In response to the alleged profiling of North-Eastern and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes students in various higher educational institutions, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has recommended creating equal opportunity cells and appointing anti-discrimination officers in institutions across the country.
The UGC’s new guidelines defines ragging, derogatory remarks and calling their names in a derogatory manner and other forms of “unfavourable” treatments to SC/ST students as acts of discrimination.
Demanding fees from SC/ST students in excess of the amount mentioned in their declared admission policy or denial/limiting of access to benefits arising from enrolment in the institution will also be considered discrimination.
The higher educational institution –universities, colleges and deemed universities—must ensure that SC/ST or North-Eastern students are not segregated in common facilities or subjected to discriminatory treatment in academic or sports infrastructure. The regulation also underlines the need to prevent the breach of reservation policy during admission and discrimination of accepting, processing or handling of the SC/ST students.
Following a suggestion from the HRD Ministry, the UGC has also proposed to create an ombudsman position in each higher educational institution to look into the grievances of students including those belonging to SC and ST.
The education watchdog will be established in every central university and higher educational institution including the elite Indian Institutes of Management and Indian Institutes of Technology, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had said in January referring to a decision.
The ombudsman will either be a judge not below the rank of a district judge or a retired professor who has at least 10 years experience in student grievance redressal.
Setting up of the ombudsman would ensure transparency in admissions and to prevent unfair practices in higher educational institutions, while also serving as a redressal mechanism.
An ombudsman will be the appellate authority in the case of discrimination against SC and ST students. It will also be an appellate authority in the case of grievances of other students, which will first be examined by a grievance redressal committee, to be set up in each higher educational institution under the proposed UGC (Establishment of Mechanism for Grievance Redressal) Regulations, 2012. The committee will comprise three senior teachers and a student representative based on academic merit. Among various grievances, It will look into complaints on delay in holding examinations or declaration of results beyond the time specified in academic calendar and also denial of quality education promised during admission or required to be provided.
The new regulations and guidelines for checking discrimination against SC and ST students will be presented to the State Education Ministers at a meeting here on June 5.