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The Hindu
The Hindu
The Hindu Bureau

Over 13.5K SC, ST, OBC students dropped out of Central universities, IITs, IIMs in past 5 years: Education Ministry

More than 13,500 students from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes have dropped out of courses they were taking at Central Universities, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in the past five years, data tabled in Lok Sabha on December 4 showed.

The data was brought forward by Minister of State for Education, Subhas Sarkar, who was replying to a question by Bahujan Samaj Party MP Ritesh Pandey. While Mr. Pandey had also sought data on dropouts in National Law Universities, the Union government said NLUs were State Universities and hence, it did not have any data on the subject.

This comes amid hundreds of SC/ST/OBC students at these universities coming out with stories of caste-based discrimination that is both overt and covert after a string of student suicides across IITs in Mumbai, Delhi, and Madras in 2023, a majority of whom were from marginalised backgrounds.

The Education Ministry said, “In the Higher Education sector, students have multiple options and they choose to migrate across institutions and from one course/programme to another in the same institution. The migration/withdrawal if any, is mainly on account of securing seat by the students in other departments/institutions of their choice or on any personal ground.”

The data provided by the government showed that in Central Universities, 4,596 OBC students, 2,424 SC students, and 2,622 ST students dropped out in the past five years. For IITs, the number of dropouts stood at 2,066 OBC students, 1,068 SC students, and 408 ST students. Similarly, at IIMs, the past five years saw 163, 188, and 91 OBC, SC and ST students, respectively, drop out.

The government insisted, in the reply, that it is taking measures to ensure students from marginalised backgrounds find a place at these institutes — like providing tuition subsidies, fee waivers, scholarships, coaching schemes etc. It added that as per the mandate from the University Grants Commission, the institutes also had SC/ST cells, Grievance Redressal mechanisms, counselling etc.

However, a look at just the IITs would show that not all of them have an SC/ST cell, with IIT Delhi setting up their own only in 2023, despite the UGC mandating it a decade ago in its guidelines to promote equity in the institutes. In IIT Bombay, despite the cell having existed, students have complained it neither has the authority nor the physical space to function as effectively as envisioned by the UGC.

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