit suicide. Why...
because he was expressing his views. He did not harm anyone.

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He did not kill anyone. But the Indian government crushed him," the Congress Vice-President said at a public rally held to mark 10 years of UPA's flagship MGNREGA programme.

"And now a minister of Central government says he was not a Dalit. Sushmaji, it is not the question of whether Rohith was a Dalit or not. The question is of a youth of India, who wanted to study and learn, was killed by Indian government," the Amethi MP asserted.

Earlier, activists of ABVP, BJP's student wing tried to disrupt Rahul's speech by raising slogans and holding placards but police personnel immediately intervened and took them away from the public meeting venue.

The Congress leader had last week visited Hyderabad Central University to express solidarity with students protesting the suicide of Rohith.


PTI

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

JNU student's suicide threat is another reminder of the pressures on Dalit scholars - Scroll.In


In the absence of financial and social support from universities, students from backward communities are often compelled to give up on their education.
Mayank Jain  · Today · 11:30 am


Photo Credit: Akhil Kumar

“If you will not provide my remaining SRF [senior research fellowship] of one year within one week, then I will make suicide in front of administrative bloc, JNU, New Delhi. For this death, you and JNU will be responsible.”

On the eve of Republic Day, Jawaharlal Nehru University vice-chancellor SK Sopory received a letter from a Dalit scholar at the institution. In his letter, Madan Meher threatened to commit suicide if he did not get an extension on his doctoral research work and the remaining funds owed to him as part of his research fellowship.

The incident shook the academic community, especially given that it took place just a week after another Dalit student, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide in Hyderabad University, alleging that he had not received his fellowship money in seven months.
Now, many other students are speaking up against what they believe to be a caste bias at some of the country’s most prestigious universities.

Common cause
In Meher’s case, his letter prompted the JNU authorities to provide an assurance that they would look into the matter and resolve it shortly. What remains unresolved, however, is the continued pressure on students from backward communities to continue with their studies, even as universities continue to dilly-dally on providing them with adequate funds or supervisors for the purpose.

Just a day after Meher’s letter came to light, nine more Dalit students from the same department – Center for International Politics Organization and Disarmament – alleged that they were being harassed and discriminated on the basis of caste.

The Union human resource development ministry directed the university to look into the grievances of scholars and resolve them swiftly. But the central ministry itself has been facing criticism for its decision to withdraw and review the non-National Eligibility Test fellowships that are availed by more than 35,000 students in central universities across the country.

Students on campus, meanwhile, claim that these are not isolated cases. They say that Dalit scholars are by now accustomed to facing the brunt of an “insensitive system” that refuses to acknowledge the difficulties faced by first generation scholars. These individuals often face societal and financial pressures, thus prompting them to give up on their education much earlier than they would have liked.

“Scholarships and fellowships have always been a big issue across universities and JNU is no different when it comes to stigmatising and harassing students from the backward communities,” said Ishan Anand, a PhD scholar at JNU and a member of the Democratic Students Federation. “Every one in ten students in the campus is likely to be Dalit, but the caste bias which has persisted since decades refuses to go. There are various ways in which it is carried out, but Dalit students who often hail from weak financial backgrounds are the worst hit when their fellowships are stopped or delayed.”

Anand, who is not a Dalit, faces difficulties of his own. He claims that his fellowship money is often delayed by months. He said that apart from grant delays, there is the legwork and paperwork that all students have to endure, making life only more difficult for them.

“I can think of supporting myself, but many of our peers send money home and survive on these funds, and any sort of cutback is basically a nudge for them to get out of education and find a job that can pay their bills,” Anand said.

Anand’s claims resonate in the case of Dalit scholar Senthilkumar, who killed himself at the University of Hyderabad in 2008. There were claims that his distress was because of his scholarship being stopped just weeks earlier. He was using the money to help his family back in his village. Of the three other students apart from Senthilkumar who were not appointed supervisors, two ended up dropping out.

An uneven field
According to academicians, reservation and quotas for students from backward minorities has resulted in a surge in the number of seats available for Dalit scholars. The number of teachers hailing from the disadvantaged backgrounds has also increased. But as it turns out, gaining entry to universities is only the first obstacle.

“Over the last two decades, we have seen more Dalit students being admitted and at the same time, the nature and number of fellowships have improved to be able to support these students,” said Professor K Satyanarayana, who teaches at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad. “However, the system is designed such that discriminatory practices seep in despite best efforts, and those from the margins stay on the margins.”

Satyanarayana explained that teachers in major public universities in the country are still finding it tough to come to terms with the reality of a Dalit scholar being as deserving as a normal student.

“Fellowships are available to all in most cases, but if it is being used as a tool for punishment as it happened in Rohith’s [Vemula] case, then we are just defeating the purpose,” he said. “Instead of being provided with remedial classes, more grants and support to continue their studies, Dalit scholars who underperform are punished with curtailment of avenues. 

Teachers are complicit too since there’s hardly any secrecy about a person’s caste background and it is used by them to mock and shame students in classrooms at times.”

Satynarayana’s words find echoes among many Dalit scholars in the country’s campuses. According to Subhanshu Singh, who is pursuing his M.Phil in political sciences at JNU, SC/ST students are regularly given lower marks in viva tests than their general category peers.

“This is a common practice, which can be established over the years and across departments that, those scholars moving from M.Phil to PhD are often marked on their caste rather than their abilities,” said Singh. “They presumably try to weed out Dalit students thinking of them as undeserving, while those from the general category are marked on their abilities and performance and not their lineage.”

There were also claims of bias at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, where a study group modelled on the philosophies of Babasaheb Ambedkar and Periyar was banned last year. Students allege that the campus is overwhelmingly upper caste and hasn’t strictly followed reservation norms while admitting students and hiring faculties from various categories.

“The norm of 49.5% reservations for faculty hailing from backward castes is constantly flouted at many IITs including this one,” said Azhar Moideen, a student at IIT-M. “We have collected data and it constantly shows that students and teachers from the Dalit communities are missing from the campus.”

Moideen, however, said that fellowship grants work much better at the IITs as compared to other universities because of its autonomy and a central grant that doesn’t differentiate.

“All students benefit from fellowships here irrespective of their surnames,” he said. “There’s hardly any delay or bureaucracy in receiving funds as opposed to Junior Research Fellowships or Senior Research Fellowships in central universities. The key at IITs is that they fund everyone and then decide on evaluating students rather than the other way round.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Delhi cops assault students protesting over Vemula's suicide| Video Monday 01 February 2016 07:29 PM... - Manorama On Line



Read more at: http://english.manoramaonline.com/news/just-in/delhi-police-assault-student-protesters-rohith-vemula-suicide.html

Policemen try to stop students as they march towards the office of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)...

New Delhi: Delhi Police on Monday drew flak as a video emerged in which male police constables can b...

Read more at: http://english.manoramaonline.com/news/just-in/delhi-police-assault-student-protesters-rohith-vemula-suicide.html

Teaching shops of India: Are Tamil Nadu college campuses turning into suicide dens? - IBN Live

Posted on: 09:05 AM IST Feb 01, 2016 


Even as the nation rose up in protest against the untimely death of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula who committed suicide in Hyderabad, a string of student suicides went almost unnoticed in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. CNN-IBN delved deep into the murky education sector to find out why Tamil Nadu's campuses are turning into suicide dens.

On January 23, a suicide pact came to light in Tamil Nadu's Villupuram district. Three young students - Priyanka, Saranya and Monisha - were found in a well near the SVS College of Yoga and Naturopathy where they were studying.


Tamil Nadu has the dubious distinction of being a close second to Maharashtra in terms of the number of suicides in 2014.

An alleged suicide note signed jointly by the three young girls spoke of harassment at college, exorbitant fees and lack of infrastructure, facilities and teachers.


Tamil Nadu has the dubious distinction of being a close second to Maharashtra in terms of the number of suicides in 2014. Chennai in fact has topped the suicide charts amongst metros for four years in a row.

The percentage share of total suicides in 2014, according to the NCRB data, is 12.4% in Maharashtra and 12.2% in Tamil Nadu. In 2013, the percentage share of suicides in both Maharashtra as well as Tamil Nadu was 12.3%, while in 2012, Tamil Nadu was at 14% and Maharashtra at 13.4%.

With lakhs of students jostling and vying for the top spot, academic life is no longer much fun.

KS Antonysamy, Director-Public Relations, Loyola College Chennai, said, "Speaking about pressures on students, mainly it's academic pressures – scores, placement qualification, reluctance to take examinations. There's psychological pressure of peer group as well, when students, especially disadvantaged ones from rural areas, want to fit in. Finance is also a pressure, for it is tough for many students from villages to pay and stay in hostels."

The suicide epidemic regularly sweeps through premier institutes like the IIT Madras. In 2015 alone, two students took their own lives out of sheer academic pressure. Since 1981, over 75 students have committed suicide in all the IITs, according to media reports. Of the 75 cases of suicide, 20 were in Kanpur, 13 each in Kharagpur and Madras, 11 in Bombay, six each in Delhi and Guwahati, while five were in Roorkee.

According to Dr Lakshmi Vijaykumar, a Mental Health Expert with the World Health Organisation, even the IITs are not spared and the number of suicides that take place can be blamed on the education system.

After battling various such pressures, a student finally graduates, only to find the he or she is unemployable, because the quality of education is said to be so poor in Tamil Nadu.

Serial killing of dalit or tribal students? Rohith Vemula isn’t the Last Victim of Caste Hatred - Main Stream Weekly

Saturday 30 January 2016, 

It is a grave misfortune of a nation of 1.25 billion people that their HRD Minister is a lair, a damn lair. Her press briefing in the evening of January 19, 2016 on the suicide of Rohith Vemula is a bundle of lies, distortion and falsification. She has no parallel; nor morals. She has forfeited her credibility as a Union Minister in charge of a portfolio that has responsibility to train minds, enlighten lives and dispel the darkness of ignorance and orthodoxy. 

Her press briefing was aimed to acquaint the media with facts—‘verified by police’ obtained from ‘the ground’, according repeated and tall claims. She repeatedly told that the Proctorial Board that decided to punish the five Dalit scholars of Hyderabad Central University had at its head a Dalit. This claim made before the nation on camera is out and out false. She has underlined a game-plan. If a Dalit has to be harmed, keep another Dalit in the loop. If so, the blame can be apportioned on the poor Dalit or tribal. This was demonstrated in the last Lok Sabha session of the UPA-II. The Samajwadi Party had pressed in a Dalit MP, Nagina, of Bijnour, UP to obstruct the Constitution Amendment Bill to guarantee reservation in promotion of Dalits and tribals in government service!

In her press briefing the HRD Minister, in tone and tenor, besides body language, was an incarnation of arrogance. She was intolerant besides being theatrical in her utterances. 

Nobody believes her claim that the scholar, Rohith, was not a Dalit. It is an issue of Dalit verses non-Dalit. The victims of the system are all Dalits. And we are sure Rohith is not the last or the only one. Over ten Dalits, who were students of the Central University, have committed suicide in the past. Universities, IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, and institutes of excellence offering education and training in skill in medicines, engineering, management symbolise graveyards for Dalit and tribal students. And the country’s apathy and insolence does not recognise that the Dalit and tribal students are unwelcome for higher education and research in the nation’s institutions of excellence. 

Here is a list of 18 victims between 2007 and 2013, though it is not conclusive at all.

1. M. Shrikant, final year, B. Tech, IIT Bombay, January 1, 2007;
2. Ajay S. Chandra, integrated Ph.D, Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore, August 26, 2007;
3. Jaspreet Singh, final year MBBS, Government Medical College, Chandigarh, January 27, 2008;
4. Senthil Kumar, Ph.D, School of Physics, University of Hyderabad, February 23, 2008;
5. Prashant Kureel, first year, B.Tech, IIT, Kanpur, April 19, 2008;
6. G. Suman, final year, M.Tech, IIT, Kanpur, January 2, 2009;
7. Ankita Veghda, first year, B. Sc Nursing, Singhi Institute of Nursing, Ahmedabad, April 20, 2009;
8. D Syam Kumar, first year B.Tech, Sarojini Institute of Engineering and Technology, Vijayawada, August 13, 2009;
9. S. Amravathi, national level young woman boxer, Centre of Excellence, Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, November 4, 2009;
10. Bandi Anusha, B.Com final year, Villa Mary College, Hyderabad, November 5, 2009;
11. Pushpanjali Poorty, first year, MBA, Visves-varaiah Technological University, Bangalore, January 30, 2010;
12. Sushil Kumar Chaudhary, final year MBBS, Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical Univer-sity (formerly KGMC), Lucknow, January 31, 2010;
13. Balmukund Bharti, final year MBBS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, March 3, 2010;
14. J.K. Ramesh, second year, B. Sc, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, July 1, 2010;
15. Madhuri Sale, final year, B.Tech, IIT, Kanpur, November 17, 2010;
16. G. Varalakshmi, B.Tech first year, Vignan Engineering College, Hyderabad, January 30, 2011;
17. Manish Kumar, IIIrd Year, B.Tech, IIT, Roorkee, February 13, 2011; and
18. Linesh Mohan Gawle, Ph.D, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, April 16, 2011.

Caste arrogance has not exhausted itself after taking precious and talented lives of these victims within the given period cited above. The faculties, students and non-teaching staff of the educational institutions carry their home-grown hatred and prejudice against the vulnerable to their workplace. The academic institutions, therefore, are virtually graveyards for Dalit and tribal students. Large number of the victims of caste hatred were from Andhra Pradesh. This State is ahead of many States in technological empowerment. But it is not attitudinally ahead of Haryana or Bihar or UP. 

Education does not change the Indian, say, Hindu, supremacist attitude toward society.

The case of Pradeep Kumar, a Khatik pursuing mechanical engineering in the Kalpana Chawla Institute of Technology, Hissar, Haryana, underlines the sick mentality of the upper caste. He was murdered by two of his Jat classmates at the college gate when he was entering the campus on the fateful day. Reason? A media report screamed thus: “A topper’s murder throws light on caste in Haryana classroom”.

2 The same daily quoted his father, Ram Lal, as saying: “He did not want to go to college that morning. They had told him on Saturday that a pistol would be waiting for him.” The victim’s apprehensive father accompanied him to the college. He saw his son being killed by one of the two beasts firing from the revolver before his eyes at the collage gate. Pradeep had had cleared four of six semesters topping in each which they did not relish. And they wanted to silence him for ever. Merit actually proved to be his curse. Here the Dalits have a fabulous dilemma—if they are average or poor in studies, they face a barrage of invectives and insults for entry based on reservation; if meritorious, bullets await to greet them. Pradeep is a case in point.

Jaspreet Singh was a brilliant student doing his final year in the Government Medical College, Chandigarh. He cleared it but three of his teachers, Rajesh Kumar, Amarjeet Singh and Arun Kumar Aggrawal, blocked his upward mobility by forcing him to fail in Community Medicine. These three had threatened Jaspreet to fail again and again. They did it religiously. Seven months after his suicide, a three-member group of senior professors re-evaluated Jaspreet’s answer-sheets and found that he had cleared the subject. What a price of hatred delivered to the Dalit medial student! His sister, a heartbroken student at the injustice to his brother, doing her Bachelor of Computer Application, too committed suicide.

In the AIIMS, Delhi, Bal Mukund Bharti, a Dalit, committed suicide in the face of mounting and sustained persecution, humiliation and discrimi-nation there. There were/are several cases of harassment, discrimination and humiliation against Dalit and tribal students doing medicine in the nation’s so-called pride. And a probe committee headed by Prof. S K Thorat, former Chairman, UGC, underlined the arrogance, non-cooperation and boycott of P. Venugopal, the then Director, AIIMS for the inquiry into allegations of discrimination and harassment against Dalit students. 

In a documentary available on YouTube, called The Death of Merit, Balmukund’s parents recalled that teachers would “torture him and tell him that he had come on reservation”. A teacher directly told him: “You can never become a doctor.” “They don’t like me because of my caste,” Bharti told his father, and wanted to change his name— ”He was a Chamar from Madhya Pradesh.” For all Dalits or tribals who either commit suicide or not have similar stories of suffering and humiliation. They are unwelcome in the portals of educational institutions per se. Rarely any get justice. Who are therefore “casteist, extremist and anti-national”?

All Dalit students, boys or girls, who, defying all powerful roadblocks, social, psychological, financial or physical, on their upward movement through their colleges or universities pursuing medicine, engineering, accountancy or management, when the show signs of promise and potential, symbolise hopes and aspiration not only of the family but also of their community as a whole. Snipping them off by the quirk of upper-caste madness or hatred suddenly creates a vacuum of irreparable dimension in the family or community to which the victims belong, sparking trauma and sending powerful negative signals. 

They become apprehensive that their children are neither safe in those high temples of higher learning. Indeed the country uniformly as well as unambiguously demonstrates its revulsion against Dalits and tribals climbing the ladders of knowledge for ultimate emancipation. A brigade of assassins like Germany’s Gestapo during the fascist regime is in place everywhere to blast, thwart or scuttle Dalit or tribal aspirations by means criminal or extra-constitutional. They do not want the underdogs to be seen beyond their spheres ordained by their whims that reflect their scriptural doctrines preforming dirty professions in sewers, graveyards, streets, fields for the pleasure and happiness of upper-caste masters and lords. They want the Dalits and tribals as slaves only.

Is Fellowship for Dalits or Tribal Students a Source of Corruption?

Scholarships for Dalit or tribal students are not paid on time. These are delayed inordinately. Rohith did not get his scholarship for over seven months @ Rs 25,000 per month. He has left behind arrears amounting to Rs 175,000. Chronic delay in releasing scholarship to Dalit/tribal recipients is routine not only for Dalit fellows pursuing M. Phil or Ph.D in universities across India but also for every recipient in schools, colleges or universities across the board. Let me share my personal experience. Some three-four years back I was in Patna University to attend a seminar. In course of interaction with about two dozens of Dalit/tribal research scholars, I gathered that an organised racket was at work. Their monthly UGC scholarships were not released until and unless a substantial amount was paid as bribe to their respective supervisors. 

Release of funds is subject to their recommendation. This recommendatory power is used as a weapon to hurt the interests of Dalit scholars. So, the scholars under inescapable circumstances fell in line and met their supervisors’ lust.

I wanted to conduct a survey of the extent and dimension of abuses. I, therefore, designed a questionnaire and circulated amongst them to seek their feedback. I had assured them of perfect and foolproof confidentiality with respect to information they would share with me so their identity and interest remained a closely guarded secret. Some of the scholars filled up the questionnaire but none put down in black and white what they spoke verbally about the payment of bribe to their supervisors.

May I share my experience of doing dissertation in Patna University leading to the award of Ph.D and seen how my supervisor, a Professor of Economics of Patna University, was nothing less than a bully. (Readers, if any, may glance through my communication “Where should reform in higher education begin?” http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article3340.html

The dissertation was, in no way, intended to yield any financial benefit to me. But the power of recommendation by the supervisor is a handle to harass, victimise, intimidate or coerce the Dalit or tribal scholars for financial gains. This is not limited to bribe. The sufferers know more.

Dr B.R. Ambedkar had befittingly underlined the difficulty of liberating the underdogs in the following words: “In the fight for Swaraj you fight with the whole nation on your side...[but to annihilate the caste], you have to fight against the whole nation—and that too, your own. But it is more important than Swaraj. 

There is no use having Swaraj, if you cannot defend it. More important than the question of defending Swaraj is the question of defending the Hindus under the Swaraj. In my opinion, it is only when the Hindu society becomes a casteless society that it can hope to have strength enough to defend itself. Without such internal strength, Swaraj for Hindus may turn out to be only a step towards slavery.” We have got independence. We have not liberated our Dalits and tribals from the thraldom of upper-caste Hindus.

 We expect a fair investigation into the case by men of proven integrity. Let the government institute a Fast Track court to try the case. The whole case from investigation to trial and award of punishment under supervision of the Supreme Court to guard against and frustrated undesirable interference of powerful elements. The entire process of investigation of the crime, prosecution and sentence should be completed within six months, if not early.3

Footnotes
1. The Milli Gazette, ‘Dalit students committing suicide in last 4 years in premier institutions’, Published Online: May 17, 2011, Print Issue: May 16-31.
2. The Indian Express, Hisar, Friday March 02, 2012.
3. The case of rape and murder of Nirbhaya was adjudicated with great promptitude.
The author is a retired IAS officer of the Bihar cadre and former Vice-Chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur.
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Rohith’s suicide: Teachers on fast - Asian Age

Jan 29, 2016 | Pti | Hyderabad

Three teachers of Hyderabad Central University on Thursday sat on a one-day hungerstrike demanding that vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile be removed and in-charge V-C Vipin Srivastava step down, in order to resume academic and administrative activities.

The protest by teachers comes a day after a second batch of students on an indefinite fast demanding justice for dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula, who allegedly committed suicide on January 17, were shifted to hospital following concerns over their health condition.

A teacher from the Osmania University also joined the protesting teachers in the fast on HCU campus under the banner of SC/ST Teachers’ Forum and other concerned teachers.
Earlier, a group of seven students had also been taken to hospital following their deteriorating health condition. The agitating students on Wednesday refused to hold talks with Mr Srivastava, who came to the protest site. They alleged that Mr Srivastava was equally responsible for the “wrong affairs” and demanded that he step-down from the responsibility of interim V-C.

Meanwhile, the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, spearheading the agitation over Rohith’s suicide, said that students would intensify the “struggle” till all their demands are met.

Their demands include Podile’s resignation, and also Srivastava’s from the post of in-charge VC, “sacking” from Union Cabinet of HRD Minister Smriti Irani, employment to a family member of Rohith and Rs 50 lakh compensation to his family.

The selection of Srivastava as interim VC was earlier opposed by the students and SC/ST staff forums as they claimed he headed the Executive Council sub-committee whose decisions were “responsible for the death of Rohith” and that he was one of the accused in the death of another Dalit student in 2008.

Students of most universities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana yesterday boycotted classes in solidarity with the agitators as they sought “justice” for Rohith.

JPC members want to visit universities
Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, in his letter to the HRD ministry, called the University of Hyderabad a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics” and complained that the ministry had been a “mute spectator” to the attack on the ABVP activist. Both HRD minister Smriti Irani and Mr Dattatreya have been under attack by the Opposition, which has also demanded that both resign.


At the joint parliamentary committee meeting, members also raised strong objections over the absence of the secretaries of the petroleum and telecom departments, and decided to approach LS Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to complain about the secretaries allegedly “undermining” parliamentary panels. They also sought her approval for a tour to the University of Hyderabad and IIT Madras, that have been in the news lately over alleged atrocities. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss issues related to the implementation of reservations in BSNL and bodies under the petroleum ministry. But since the secretaries were not available, the panel could not take up the listed agenda.


HRD names ex-HC judge for Rohith death probe - Asian Age



A student shouts slogans demanding resignation of Smriti Irani during a protest. (Photo: PTI)

The HRD ministry Thursday named former Allahabad high court judge Ashok Kumar Roopanwal to probe the circumstances that led to dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad recently. HRD ministry sources said Justice Roopanwal will review the entire sequence of events and its circumstances and establish facts and correctives. The one-man judicial commission has been asked to submit its report within three months, it is learnt.

Earlier, a fact-finding committee set up by the ministry gave its report on developments at the university, after which it was decided a judicial commission would be set up. The scholar’s death led to protests by students in several parts of the country.
The joint parliamentary committee on SC/ST welfare, chaired by BJP MP Faggan Singh, has voiced concern over Vemula’s suicide and has proposed sending a delegation to the University of Hyderabad, and also to IIT Madras to examine complaints of injustice/discrimination against dalit students.

Vemula’s suicide sparked a political row across India as a written complaint by Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya against the alleged attack on an ABVP activist in August, where he called the university a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”, led to five letters from the HRD ministry.
Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, in his letter to the HRD ministry, called the University of Hyderabad a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics” and complained that the ministry had been a “mute spectator” to the attack on the ABVP activist. Both HRD minister Smriti Irani and Mr Dattatreya have been under attack by the Opposition, which has also demanded that both resign.

At the joint parliamentary committee meeting, members also raised strong objections over the absence of the secretaries of the petroleum and telecom departments, and decided to approach Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to complain about the secretaries allegedly “undermining” parliamentary panels. They also sought her approval for a tour to the University of Hyderabad and IIT Madras, that have been in the news lately over alleged atrocities against dalits.

The agenda of the meeting was to discuss issues related to the implementation of reservations in Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and bodies under the petroleum ministry. But since the secretaries were not available, the panel could not take up the listed agenda.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Suicide focus on old rule - Telegraph India

Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, Jan. 28: After the suicide of a Dalit PhD scholar in Hyderabad, the Centre is rushing to implement its three-year-old rule that all higher education institutions should appoint an ombudsman to hear the grievances of victims of discrimination.

Senior officials in the UGC said they had no idea how many colleges and universities have implemented the notification that requires them to appoint a faculty member not below the rank of associate professor as anti-discrimination officer.

Government officials said they would ask all centrallyfunded technical institutions, including the IITs, IIMs and the NITs, to implement the UGC's 2012 regulations to check discrimination.

"Certain institutions like IITs do not directly come under the control of the UGC. They are unlikely to have implemented the regulation. We are going to write to all the institutions under the control of the ministry to enforce the regulation," said a senior official.

The Union HRD ministry today set up a judicial commission headed by former Allahabad High Court judge Ashok Kumar Roopanwal to probe the sequence of events leading to the January 17 suicide of Rohith Vemula in the University of Hyderabad. One of the mandates of the commission is to find out if the university had enforced the 2012 regulations.

Faculty and administrative sources at the university said it had set up a grievance committee but had not appointed an anti-discrimination officer.

The commission's mandate has in effect brought other central universities and centrally funded institutions under scrutiny. Neither the UGC nor the HRD ministry has ever reviewed the implementation of the regulations that came into effect on January 19, 2013.

No university or college can deprive a student or a group of students of access to facilities on the basis of caste, religion, language, ethnicity, gender or disability, the regulations say.

Institutions will ensure students are not discriminated against by stopping fellowship. Institutions are barred from segregating some students from others in classrooms, playgrounds and other common areas.The anti-discrimination officer is to initiate follow-up action, including a fact-finding inquiry, after getting a complaint of discrimination.

In Hyderabad, five Dalit students including Rohith were suspended from the hostel and barred from common areas on the campus except their academic departments and libraries. They were accused of attacking an ABVP leader on the campus.Sources in Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University said they have set up Equal Opportunity Cells headed by senior faculty members to address grievances of victims of any kind of discrimination.

However, most central universities and medical institutions are unlikely to have put in place the anti-discrimination mechanism, said Dalit rights activist Gurindar Azad from the NGO Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion.

"In most of the institutions, the students are directly going to the SC Commission for redressal of grievances because there is no institutional mechanism," he said.

Manish Kumar, a post-graduate medical student at Vradhaman Medical College here, said the college has no in-house forum to address complaints of discrimination.

Kumar is one of 20-odd Dalit students who failed repeatedly in the first year of the MBBS course between 2006 to 2011. They approached the SC Commission, which ordered an inquiry under academic Balchandra Mungekar.

"The Mungekar committee concluded caste-based discrimination in the college. After that we passed," Kumar said.