New Delhi: More than a month into protests by students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) over a proposed hike in hostel fees, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has promised them that their demands will be “positively looked into”.
The assurance came from Secretary, Higher Education, R. Subramanyam when he met some JNU students Tuesday.
“The students met me today, it was a positive meeting. We are trying to find a solution to the problems and get a negotiation between the JNU students and administration,” Subramanyam told ThePrint.
On 18 November, the ministry had formed a panel comprising former University Grants Commission chairperson V.S. Chauhan, UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain and All India Council for Technical Education Chairperson Anil Sahasrabudhe to find a resolution to the issue.
The following week, the panel submitted its report to the ministry, suggesting ways in which the issue can be resolved. Sources in the ministry said the report — which has not been made public — suggested that students’ demands should be heard and the fee hike reconsidered.
After Tuesday’s meeting with the students, sources said the ministry is likely to tell the JNU administration that they should reach an understanding and put an end to the impasse.
Students still anxious
However, there is still anxiety among students on whether the university will listen to the government’s suggestion because it is an autonomous entity and, therefore, not bound to follow any directive.
“The ministry has been assuring us…they have taken all our demands seriously and have agreed to it in-principle,” said one student who was present at the meeting with Subramanyam and did not want to be named.
“But we fear that the JNU administration will not agree to this. They have been repeatedly telling us that they are autonomous and the ministry’s orders are not binding on them.”
Another student said, “The administration did not attend any of the meetings of the high-powered committee set up by the HRD ministry and, instead, set up another committee of their own. This shows that they are not serious about solving the matter.”
The proposal to increase JNU hostel fees came in the first week of October after a draft of the new hostel manual with details of the proposed hike was uploaded for suggestions on the university’s website. According to the proposal, the hostel fee per month was supposed to go up from Rs 10 to Rs 300 for a single-seater and from Rs 20 to Rs 600 per month for a double-seater, along with a service charge of Rs 1,700.
After continuous protests by students, the JNU administration agreed to partially roll back the fee hike, but the agitation continued as this was limited to those below the poverty line.