Spurred by the death of 24 Andhra students 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.
On June 8, tragedy struck a group of students from a Hyderabad college who were on an excursion to Himachal Pradesh. Twenty-four students were swept away by the Beas river following a sudden release of water from a dam upstream.
The union human resources and development ministry has now 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 will lay down responsibilities for better safety of students not only on campus and in 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 sought views from the general public as well as vice-chancellors of all universities. The suggestions have to reach the UGC within three weeks. "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 responsibility 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.