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Cell ringing on campus? Not much longer

New Delhi, Jan. 2: Universities and colleges will be allowed to use jammers to block mobile phone signals on campus, if a panel studying misuse of cellphones in public spaces accepts an HRD ministry recommendation.

The recommendation is part of the oral evidence the ministry has prepared to present before the Rajya Sabha committee on petitions on January 5, senior government officials said.

But schools need not use technology to curb the misuse, sources said. Better monitoring by authorities is adequate, the ministry is likely to tell the panel.

India has no policy on the use of mobile phones in educational institutions.

Misuse of mobiles in educational institutions first came into the national limelight in 2004 after a phone recording of sex between two students of Delhi Public School in the capital was circulated online.

In April 2008, an MMS scandal erupted on Mumbai University’s Kalina campus after two students were caught on phone camera having sex in the students’ union office.

Some teachers and school and college principals have objected to the use of cellphones on campus, which they argue is a source of distraction and opens avenues for misuse.

On December 30, the HRD ministry received a note from the 10-member parliamentary panel asking for its opinion on whether “the use of mobile phones should be restricted/banned in public spaces”.

In its draft response, the higher education department has suggested that universities, which are autonomous bodies, be allowed to take their own measures to curb the misuse.

It has then cited a suggestion by the Supreme Court-appointed committee against ragging headed by former CBI chief R.K. Raghavan, which had said jammers could be used on campus.

“The department agrees with that recommendation,” the ministry’s draft for the oral evidence has said.

The higher education department has, however, clarified that the reach of jammers must not extend to hostels. “Ragging incidents occur largely in hostels and it is imperative that students in hostels have recourse to mobile phones,” an official said.

The school education department has suggested manual scrutiny to prevent the misuse, sources said. “Using jammers in schools is an unrealistic proposition. It is much better to have a better and more efficient monitoring mechanism in place,” a source said.

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