The Telegraph
Friday , July 13 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gender bias at Santiniketan

Santiniketan, July 12: Visva-Bharati today expressed regret for the incident where a hostel warden had forced a girl to lick urine but investigation reveals a history of gender discrimination for which it has yet to answer.

Girls are less equal than boys in the hostels of Patha Bhavan, the school at Tagore’s Visva-Bharati that is engulfed in the controversy which has stirred even the Prime Minister, the chancellor, into action.

In Patha Bhavan, the girls’ hostels are being run and managed by either retired wardens or casual employees posted as matrons or assistant wardens who have hardly any expertise in handling lower-class students.

But the school authorities have engaged at least one teacher in addition to wardens for each of the boys’ hostels.

Senior professors of Visva-Bharati said the incident in which a Class V girl was forced to lick her urine as punishment for wetting her bed had exposed how ill managed the girls’ hostels were. They said this should be a wakeup call for the university.

The authorities are aware of the long-standing problem but nobody had taken any initiative to establish standard practices in hostels for girls and boys. We know that there are some problems in the infrastructure of the girls’ hostels. We are trying our level best to upgrade the facilities as early as possible,” said Bodhirupa Sinha, the principal of Patha Bhavan.

“Guardians of girls residing in Patha Bhavan hostels have repeatedly expressed concern over the lack of facilities in the hostels. But the university authorities did not recruit more permanent employees with the expertise to run girls’ hostels,” a Patha Bhavan teacher said.

The picture is completely different in the boys’ hostels, of which there are three in Patha Bhavan. Each hostel is manned and managed by a member of the teaching staff assisted by wardens and attendants.

Chhattrabas, with more than 50 resident students of Classes VI to X, is looked after by two teachers. In addition, there is a part-time teacher to assist the students in their studies. The teachers are present on the premises 24 hours a day. The story is almost same at the Sishu Vivaga hostel, where about 47 students of Classes II to V reside. It has two permanent wardens in addition to one teacher to help the students in their studies round the clock.

The Uttar Siksha hostel, with 28 students of Classes XI and XII, has two part-time teachers, both of whom reside in the hostel 24 hours a day and assist the students in their studies.

“We have brought the difference to the knowledge of the authorities. But nothing has been done so far,” said the guardian of a Class IX student.

Another guardian said: “The boys get help from teachers whenever they face a problem in their studies. But in girls’ hostels, one teacher comes for one to two hours a day and tries to help all the students at one go. The girls simply don’t get equal facilities here.”

Guardians are concerned about the security of their girls too. “There is only one warden in many hostels. If she falls ill or goes on leave, the girls are looked after by the single attendant,” said Rajarshi Das, a guardian.