How To Prevent Bad Ragging
Please note that I have said ‘bad’ ragging, not all ragging.
 
I believe that ragging does have value, provided it is carried out the right way. 
 
I certainly do not condone the type of ragging we have been reading about, in which a young boy is abused in such an inhuman manner that he loses his life. This is totally wrong, and must not be allowed to happen, anywhere and at any stage.
 
Okay, that is ‘bad’ ragging. 
 
What other ragging is there, you may ask? Isn’t all ragging bad?
 
I respectfully submit that the answer is ‘No’.
 
The purpose of ragging is to:
 
- deflate the ego of the recipient; 
 
- teach the recipient to handle pressure; and
 
- unearth talents in him that he didn’t know existed. (This happened to me, and to some others I know.) 
 
Most importantly, ragging connects freshers to seniors, paving the way for receiving help, guidance and mentoring.
 
In the vast majority of ragging scenarios, there is no violence, abuse, or humiliation. If these enter the ragging process, I would call it ‘bad’ ragging.
 
The fact is: Ragging is not unique to colleges alone. A new recruit in almost any job will have to face, and endure, ragging in some form or the other.
 
An example.
 
A newly inducted engineer trainee is assigned to a machine shop where some 30 sophisticated machines are running. He is the ‘assistant’ to an experienced supervisor.
 
A worker comes to the trainee and says, with a grin, “Saab, machine bandh ho gaya.”
 
Other workers turn to look, also smiling, and one of them says “Saab, you are an engineer from …. college. Why don’t you fix the machine for him?”
 
What is the young trainee supposed to do?  Run to the supervisor for help? Admit ignorance? Call the bluff? Just grin and look foolish?
 
The point is—he has to learn, all by himself, how to work out the best way to handle the situation.
 
Everybody has been through, or at least seen at first-hand, umpteen instances of this sort of ragging in a workplace. Young recruits in banks, offices, sales teams, and factories face such ragging all the time.
 
Ragging in a college hostel is a preparation for real life.
 
Most unfortunately, we are hearing of instances where ragging has taken a really vicious form, often extending to physical violence. 
 
When I was in IIT, I did come across situations where ragging turned bad. But, there was an informal mechanism that dealt with such matters swiftly. 
 
For instance, a second-year student in my hostel caught a fresher from another hostel and brought him to his room with the intention of ragging the poor fellow quite harshly. Other inmates of his hostel block heard voices, went to the room to find out what was happening, and stopped the proceedings.
 
The fresher was escorted back to his hostel, and the offending senior was dealt with in our own hostel. He was made to work in the dining room three hours a day for a month. In full view of everyone else, he had to sweep and mop the floor, remove dirty plates, etc, while enduring jokes and jibes from all and sundry, including freshers.
 
The message was not lost on the other seniors, and especially the freshers, who knew what would hit them if they crossed the line in ragging when they became seniors the next year.
Another example of prevention by peer action.
 
In 1970, when Naxalism was rife in colleges all over West Bengal, the senior students of IIT Kharagpur decided to prevent its entry into their college. 
They decided to take ‘direct action’.
 
Every single known, or suspected, Naxal sympathiser was rounded up one night. They were force-marched to the large common room of a hostel, and beaten up by a team of seniors, all night long.
Brutal? Unfair? Undemocratic? Yes, yes, all of that, maybe more.
 
But superbly effective.
 
The Naxal movement ceased at IIT Kharagpur the next morning, and our college remained Naxal-free thereafter.
 
I am not suggesting a similar approach to quelling ragging.
 
What I am suggesting is - instead of trying to stop bad ragging by using laws, policing, helpline, etc, we should use the power of the student community.
 
How?
 
Present a potential danger to the student community at large if bad ragging continues, and the student body will take effective action in its own self-interest. People won’t sit in their rooms studying while someone is being ragged badly, thinking ‘What is it to me?’ They will come out and stop it from happening.
 
Peer action will follow when you pose a threat to what the students value.
 
Do students strive to get good grades? Deduct 30% from the grades/ marks of every student in a hostel where bad ragging happens.
 
Want to go further? Blacklist colleges where bad ragging happens, and stop campus recruitment for a year.
 
Believe me, make these things happen once or twice and bad ragging will disappear because the students will unite to monitor ragging themselves, and stop it from going bad.
 
Yes, my suggestion may sound outlandish, but I promise you, it will work.
 
Warning—it may not work in colleges and universities where politics has taken a firm grip. Once an institution gets mired in political interference, and acquires militant student unions, the focus shifts from graduating, getting a good job, etc. to getting a political grip on the institution.
 
In such circumstances, my suggestion won’t work.  But yes, it will work in colleges where students are interested in studies and careers, not politics.
 
But, the purpose shouldn’t be to eliminate all ragging—just the bad stuff.
 
A good dose of ragging, kept within civil limits, is worthwhile education for a budding engineer or manager.
 
I have ‘been there, done that’ and so have countless others, and most of us are the better for it.
 
I rest my case.
 
(Deserting engineering after a year in a factory, Amitabha Banerjee did an MBA in the US and returned to India. Choosing work-to-live over live-to-work, he joined banking and worked for various banks in India and the Middle East. Post-retirement, he returned to his hometown Kolkata and is now spending his golden years travelling the world, playing bridge, befriending Netflix & Prime Video and writing in his wife’s travel blog.)
 
Comments
sumitha
7 months ago
It is really unfortunate to see Moneylife magazine carrying an article condoning an illegal practice. Has the editor read this, is he ok with an article supporting bullying of students. The law does not differentiate between good ragging and bad ragging. Does the author have any research to support his argument? The readers of Moneylife are being taken for a ride by I'll informed,opinionated writers writing on things they have no understanding of. We spend our time and money in supporting your magazine, Mr Editor. Please do not expose us to this anymore.
suketu
8 months ago
totally disagree.
Amitabha Banerjee
8 months ago
I find that the comments below have not addressed the main topic "how to prevent bad ragging", and have said "ragging should be stopped", "culprits must be punished" etc. But, HOW? Through laws, punishments, helplines, police? Everyone will agree that rape is bad and that it should be stopped. All the "deterrents" - law, police, punishment, have been in place for decades to prevent rapes.. But rapes keep happening - every day and everywhere, and very few rapists are convicted and punished. My point is - these "deterrents" don't work for rape, and they won't work for ragging, either . What could work is concerted action by students themselves, and I have suggested how that could be done. Perhaps readers could apply their minds to the prevention of bad ragging, and examine whether my suggestion is feasible, or suggest something else that could be more effective.
Meenal Mamdani
8 months ago
This author need to have his head examined.
His last article on Pakistan, a tongue-in-cheek take-down was in poor taste and certainly did not look at conditions within India that are gradually inching close to Pakistan.
And now this juvenile justification for ragging.
And he boasts of how supposed "Naxals" were beaten up, so it was OK to beat up students for their ideology.
In the current climate substitute Muslims for Naxals, or any Indian who is against Hindutva fanaticism and you have opened the door to Bajrang Dal activists leading the brain-dead students into creating terror on campus.
Please, do not justify and encourage such juvenile crimes.
I commend the two commentators who have given a reasoned analysis why there is no such thing as a "good ragging".
sumitha
Replied to Meenal Mamdani comment 7 months ago
I just saw this and am absolutely shocked. Is there some way to flag this piece of dangerous misinformation. The editor is not doing his job in letting this through.
pgodbole
8 months ago
Anything that start with an intention of fun (good ragging) eventually degenerates into harassment/humiliation/torture. That is how it started with this barbaric practice and that is how it has progressed to extremes. There is nothing like good ragging and bad ragging, just like there are no good terrorists and bad terrorists. I did not go to a professional college or stay in a hostel but i heard of bad ragging even 40 years ago. Things have only deteriorated since then to extreme levels. In my times, at least there was nothing like ragging in schools. Now we hear of this practice even in high schools, particularly prestigious ones.

What is strange is perpetrators almost always get away with light punishment and eventually walk away with a degree. I think only way to stop this practice (yes, even the good version of it) is to rusticate the culprit and make sure he/she does not get admission in any academic institution anywhere else. That action will singularly send the message loud and clear. It must be made clear at beginning of the academic year that anyone found indulging in this barbaric practice will be summarily rusticated, with no recourse to any other option, be it IIT or any medical college.

There is no way this barbaric practice can be justified in any form.
sha79
8 months ago
Sir, I respectfully disagree with this idea. Ragging is outdated and should go the way of typewriters. I have had similar experiences of 'mild' ragging in my college life in early 1990s, but the world has changed.

I suffered trauma at the hands of my seniors, who were surprised years later when I told them how I badly felt. I also heard from my juniors that they were not happy with my behavior towards them.

I believe any form of ragging, hazing, intimidation or even borderline harassment has no place in the modern education institution or workplace. The main reason for this is colleges and offices are slowly becoming cosmopolitan - there will be people from different age groups, gender identities and socio-economic backgrounds. Also, institutions have to ensure a safe and inclusive culture. They cannot allow employees to 'induct' anyone to 'real life' in their workspaces.

A new member of any organization has a lot of fear and anxiety, especially when living alone in a new city. Ragging/hazing only adds to the trauma. It is not anyone's business anyway to prepare another person for real life. Everyone learns at their own pace. Thank you.
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