New Delhi: Call it a strategy to garner political support for passing pending key education Bills or a progressive measure to reduce caste bias in colleges and universities—the central government has put in place a set of rules that can possibly stop grants or cancel recognition of higher educational institutes engaging in such discrimination.
The new rules set out by the University Grants Commission (UGC) aim to provide safeguards to students of reserved categories such as scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SCs/STs) against “discrimination, harassment and victimization”.
Mint has seen a copy of the new set of rules, which will take effect once it is issued in a gazette notification.
The move comes in the wake of several reports of alleged discrimination across the country, including at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, Amity University in Manesar and Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee in Uttarakhand, among others.
In the first step, the government has decided to ask institutes to appoint on-campus anti-discrimination officers to curb such incidents, beginning with the coming academic session.
While the authorities feel that such a step will bring equity on campus, it is understood that the move will help the human resource development (HRD) ministry gain political support to pass several Bills, including the education malpractice Bill, pending in Parliament.
It is believed that on a sensitive issue such as caste, political parties would not like to be seen opposing the proposed legislation.
“Caste bias will now be considered an education malpractice and it will be put in the Bill as well,” said a senior HRD ministry official on condition of anonymity. “Knowing the sensitivity, we hope (for) better (political) support to pending reforms.”
Mint’s Prashant K. Nanda says the government has created new rules that can deny higher educational institutions grants if there’s evidence of caste bias.
While UGC had coined the term “protection officer”, HRD minister Kapil Sibal favoured the “anti-discrimination officer” tag. Besides this, each college will put in place an equal-opportunities cell and a grievance redressal committee.
“Caste bias of any kind, like in admission, administration, hostel arrangement or cultural events, will be treated as discrimination and appropriate action will be taken,” UGC acting chairman Ved Prakash said.
The equal-opportunities cell will carry out investigations into each complaint in a time-bound manner. “The grievance redressal can happen in a month,” Prakash said. “Institutions where such discrimination happens can face penalty. While we (UGC) can withdraw grants, we can also write to the (HRD) ministry for further actions.”
As per the rules, the step will “prevent harassment or unfavourable treatment of SC/ST student by announcing in derogatory manner the names of the students, passing derogatory remarks, earmarking separate seats to such students, differential treatment in sports/academic infrastructure, etc”.
The proposed rules will prevent discrimination through segregation of such students in common facilities, targeting them through ragging or financial extortion.
Prakash said UGC has already sent the rules to the HRD ministry and that these will soon be published in a gazette notification, after which they will come into effect.
States welcomed the move. “Since a significant portion of our population is in the reserved category, we welcome the move. Since it’s a UGC guideline, we would take strong action if caste-based discrimination happens in our state-level colleges,” said Brijmohan Agrawal, education minister of Chhattisgarh.
Shabnam Hashmi, a social activist who is working against caste and religion-based discrimination, said: “Any attempt for equal opportunity is a good move. Harassment in the name of caste in colleges or elsewhere needs to be dealt with utmost seriousness.”
This is a corrected version of the story that was posted earlier.