NO HELP AT HAND

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 17.10.11
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Helplines are turning out to be stubbornly unhelpful in India. Recently, accident victims in West Bengal sought assistance from the police by dialling 100, but in vain. Either their calls were routed to officials who were of no help or, more commonly, the calls went unanswered. A similar scenario has emerged from a survey of the response rate of the anti-ragging hotline, set up by the University Grants Commission to address the harassment of freshers by their seniors in colleges. It has been found that of one lakh students who pick up the phone every month to report a case of ragging, only a few get any response. Those who are fortunate enough to get any attention often get it a little too late. The delay is sometimes as long as two days, by which time the ‘victim’ of ragging may be in a far worse state.

Officials claim in their defence that a majority of the calls received on the hotline are ‘prank calls’. Even if that were the case, it is the duty of the anti-ragging cell to investigate the validity of each complaint on a case-by-case basis. Those who make prank calls could be reported back to their institutions and suitably dealt with. The anti-ragging hotline was set up in 2009 in response to a Supreme Court directive following the death of Aman Kachroo, a student in a college in Himachal Pradesh who had been severely ragged by his seniors. In spite of the alarming number of distress calls sent to the hotline every month, and the continuing torment of young people at the hands of their fellow students, many institutions in India are yet to set up the mandatory anti-ragging cell that was recommended long back. Clearly, Indian institutions still do not consider ragging to be a serious crime that deserves to be tackled with an iron hand. Until this indifference gives way to real concern, no amount of damage control will be able to make a difference to the evil of ragging.