New Delhi: Students of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University took their protests to the streets outside the campus Monday, a day when Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ was visiting for the university’s annual convocation.
The students have been protesting for nearly two weeks against a massive hike in JNU’s hostel fees, saying it will drive out about 40% of students who come from economically weaker sections of society. On Monday, they blocked the road behind JNU in Vasant Kunj, and police used water cannons to disperse them.
Pokhriyal, who was stuck in campus for a long time, met a delegation of students and assured them that a “possible solution to their problems will be found”, according to a statement from the ministry.
Hike from Rs 10 to Rs 2,000 per month
JNU has hiked the fee for a single-occupancy room to Rs 600 per month from Rs 20, while a double-occupancy room will now cost each student Rs 300 per month instead of Rs 10. A new service charge of Rs 1,700 per month has been introduced, which takes the monthly hostel charge up to Rs 2,000-2,300. The one-time mess security deposit has also been hiked from Rs 5,500 to Rs 12,000.
The JNU administration, however, has justified the hike, saying there hasn’t been a revision in fees in the last 19 years. Registrar Pramod Kumar had said in a 1 November statement: “JNU is incurring an expenditure of Rs 10 crore per annum for payment towards electricity, water and service charges.”
He added that the university has to manage all these expenses from the general fund given by the University Grants Commission, which otherwise would have been used for upgrade and upkeep of the hostels and to provide better facilities to students.
“Therefore, to meet this expenditure, it has been decided that students will have to pay the service charges,” he added.
However, the JNU Students’ Union, in a 2 November statement, had alleged that nearly Rs 13-16 crore of the university’s internal revenue had been mismanaged or wasted in anti-student programmes by the administration.
“The JNU V-C, in order to implement his projects or policies, has not bothered whether UGC or MHRD has allocated resources. He simply wasted and destroyed JNU’s internal resources. Now, his excuse of not getting enough funds from the UGC exposes his sheer incompetence and anti-student nature in the matter of resource allocation,” the JNUSU had said.
‘Hike will drive out students’
A number of students ThePrint spoke to at the protest site Monday said the fee hike would drive many students out of the university.
Govinda, M.Phil. student at the School of Arts and Aesthetics and member of the CPI(M)-affiliated Students’ Federation of India SFI, said, “More than 40 per cent of the students have an overall family income of less than Rs 1.4 lakh per annum. How will they pay a monthly fee of Rs 6,000-8,000? They will have no option but to de-register.”
Ragini, a student of M.A. English, said, “Earlier, students only had to pay a refundable deposit of Rs 5,000 and then Rs 2,000-3,000 for the mess food. Now, the university wants to charge the students for everything and is not providing any subsidised water or electricity. Students will now have to pay close to Rs 30,000 a semester, excluding the mess fees and other provisions.”
Students were also upset with Vice-Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, saying he had not met them once since the protest began.
Bharat Gupta, a first year B.Tech. student at the School of Engineering, said, “For the past 15 days, no one has been listening to us. We have even filed a ‘missing person’ report against the V-C Monday. The want to privatise JNU and run it like a dictatorship. They don’t want us to go out post 11:30 pm and just keep us locked up.”
Shubhanshu Singh, former joint secretary of the JNU Students’ Union, said, “We had an Inter-Hall Administration meeting where none of our objections regarding the draft hostel manual were acknowledged. We have been protesting for the past 15 days, but still, no one from the administration has bothered listening to us. We had no other option but to come out on the streets today.”