Govt calls meet of VCs over cam­pus caste row

HRD min­istry to sen­si­tise var­si­ties, en­sure bias does not af­fect en­rol­ment

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Nee­lam Pandey nee­lam.pandey@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: The govern­ment has called a meet­ing of the vice chan­cel­lors of all cen­tral univer­si­ties this month to dis­cuss how to end pos­si­ble dis­crim­i­na­tion on cam­pus against so­cially dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents.

The meet­ing be­tween education min­is­ter Sm­riti Irani and the heads of 46 univer­si­ties on Fe­bru­ary 18 comes af­ter the sui­cide by Dalit Phd stu­dent Ro­hith Vem­ula in Hyderabad last month, which trig­gered a na­tional out­cry over al­leged so­cial dis­crim­i­na­tion on cam­pus.

The Op­po­si­tion is ex­pected to raise Vem­ula’s death in the Bud­get ses­sion of Par­lia­ment be­gin­ning Fe­bru­ary 23, and Union labour min­is­ter Ban­daru Dat­ta­treya’s al­leged role in prompt­ing Hyderabad univer­sity au­thor­i­ties to sus­pend Vem­ula, a Dalit stu­dents’ leader.

Fol­low­ing Vem­ula’s death, Irani had promised steps to en­sure there was no so­cial dis­crim­i­na­tion in univer­si­ties.

“This meet­ing is a fol­low-up of the Jan­uary meet­ing,” a govern­ment of­fi­cial said, adding it will dis­cuss the Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion’s 2012 regulation on pro­mo­tion of equity in higher education in­sti­tu­tions.

Ex­perts say on-cam­pus dis­crim­i­na­tion against so­cially dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents re­mains hid­den in plain sight.

“Sub­tle dis­crim­i­na­tion is tak­ing place in univer­si­ties across the coun­try. Stu­dents from the de­prived sec­tion of the so­ci­ety don’t get equal treat­ment from the fac­ulty and fel­low stu­dents too which alien­ates them fur­ther,” said Rahul Son pim­ple of the Birsa Phule Ambed­kar Stu­dent As­so­ci­a­tion at the Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity.

“Many leave mid-way while oth­ers don’t opt for Masters. The en­vi­ron­ment in the univer­si­ties is also not con­ducive and Dalit stu­dents feel un­com­fort­able.”

This, in part, may ex­plain the govern­ment’s strug­gle to en­sure sus­tained en­rol­ment of so­cially dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents in higher education.

An anal­y­sis of govern­ment fig­ures shows a sharp dip in the rate of growth in en­rol­ment of Sched­uled Caste (SC) and Sched­uled Tribe (ST) stu­dents in higher education over the past four years.

A com­mu­nity-wise gross en­rol­ment ra­tio (GER) — the ra­tio of the youth in univer­si­ties and col­leges com­pared to the to­tal num­ber of youth in higher education age group of 18 to 23 years – re­veals how fewer SCs and STs were get­ting into col­leges.

Only 18 of ev­ery 100 SC youth made it to col­lege in 2014-15 against a na­tional av­er­age of 23.6.

CON­TIN­UED ON P12

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