The death knell to ragging? | Daily News


The death knell to ragging?

The decision taken by the authorities to deploy the State Intelligence Service (SIS) to arrest ragging in State Universities is certainly a move in the right direction that at last could see an end to this scourge plaguing our higher education institutes, thus creating a conducive atmosphere for the genuine students to engage in their academic activities free of fear and tension.

Defence Secretary Major General (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne has told a weekend English newspaper that he had assured the University Grants Commission (UGC) that the SIS and other ‘Intelligence agencies’ would be provided to end ragging in the universities. Major General Gunaratne has increasingly being in the media spotlight these days with his efforts to eliminate the drugs menace and his relentless battle against the underworld which has so far yielded unprecedented success, with many a drug lord and masterminds in crime and the narcotics trade thrown in the slammer. Following in the same vein there can be little doubt that the measures he has taken to rid our universities of the nightmare of ragging too will pay rich dividends much to the delight of the parents who aim to provide a sound university education to their offspring. The move also comes in the wake of steps taken by the Government to increase the university intake. In a statement to the same newspaper Chairman of the UGC Sampath Amarartunga said they did not have a network to find those responsible or involved in ragging in universities despite introducing various measures for the victims to inform the authorities about the identity of the culprits. Naturally the victims among the freshers will be the last persons to complain after undergoing such sadistic ordeals. Now with the State Intelligence being entrusted with this task the students will have nothing to fear. In fact such a measure should have been taken at the very inception by the authorities that would have resulted in the rogue elements in the universities responsible for inhuman ragging being smoked out. Had that been the case many lives would have been saved and the flight of students from the universities prevented.

The issue of ragging in State Universities has been the subject of much discussion even in the earlier days and remedies sought to redeem our seats of higher learning from this scourge. It is only all too well known that our universities have right along been hotbeds of violence fanned by radical politics. Ragging is only one dimension of this aspect. Things though appear to be getting out of hand, with sadism being practised in the name of ragging, leaving permanent scars on the victims. Some say that social instability has found expression in inhuman forms of ragging in our universities. Whatever the cause, concrete measures are called for to arrest the decline and preserve the exalted status of the country’s seats of higher learning.

The Anti-Ragging Act was passed into law in 1998 under late Education Minister Richard Pathirana but not fully implemented. The law was firm and unambiguous against those who engage in ragging in universities and even the bailing out of a ragging suspect does not come within the jurisdiction of a magistrate. A ragger, if convicted, faced a sentence of 10 years RI.

It is pertinent to ask as to why successive governments, since 1998, failed to implement the Anti-Ragging Act to the letter. Had they done so we could have prevented the flight of many bright students to foreign universities, which, needless to say, is a loss to the country. The late Minister who fathered the anti-ragging law, too made bold statements when the Bill was passed in Parliament. However ragging continued unabated with even deaths being reported of victims subjected to sadistic ordeals.

Researchers on the subject of ragging are of the view that most of those bent on inflicting the most inhuman forms of ragging on their victims are products of unsettled social backgrounds and those with an inferiority complex. These are mostly rural youth who gained entry to the universities thanks to the district cut off marks. It is no accident that the bulk of these types are students in the arts stream who naturally harbour a grudge against city bred students of more affluent backgrounds. Add to this the class-distinction that is most marked in the universities and you have the ideal milieu for the type of ragging that is presently witnessed in our campuses. Hence one’s social outlook, accumulated frustrations, and lack of an English knowledge, or the kaduwa, too play a significant role that have their release in the sadism one hears of in the universities.

Ragging is also a by-product of youth unrest. Hence, every effort should be made to prepare the background to mitigate this phenomenon. Today university students are confronted with the bleak prospects for their futures. A good majority of them are not equipped to fit into the prevailing job market and would most likely add up to the ballooning unemployment figures. Hence, the whole aspect of university education should be subjected to a reappraisal by the authorities so that the vast investment made by the government on higher education will not be in vain.

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