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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.