27 June 2019
New Delhi: Against the backdrop of the Payal Tadvi suicide case, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked all higher education institutions to send a report, within a month, on the action taken in instances of caste-based discrimination faced by the students on their campuses.
In a notice sent to the Vice Chancellors of the universities, the UGC has also asked them to set up a committee to look into the discrimination complaints received from SC/ST/OBC students, teachers or non-teaching staff.
The UGC had earlier asked the educational institutions to create a page on their website for lodging complaints of caste discrimination and also place a complaint register in the principal/registrar's office. Action should be taken promptly against the erring official or faculty member when any such incident comes to the notice of the authorities, it has said.
The notice also states that the officials or the faculty members should desist from any act of discrimination against students on the basis of their social origin. "The universities and colleges should ensure that no official or faculty member indulges in any kind of discrimination against any community or category of students."
The debate on the caste-based discrimination on university campuses heated up after the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad in 2016 and the Payal Tadvi case recently, highlighting that marginalisation of students based on their social origins is rampant even in the medical schools.
Sukhdeo Thorat, a professor Emeritus of JNU and former UGC Chairman who headed the committee to investigate the allegations of discriminatory treatment meted out to SC/ST students at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), had found that lower caste students faced discrimination in everyday lives at the premier institute.
About the measures that should be taken to check the discriminatory behaviour, he said: "There has to be an act by the government to make caste-based discrimination at the university campuses a punishable offence. Apart from this, a set of guidelines should be formulated for the upper caste students on how to behave in presence of the students from the marginalised sections."
Thorat added that increased participation of the students from the marginalised sections in the executive bodies of the universities and colleges would also ensure that such behaviour is checked. "There should also be a compulsory course in civic learning at the educational institutions to inculcate a culture of caste-based equality among the students," he said.
In 2015-16, the UGC had received 142 complaints - 102 from SC and 40 from ST students - from various universities.