The University Grants Commission (UGC) is set to revise its regulations concerning SC, ST and other minority communities enroled in Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) and has set up a panel to suggest remedial measures to ensure a non-discriminatory environment for these students, according to officials.
The move comes after the Supreme Court last month called the deaths of students from marginalised communities in institutions of higher learning a "sensitive matter" that requires "out of the box thinking".
"An expert panel has been constituted for revisiting the UGC regulations and schemes concerning the SC, ST, OBC, PwD and minority communities in HEIs and suggest further remedial measures if required to make non-discriminatory environment for SC and ST students in universities and colleges," a senior UGC official said.
The UGC had in 2012 issued the UGC (Promotion of Equity in Higher Educational Institutes) Regulations, 2012. This covered several forms of discrimination, provided for liaison officers to check reservation fulfilment, and gave mandates for strict grievance redressal cells to address concerns of discrimination.
The 2012 UGC regulations asked all higher educational institutions not to discriminate against any student belonging to SC and ST in matters of admission. The institutions were also required to prohibit, prevent and also punish persons and authorities in institutions who harass or victimise any student on basis of caste, creed, religion, language, ethnicity, gender or disability.
In April this year, the UGC had made it mandatory to appoint representatives from the Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes, Other Backward Classes, and women either as chairperson or members of students grievance redressal committees.
However, the cases of suicides by students from SC and ST community, have been raising an alarm about discrimination against the communities being prevalent at the HEI campuses.
A two-member bench of justices AS Bopanna and MM Sundresh raised concern about SC and ST student suicides while adjudicating a public interest litigation filed by the mothers of Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi, both Dalit students who died by suicide in the face of alleged discrimination at the Hyderabad Central University and TN Topiwala Medical College in Mumbai respectively.
The fresh concerns about the issue were triggered this year when a first-year student of IIT Bombay Darshan Solanki died by suicide allegedly due to caste-discrimination. The institute recently came out with a set of 'anti-discrimination' guidelines for students, urging them to refrain from asking each other about their JEE (Advanced) ranks, GATE scores, or any information that may reveal their caste or other related aspects.