The mysterious death of Jishnu Pranoy, a student from Nehru College of Engineering at Pambady in Thrissur district, and its reverberations across the State have once again brought to light the details of the atrocious harassments on students in the higher education institutions, especially self-financing colleges in the State.
The revelations by students of different colleges show that actions of the teachers and the college managements to ‘discipline’ the students are akin to the training programs given to the animals in circus companies. Being a cognizant community, the Keralites should hang their head in shame before the reports that our students are studying in certain colleges with fear of the management; that they bow down before their threatening; that there are special ‘punishment rooms’ in some colleges where the management officials subject students to horrific harassments and torture in the name of discipline. There were reports that the Nehru College authorities prevented the fellow students of Jishnu from attending his funeral. The students were not allowed to see their friend for a last time. The approach of the Nehru College management to the students in an issue that created waves across the State is the best evidence of the aggressiveness of college managements. While students are tortured in the name of discipline and fined even for ‘laughing’, in some other self-financing colleges, the authorities have no restrictions to enter the hostels of girl students at any time. And, reports of misbehavior flow from there. The real environment in Toms Engineering College, Mattakkara in Kottayam district was revealed when around 60 students and their parents described their experiences to Registrar Dr G P Padmakumar, who was investigating the complaints submitted by the students to the Chief Minister and the Education Minister. The Registrar found that the Toms College had breached the codes of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
Not only in Toms or Nehru Colleges, that similar environment prevails in so many other colleges in the State is a fact backed by the silent approval of many students and parents. It is a horrifying reality that these college managements are producing, every year, a generation that is aggressive and mentally instable, a result of the continuous tortures they are subjected to on the campuses. The recent incidents indicate that many of the self-financing colleges are an utter failure not only academically but also in bring up the students as a culturally developed generation. We have not been successful in creating suicide-free educational institutions even after 12 years of the suicide of Rajani S. Anand, who ended her life in 2004 due to her inability to pay college fees. The disastrous academic environment has been giving us hundreds of students who are forced either to stop the study or to put an end to their life halfway through the course. The torturous college managements have been giving us students who are forced to lead the rest of their lives with a disordered mind.
It is high time that the standard of the academic and non-academic affairs of the self-financing colleges in the State be subjected to a thorough social auditing. The cultural and social environments in the colleges should also be examined. The LDF-UDF governments that have miserably failed in reining in the self-financing college managements should also be subjected to a social auditing. So should be our education system. Because, the Supreme Court had made it very clear through the P A Inamdar case verdict that the State government has the authority to close down the colleges with poor academic standards and to take over the institute that does not have any transparency in its functioning. The government, which put forth a system to make sure that the Supreme Court-directed fees structure and admission norms are strictly followed, did not show any guts to implement measures to bring in functional transparency and a certain level of academic standard in the colleges.
The AICTE had directed the Universities in 2012 to appoint an Ombudsman with a rank of a district judge to analyse the functioning of higher education institutes and to hear and resolve the complaints. However, an 18-year boy named Jishnu had to sacrifice his life for our Universities to implement that direction in the State. Now, another death or suicide might be needed for our authorities to strictly implement the direction of forming committees in every educational institution to resolve the issues of the students. Post the suicide of Jishnu, there have been protests, discussions and debates over the waning educational standard in Kerala. Investigations were launched in some cases and compensations were announced to the victims. The vigilance of the parents and the public is the only way to make sure these developments are not met with the same fate of the announcements and protests that hit the headlines after the death of Rajini S. Anand.