Caste Discrimination in Higher Education
For Bhalchandra Mungekar, ex-vice chancellor of Bombay University and ex-member of the Planning Commission, the exercise of looking into allegations of caste discrimination faced by scheduled caste students at Vardhman Medical College, Delhi, has been extremely disturbing. As the single-member committee appointed by the National Scheduled Caste Commission, it was important that he examine every aspect of the case and ensure that the guilty were brought to book.
Dr Mungekar discovered to his dismay that not only were the 35 scheduled caste students failed repeatedly in one particular subject – physiology – but the authorities had not even bothered to meet them to look into their complaints. He had to resort to RTI to seek information and approach the high court to ensure their rights as equal students. As his report puts it, the faculty of the said department ‘resorted to caste-based discrimination and neglected the duties assigned to them, not by omission but by commission’. Even other administrative people, including the head of the institution, had not seen fit to intervene. Not only did the students lose years because of this apathy, shockingly, the same authorities were guilty of showing leniency towards general category students. While they had no qualms about barring scheduled caste students from taking their examinations due to lack of attendance, four students from the general category, who were detained for inadequate attendance, were allowed to take the examination.
Dr Mungekar, who has finally submitted his report, has put forward wide-ranging recommendations. Apart from asking the authorities to pay compensation of Rs 10 lakh to students Manish and others who had moved court — underlining the fact that ‘the mental trauma that they were/are made to undergo is not measurable in terms of money’ — he has demanded that legal action under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 be taken against former Principal V K Sharma and his then colleagues Professor Shoma Das, head of the physiology department, Principal Jayshree Bhattacharjee and Raj Kapoor, professor of physiology, and a liaison officer. Continue reading Dronacharyas All