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Harass remedy: ban mobiles on campus

Glare on phone

Bangalore, July 12: Many have blamed it on tank tops and hot pants and the clothes girls wear. Now, some are blaming sexual harassment on the free use of mobile phones on Karnataka campuses.

A legislators’ panel from the southern state has recommended a total ban on cellphones in schools and colleges to prevent sexual harassment.

“Children go to schools and colleges to study, not to play with mobile phones and invite trouble for themselves,” Shakuntala Shetty, the committee chairperson and Congress MLA from Puttur in south Karnataka, told The Telegraph today.

“We are not against technology but it’s important to draw a line between good and bad,” said Shetty, suggesting that mobiles were being misused to access objectionable material and invite calls from sexual predators.

“This ridiculous activity called ‘phone friendship’ is dangerous…. Girls go missing for a few days and then return after spending time with those who lured them through mobile phone chats and calls,” she said.

“We have come across a case of a girl who was busy talking on her phone when she got dragged into a van. She was found raped and dumped a couple of days later.”

Save the odd school — Sunrise Public School in north Bangalore is one — most schools in Karnataka allow cellphones on campus in the absence of a clear norm on barring them. The practice among students of higher classes is to switch off phones or put them on silent in class.

In Calcutta, however, most schools bar students from using cellphones on campus, and many from carrying them too. La Martiniere and Loreto do not allow students to bring phones to school. Modern High allows Class XI-XII girls to bring phones but not to use them. Colleges generally allow students to carry phones, but some bar them from using mobiles inside the building.

The legislators’ panel was set up a year ago to look into sexual harassment of women. “While working on the report, we found many incidents of schoolgirls falling prey to sexual predators who contact them on mobiles,” said Shetty.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, sexual crimes against girls in Karnataka have gone up alarmingly. From 142 cases in 2012, the figure went up to 270 in 2013. No figures were available on how many cases were linked to use of mobiles.

Shashi Kumar, the secretary of the Karnataka Private School Management Federation, said mobiles should be banned till Class XII only.

“Sexual harassment per se may not reduce. But there are other issues revolving around mobiles that we can bring down,” he said.

Children have been found to steal money from parents to buy handsets, he said. Some steal other students’ mobiles. A student stole phones from five teachers and gave them to girls to establish a 24x7 link with them.

“We have heard of boys going to any lengths for a mobile phone link with girls. I am certain a ban can put a stop to such activities in campuses, at least,” Kumar said.

But R.P. Shastri, the father of a Class VII student of an upscale Indira Nagar school, termed the proposal “barbarian”.

“Who in today’s world would make such a recommendation? It looks like these MLAs have no better work than judging little girls and boys,” he said.

“My elder daughter just finished high school…. But I’ve never come across her wasting time calling or chatting with friends.”

Nandita Rao, the mother of a Class IX girl, too felt the ban was uncalled for. “It’s absurd and irresponsible to make such remarks, that too in a government report,” she said.

But Mahesh A.R., the secretary of Sunrise Public School that barred mobiles three years ago, said: “I welcome the proposal. Students don’t know what to see and what not to (pornography).”