Caste Discrimination in India's Elite Institutions




The death of Aniket Ambhore, fourth year electrical engineering student at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay on Thursday under mysterious circumstances (he fell from the sixth floor of a hostel inside the campus), has brought to the fore certain unsavoury issues which the administration in the premier institution seeks to brush under the carpet.


Caste-based discrimination is one among them.


Aniket was reportedly under tremendous stress; was inclined towards spirituality, and was undergoing psychiatric treatment following poor performance in exams. He had backlogs from the first, second and third year.

Aniket's father has alleged his son used to be taunted for being a student from scheduled caste. A head of dept once passed a derogatory comment about him, said his father. The family didn't make any formal complaint though.


The administration denies the charge. SC, ST and OBC students however allege that there is discrimination at this elite institution. SC, ST and OBCs students have quota of 15%, 7.5% and 27% seats, respectively.


A survey among first year students (2013-14 batch) belonging to various SC, ST and OBC categories, has revealed that an alarming 56% of them feel discriminated against in the institution, albeit in a discreet manner.


Nearly 60% of those in the reserved category also said they experienced more academic pressure than those in the general category.


"However, this is not because of any negative sentiments, but due to the nature of the syllabus. This is a demoralising factor and it hits them hard when they get their results," says the survey conducted by Insight, IITB students media body.

This was the first such survey conducted on issue of biases and discrimination on the campus.


The main difference between students in general and other categories, according to the survey, is in academic performance. As per statistics, the average cumulative performance index of general category, OBC and SC/ST students is 8.09, 6.6 and 5.9, respectively.


A professor admits: "Many quota candidates struggle in studies. Placement is also difficult for them because of the poor scores."


Deep-rooted prejudice
Students, however, claimed some members of the faculty harboured deep-rooted prejudices against quota students and award them very poor grades in exams despite performing well.


"Some general category students also pass remarks saying quota students grab seats in coveted courses while they get admission in not-so-popular courses despite having scored better marks," said a student.


IIT PRO Rashmi Udaykumar said: "The institute does't discriminate against students on the basis of their caste or religion." She also said Aniket's father had not made any complaint in this regard.


Cases of discrimination have also been reported from other IITs, IISc and AIIMS. In 2008, IIT Delhi was in the news for terminating 12 Dalit students citing "poor academic performance", which led to allegations of caste-based discrimination.

"At least 20 Dalit students from these institutions have committed suicide in the past seven years," said a PhD student in IIT Delhi.


Roommate wants to change room
Aniket's room mate, Sushant Kumar, an M Sc student, who shared room number 177 in hostel number 1 with him, has requested that he be allotted another room. General secretary of the hostel Ratikant, said: "We understand his emotional stress and are trying to shift him to another room.



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