IIT-Bombay grilled on counsellor posting: NCST 

The institute has been defending charges that it waa its alleged failure to create safe spaces for marginalised students that was the cause that led to the alleged suicide of a 18-year-old Dalit student from Gujarat, Darshan Solanki reports The Hindu

IIT Bombay

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes on February 22 asked the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay why it allowed a counsellor with what the Commission has termed distinctly “casteist sentiment” to continue working with the SC/ST Cell on the campus, as the panel continued its investigation into complaints of the institute lacking mental health support for SC/ST students. 

The institute has been defending serious charges that its alleged failure to create safe spaces for marginalised students led to the alleged suicide of a 18-year-old Dalit student, Darshan Solanki, on February 12. 

Interestingly, the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), a student body, had in 2022 itself made serious complaints to the NCST that the head counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre (SWC) on the Mumbai campus had signed a public petition to end caste-based reservations and posted about details on social media. The students highlighted that this revelation significantly discouraged SC/ST students from visiting the SWC. 

The institute, responding to the NCST’s investigation, said the counsellor had been warned about avoiding any such personal posts on social media and immediately asked to take down the post in question. However, IIT-Bombay had added that the counsellor continued to work with the SC/ST Cell of the institute and the SWC. 

On Wednesday, February 22, when Director Subhasis Chaudhuri and other officials of the IIT-B appeared before the commission, the NCST queried, “Is it wise to let a person who is so vocal about her views on reservation and her casteist sentiment to work in the SC/ST Cell?”

The commission members said, “Not only has she been allowed to continue her employment, she has been allowed to continue working in the SC/ST Cell despite the students raising complaints that her remarks makes the SC/ST students feel intimidated and uncomfortable to approach her, “ detailed the Hindu.

The commission asked the institute officials what other fora the students could approach in such a scenario.  

Once the commission took cognisance of the matter, the Union Ministry of Education got in touch with the institute and also strongly recommended that it hire SC and ST student counsellors to address the need for affirmative counselling for students from marginalised communities.  The institute then decided to hire SC,ST student counsellors, prepare a caste-sensitisation course (to be made mandatory for all), and train existing counsellors in affirmative counselling for marginalised communities. The institute said it also took “corrective measures” to sensitise all employees about caste-related issues.

Not satisfied with the response of such a premier institute, the ST Commission on Wednesday also asked the institute officials to provide a deadline for when the caste-sensitisation course would be finalised and by when it would be started. It also asked the institute about why Bandhu, an alternative mental health support system set up by the alumni, did not address issues of caste-related mental health problems faced by the students. 

The panel also sought to know exactly what corrective measures had been taken to sensitise all on campus. It gave the institute 30 days to submit a report explaining these aspects. 

House panel to send team to IIT-B

In a separate but related development, some officials of the institute along with those from the Education Ministry on Wednesday also appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, where the student’s death was discussed in detail. 

Thete have been further developments in this connection, too! The parliamentary committee is now also mulling sending a team to IIT-Bombay for a detailed investigation into the death, the circumstances surrounding it, and the general treatment of SC/ST students and staffers on the premises, The Hindu has reportedly learnt. 

“It also came up that Solanki’s body was sent for post-mortem without explicit permission from his family. The institute said that it had asked the police to inform and seek consent of his parents but it was not done. The committee will look into this issue as well. This is a very serious issue,” a member of the parliamentary panel said. 


IIT Bombay Dalit student death: Dr Bhalchandra Mungekar, ex Rajya Sabha member, demands SIT probe into his death 

IITs unable to create safe spaces for students

MP: Dalit boy dies by suicide, blames teacher’s casteist remarks



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