“India is a country of diversity. It is a hub of different religions, castes and cultures. However, the Indian society is characterized by a highly entrenched system of social stratification. It is these social inequalities that created the barriers of denial of access to materials, cultural and educational resources to the disadvantaged groups of society. These disadvantaged groups are SCs, STs, women, OBC (non-creamy layer), minorities and physically challenged persons. It is clear from the demographic factors that a large section of population of our country is still disadvantaged and marginalized.” “Since higher education is a tool for social and economic equality, the UGC has been addressing national concerns of access, equality, while ensuring the standard of quality and relevance of education by implementing policies of the Government of India and promoting several schemes and programmes for the disadvantaged groups that would help in eliminating social disparities”. “India is potentially rich in human resources. To harvest the same and make the present education system inclusive, the degree of democratization of higher education has to be increased to a large extent. Further colleges should become more responsive to the needs and constraints of the disadvantaged social groups. Therefore, the UGC has planned to establish Equal Opportunity Centres (EOC) in colleges/Universities”. The broad aims and objectives of EOC are: “To oversee the effective implementation of policies and programmes for disadvantaged groups, to provide guidance and counselling with respect to academic, financial, social and other matters and to enhance the diversity within the campus.” (UGC Guidelines for Scheme of Equal Opportunity Centre for Colleges, XII Plan (2012-2017), p.1).
Primary Functions of EOC:
The primary functions of the EOC, according to the UGC Guidelines, and as specified in the letter of the Secretary, UGC, dated 26th January 2016, are:
To sensitize universities/colleges about the problems of the marginalized/disadvantaged sections of the society so that they are able to improve their performance not only in the education but also in other spheres of life.
To sensitize the mainstream sections of the society towards the problems of the marginalized sections of the society.
To monitor the various schemes/policies of the Government of India and State Governments relating to marginalized/disadvantaged sections.
To ensure that there is an effective functional SC/ST Cell as has been mandated in the DoPT Brochure on Reservation for SC, ST & Other Backward Classes in Services.
To also become an effective tool for gender sensitization and ensure participation in all socially relevant activities of the Universities/ Colleges and NSS.
Other functions of EOC as stated in the EOC guidelines:
To ensure equity and equal opportunity to the community at large in the college and bring about social inclusion.
To enhance the diversity among the students, teaching and non-teaching staff population and at the same time eliminate the perception of discrimination.
To create a socially congenial atmosphere for academic interaction and for the growth of healthy interpersonal relationships among the students coming from various social backgrounds.
To look into the grievances of the weaker section of society and suggest amicable solution to their problems.
To disseminate the information related to schemes and programmes for the welfare of the socially weaker section as well as notifications/memoranda, office orders of the Government, or other related agencies/organizations issued from time to time.
To prepare barrier free formalities/procedures for admission/registration of students belonging to the disadvantaged groups of society.
To establish coordination with the Government and other agencies/organizations to mobilize academic and financial resources to provide assistance to students of the disadvantaged groups.
To organize periodic meetings to monitor the progress of different schemes.
To adopt measures to ensure due share of utilization by SC/ST in admissions, recruitments (teaching and non-teaching posts) and to improve their performances.
Equal Opportunity Centre at TISS
In response to the UGC’s XII Plan guidelines, and its subsequent reminder letter cited above, the TISS set up the Equal Opportunity Centre (EOC) on June 11, 2021 to carry out the above stated mandatory functions. Besides the above stated functions, the EOC, TISS has the following additional responsibilities:
The EOC shall establish coordination with the Government and other agencies/organization to mobilize academic and financial resources to provide assistance to those students who are the most deprived and in dire need of economic support to complete their education in TISS. The EOC shall prepare proposals for funding support and submit to various funding organisations with the approval of the Director, and the funds so mobilized would be used for the welfare of such students.
The EOC will be a Nodal Office for utilization of grants received from the various sources for the welfare of the marginalized section of the society in the institute.
The EOC, TISS shall function in the following manner:
The EOC shall be an overarching body, coordinating the functions of (i) SC/ST Cell and (ii) OPEM Cell (Cell for OBC, PWD, EWS, and Minority categories).
The EOC shall address issues of the respective communities among faculty, staff and students of TISS and shall have jurisdiction over all campuses and constituent units.
The EOC shall monitor, coordinate and maintain database across all the campuses and constituent units of TISS. EOC shall also maintain all necessary database related to the Functions of EOC.
While the regulatory functions in respect to each of the social categories shall be handled directly by the Cells (SC/ST Cell and OPEM Cell) under the supervision of the respective Liaison Officers, the Dean, EOC, shall act as the Coordinator of both the Cells for regulatory functions.
The Dean, EOC, shall be responsible not only for protective functions such as grievances redressal with the help of the two grievances redressal committees (one for students and the other one for faculty and staff), but also for promotional functions such as awareness generation and capacity building among the concerned social categories.
Administrative Structure of EOC:
The Director is the Chairperson of the EOC.
As per the UGC guidelines of EOC, and the decision taken in the meeting of the Standing Advisory Committee of SC/ST Cell and OPEM Cell, held on September 9, 2021, the EOC constituted its own Working Committee (EWC). The members of EWC so constituted include, besides the Director/Deputy Director, Registrar, Dean (Academic) and Dean (Student Affairs) located in Mumbai campus, the Cell conveners of all campuses of TISS. The members of EWC are expected to bring to the EOC working committee meeting the campus specific issues of students belonging to SC. ST, OBC, PWD and Minority categories. Issues that need to be discussed at the SAC meeting are accordingly included in the agenda of the subsequent SAC meeting.
The two divisions within EOC are: (i) SC/ST Cell and (ii) OPEM Cell (Cell for OBC, PwD, EWS, and Minorities).
Each of these Cells is headed by a Liaison Officer. One of the Liaison Officers who is a senior Professor shall be nominated on rotation basis by the Director every three year as Dean, EOC.
The administrative support to EOC is provided by the Secretariat of the SC/ST Cell and the OPEM Cell. The Secretariat consists of one Section Officer, one Statistical Assistant, and three other staff, including one Office Assistant.
Note: In place of the present EOC established in 2021, there was Social Protection Office (SPO) established in 2012.
Standing Advisory Committee (SAC) for SC/ST Cell & OPEM Cell
Chairperson, SAC (Director, TISS)
Prof. Bino Paul
Deputy Director, TISS
Prof Sasmita Palo
Offg Registrar, TISS
Prof. Avatthi Ramaiah
Liaison Officer, SC/ST Cell
Prof. Sandhya Rani
Liaison Officer, OPEM Cell
Dr. Ritesh Khunyakari
Convenor, Special Cell, Hyderabad Campus
Dr. Sampat Kale
Convenor, Special Cell, Tulapur Campus
Ms Navaneeta Deori
Convenor, Special Cell, Guwahati Campus
Prof. P.K. Shajahan
Dr. Sandhya Limaye
Prof. Vijay Raghavan
Prof. H. Beck
Dr. Akhilesh Yadav
Standing Advisory Committee- Part of EOC
The Standing Advisory Committee is to address the issues that may arise in the process of the SC/ST Cell and OPEM Cell implementing their mandated objectives such as (a) implementation of reservation and (b) protection of the SC/ST, OBC, PWD and Minority category employees of TISS from caste/tribe/identity based discrimination, harassment and atrocities. It also suggests measures for achieving the objectives laid down by various government agencies. The Committee meets at least twice a year to take decisions on matters relating to SC/ST/OBC/PWD/Minority category employees of TISS. The Committee is chaired by the Director of the Institute, and has faculty representation, including women from SC, ST, OBC, Minority, and PWD categories.
The SC/ST Cell and OPEM Cell have a common SAC, although each Cell has its own independent and exclusive LO in Mumbai campus, and Convenors for other campuses of TISS, viz., Tuljapur, Guwahati and Hyderabad campuses.
One of the objectives of TISS’ Equal Opportunity Centre (EOC) is to see that there is an effective SC/ST Cell and OPEM Cell addressing the issues of students and employees of TISS. It is with this intent, the EOC takes lead in conducting Standing Advisory Committing (SAC) meeting.