‘Remove Caste Prefixes, …’: Justice Chandru Committee Proposes Sweeping Reforms to Curb Caste-Based Conflicts in Tamil Nadu’s Educational Institutions

It stipulated that students should not wear colored wristbands, rings or forehead marks associated with their caste. Additionally, the committee urged students not to use bicycles adorned with caste-related symbols or sentiments.
‘Remove Caste Prefixes, …’: Justice Chandru Committee Proposes Sweeping Reforms to Curb Caste-Based Conflicts in Tamil Nadu’s Educational Institutions
Photo: ETV Bharat Tamil Nadu

Chennai: A committee led by retired Justice K. Chandru has proposed several recommendations to promote harmony and prevent caste-based conflicts among students in state-run educational institutions in Tamil Nadu.

Among these recommendations are the removal of caste prefixes from school names, excluding caste names from attendance registers, implementing a ‘Code of Conduct’ for teachers and staff across all state-run schools, colleges and universities and appointing School Welfare Officers (SWOs) and counselors.

The state government appointed the committee in September 2023 following an incident where a 17-year-old Dalit student was assaulted by classmates belonging to the dominant Maravar community at Nanguneri in Tirunelveli district.

The committee also recommended implementing a Code of Discipline for all students, emphasizing strict enforcement within legal limits. It stipulated that students should not wear colored wristbands, rings or forehead marks associated with their caste. In addition, the committee urged students not to use bicycles adorned with caste-related symbols or sentiments.

The report, obtained by English daily Deccan Herald, highlighted that non-compliance with these regulations should lead to appropriate disciplinary action, along with counseling for their parents or guardians. Caste identifiers pose significant challenges in districts such as Tirunelveli.

In the long run, the committee proposed specific legislation to enforce policies promoting social inclusion and the elimination of caste discrimination. They recommended empowering local bodies to oversee primary education more effectively and suggested new laws to grant genuine autonomy to local bodies, thereby ensuring education becomes more community-centric.

The retired justice emphasized that the government should issue an administrative directive mandating the removal of caste prefixes from school names. Schools should be referred to simply as government schools, followed by their geographic location. This directive should extend to private schools as well, with a stipulation that new educational institutions refrain from including any caste-related appellations in their names.

Other significant recommendations include regular rotations of high school and higher secondary school teachers, along with guidelines stipulating that officers from the cadre of CEOs, DEOs, BEOs, and headmasters of high and higher secondary schools should not be posted from the dominant caste of the area.

The report also proposes the formation of an expert committee comprising educators and specialists in child pedagogy to review the school curriculum. This committee is tasked with recommending the elimination of incorrect perspectives and the inclusion of content that promotes values of social justice, non-discrimination, and principles of equality.

Justice Chandru further suggested that the government establish a Social Justice Monitoring Committee composed of academicians and social activists. This committee would oversee the curriculum pertaining to social issues for school students and propose necessary revisions within a specified timeframe.

The report also emphasized that seating arrangements for students in every classroom across all schools and colleges should strictly follow alphabetical order. Additionally, it recommended that students’ attendance registers refrain from including any columns or details related to their caste.

Other recommendations encompass orientation programs for school students, the assignment of trained counselors for each block, the establishment of the School Welfare Officer (SWO) position in secondary schools with over 500 students, installation of dedicated Grievance Boxes, and the formation of the Social Justice Students Force (SJSF).

The report proposed centralizing kitchens in every Block (Panchayat Union) instead of individual school kitchens, staffed adequately for ongoing operations, and linked to a distribution network serving school noon meal centers. Additionally, it called for limitations on the utilization of school properties for non-educational activities.

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