ST Panel Sends Notice to IIT Bombay on Mental Health Support to Bahujan Students

The commission had received a complaint from the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle about Student Wellness Centre.

3 min read

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has sent a notice to the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) for failing to provide mental health support to the institute's Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes students.

The commission had received a complaint from a students' group in the IIT-B, Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), in this regard in June last year.

The notice, dated 31 January 2023, states, "The Commission has decided to investigate/inquire into the matter in pursuance of the powers conferred upon it under Article 338A of the Constitution of India."

It further reads, "You are hereby requested to submit the facts and information on the action taken on the allegations/matters to the undersigned within 03 days of receipt of this notice either by post or in person or by any other means of communication."

The commission had earlier, in November 2022, written to the Union Ministry of Education seeking its comments and action taken report on the matter.


The APPSC had written in its complaint:

"IITs are infamous for the high number of student suicides, most of which are students coming from SC/ST backgrounds. Even the data on student dropout shows that most students belong to SC/ST categories. It is no hidden fact that students from the SC/ST community face immense harassment and discrimination on the campus from students, faculties, and employees."

Student Wellness Centre in the Dock

The complaint accuses the IIT-B Student Wellness Centre in-charge Hima Anaredy of indulging in casteism. It points out that Anaredy, in an old post on Facebook, had ridiculed India's reservation policy and questioned the merit of reserved category students studying in higher educational institutions.

A member of the APPSC told The Quint, "Many students approached us saying they don't go to the centre for counselling because they don't feel safe."

The APPSC members The Quint spoke to also pointed out that the counselling centre doesn't follow reservation norms and it mostly has upper caste employees. Further, they lack understanding about caste issues and caste discrimination, they alleged.

The students' group demanded that the centre in-charge Anaredy should be removed from her position and the institute should appoint SC, ST and OBC members in the centre as per reservation norms. Additionally, all the counsellors should go through caste sensitisation training.

In their complaint to the commission, the APPSC has also drawn attention to the fact that while an alumni programme for student wellness, called Bandhu, takes cognisance of factors like gender and sexuality, it is completely silent on caste. The students told The Quint that they didn't receive any response from people associated with the programme when they wrote to them about it.

IIT-B Says Proactive Steps Being Taken

In a detailed response to the queries sent by The Quint to the IIT-B director Subhasis Chaudhuri over email, Public Relations Officer Falguni Banerjee Naha replied saying, "The IITB Student Wellness Centre (SWC) provides counselling to all students of IITB on mental health issues, regardless of caste, gender or any other aspect. The SWC is carrying out a number of steps to help all students, proactively and when there is need for counselling it is provided by our SWC counsellors."

Banerjee Naha further said that a sensitisation course on caste is under preparation and it will be made mandatory for all its faculty, students and staff once it is ready.

"A sensitization course on caste related (especially SC/ST) issues has already been planned by the SC/ST students cell which is headed by two of our faculty. Manpower has been recruited and course content is under preparation. Once it is ready, IITB plans to make it mandatory for all students/staff/faculty."
– IIT-B representative

The IIT-B email also states that the SWC functionary, that is, Hima Anaredy, was asked to remove the post on reservation after it came to light and was given a warning in this regard.

"On 10 June 2022, a complaint related to a particular counsellor's old social media post was received. This post was made from her personal non-official account, 7 years ago. The counsellor was asked to immediately take down the post, and warned to avoid any similar posts in future. It may be noted that the same counsellor has been working with SC/ST Cell since April 2022 on a joint survey on mental health. Corrective measures have been pursued to sensitise all employees about caste related issues."

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