Spurred by the death of 24 students from Andhra Pradesh during an excursion to Himachal Pradesh in June, the Centre has decided to bring in rules to ensure better safety of students in higher education institutes across the country and fix accountability.
The union Human Resources and Development ministry has asked the apex body of higher education, the University Grants Commission (UGC), to frame guidelines on the issue involving all stakeholders – students, parents and colleges.
The guidelines would lay down responsibilities for better safety of students not only on the campus and hostels, but also during study tours, field visits, industry tours, sports, adventure and other events where students participate on behalf of the institutes or universities.
In a public notice dated August 14, the UGC has sought views from the general public as well as vice-chancellors of all universities in this regard. The suggestions have to be reached within three weeks of the notice.
“Safety of students in and outside the campuses of higher education institution is a matter of paramount importance. Some incidents in the recent past have necessitated the review of the measures already in place for the safety of students,” reads the notice.
Currently, colleges and varsities take an undertaking from students countersigned by parents that absolves them of any responsibilities in case of an untoward incident during a tour or event. Though many universities have the provision of insurance, there is nothing in the rules that holds authorities accountable.
Several students have lost their lives in the past on campuses or during study/industrial tour/events. While parents of the deceased often blame institutes for carelessness, the latter passed the incidents off as carelessness on the victims’ part.
On June 8, tragedy struck a group of students from a Hyderabad college who were on an excursion to Himachal Pradesh. Twenty-four of them were swept away by Beas river following sudden release of water from a dam upstream.
What about safety of school kids?
No guideline exists even for school children's safety barring limited efforts by some states in the areas like school-bus policy.
"Schools pressure students and parents for picnics failing which they harass children. Most shocking is that they don't take any responsibility," said a parent demanding similar guidelines for schools. A parent of Yashodham School, Goregaon said, "Several cases of rape, corporal punishment have been reported in Mumbai. Still my kid's school is dithering to talk about safety of kids. Adding to our anger, they have made us sign an undertaking for a picnic whose venue is yet to be told to us. This is horrible."
Cases in Mumbai/Maharashtra
July 2014: Three college students from Thane drowned at Versova beach. They bunked the college to enjoy the picnic.
Jan 2012: Balbirsingh Mohansingh Shekhawat, a student of Sinhagad college of architecture, who had gone on a study tour to the Khanapur primary hospital drowned in Panshet dam.
Dec 2012: State Boxing champion Vishal Sawant (18) succumbed to the injuries he sustained during a boxing competition in Mumbai.
Dec 2011: Pramod Sav (21), a Guru Nanak college, Sion boxer died of brain haemorrhage caused due to a hit in the head in an inter-collegiate boxing competition for Mumbai University students in Dec 2011.
Aug 2010: Aishwarya Pawar, a Std VIII student of Holy Cross School in Nalla Sopara, had gone for a school picnic to Tungareshwar bird sanctuary was found dead.
Dec 2007: Seven students of Amrutvahini Engineering College, Ahmadnagar lost their lives in a blast in Hyderabad while on study tour.