Implement UGC Regulations 2012 to Address Discrimination in Higher Education: Sukhdeo Thorat

" They are isolated in hostels, mess halls, playgrounds, and even cultural events held in the institute. Discrimination against SC-ST students in institutes of excellence is an empirical reality", the former UGC chairperson said.
Implement UGC Regulations 2012 to Address Discrimination in Higher Education: Sukhdeo Thorat

Chennai- Former UGC Chairperson Sukhdeo Thorat said, "Caste-based discrimination is one of the reasons for the high dropout rates in institutions, in addition to the non-functioning of the SC/ST Cell and economic factors." Thorat was addressing a convention on the issues faced by students from oppressed sections in IITs and Central universities. The event was organized by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front in Chennai.

Citing the report of the committee which he chaired, he said, "Discrimination based on caste exists in IITs and AIIMS. Students belonging to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes face discrimination from both students and teachers. They are isolated in hostels, mess halls, playgrounds, and even cultural events held in the institute." He emphasized, "Discrimination against Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes in institutes of excellence is an empirical reality."

The SC/ST Cell is not concerned with discrimination against students. He suggested a legal framework to address caste-based discrimination and recommended the implementation of UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutes) Regulations, 2012 across all institutes. This act addresses all forms of discrimination that Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribe students are subjected to, including harassment, victimization, labelling as "reserved category," passing derogatory remarks, and not giving students enough time, among other issues. He pointed out that this act mandates institutes to have an Equal Opportunity Cell and an Anti-discriminatory Officer.

He clarified that many people confuse the SC/ST cell with the anti-discriminatory cell. He explained that the SC/ST cell is responsible for finding roster vacancies and advertising them. He also called for the sensitization of upper-caste students who carry notions of discrimination in their minds. Thorat added that the increasing contractual recruitment of teachers aims to undermine the reservation system in faculty recruitment in universities.

Democratic Space Shrinking in the Country

Suhashini Ali, CPI(M) leader and Politbureau member, said, "The Manusmriti is a document that glorifies every kind of inequality, including gender and caste inequalities based on birth. It is anathema to the spirit of democracy and the Constitution, and the ruling party has been pursuing their agenda under different names." She lamented the increase in the promotion of superstitions through rituals in society, even among the scientific fraternity. She pointed out that not only are atrocities against Dalits increasing, but the democratic space to protest against them is also shrinking. Students are made to sign documents stating that they will not do anything that harms the reputation of the university.

She asked, "Where is the space to demand committees for redressal of grievances? Where is the space to demand the implementation of reservation policies?" She demanded that the fight against the caste system should be an intrinsic part of all our struggles.

Highlighting the political maneuvers of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, she said that the party is the most effective player in identity politics. They can form different alliances under the broad identity of Hinduism, although there is no equality within that identity. Nevertheless, this identity provides them with some space and a sense of security.

The convention was also addressed by several different guests, including faculty members from various institutes, and approximately 400 students. These students belonged to the Students Federation of India (SFI) - Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Ambedkar Students' Association (ASA), Ambedkar Periyar Students' Circle (APSC), and Chinta Bar from IIT-M.

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