Hundreds of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University students protested Monday against a 300% hike in monthly hostel fee outside the All India Council for Technical Education, the venue for their convocation ceremony attended by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. Students have been on a strike since 28 October demanding that the revisions in the hostel manual be withdrawn.
ThePrint asks: Are JNU students justified in protesting steep but long overdue fee hike?
We are fighting for affordable education for everyone, not just for JNU students
Activist and former JNU student
The students of JNU are fighting for their basic rights, the right to education. It is not a privilege, but a right that all citizens of this country are entitled to.
People, however, are now making so much noise about JNU’s low-cost fee structure. The fact is that JNU and the IITs were established around the same time. However, only the latter’s fee increased over time while JNU’s fee didn’t. The JNU student movement always resisted the privatisation of education, keeping the principle of affordable education alive.
JNU has students from extremely economically-disadvantaged groups. If JNU wasn’t there, pursuing higher education would have become impossible for them. In many academic institutes, the cost of education is very high and monthly accommodation costs a lot of money. No university should be charging exorbitant tuition and accommodation fee. The government should subsidise education just like the governments of many Western European countries do. We are essentially fighting for everyone, not just JNU students.
The government has enough money, so it is about setting the right priorities. Budgetary allocations for education have reduced every year since 2014. The BJP government spends thousands of crores on advertisements alone, and has even written off huge amounts of corporate debt. People of India want their money, which they give us taxes to the government, to be spent on providing education for all.
The Modi government wants to destroy public universities so that private universities funded by corporate players like the Jio Institute can take over the education sector. Such universities make education available only to the privileged.
Bogus socialism combined with a sorry sense of entitlement do not qualify as legitimate basis for protest
Makarand R. Paranjape
Director, IIAS and professor at JNU
JNU students are not justified in staging these protests. There are other matters on which the students might express their displeasure with the current JNU administration, such as the newly proposed imposition of curfew timings, visiting restrictions for women students to men’s hostels, dress codes in dining areas, and so on. But not fee hikes.
How can anyone justify the meagre rent of Rs 10 for a room in the heart of South-West Delhi, utilities included? Not to forget how guests pile on, sometimes ten to a room. Boarding charges are also ridiculously cheap, subsidised to about Rs 1600-1700 a month. The current tuition fees are also ridiculously low, less than Rs 500 per year, for all disciplines except the newly opened engineering and management schools.
Some of these same protesting students have paid school fees of Rs 4000-5000 thousand a month. Most students, especially those pursuing MPhil/PhD are recipients of scholarships, JRF’s getting as high as Rs 35,000 a month and even House Rent Allowance, if they don’t avail themselves of hostel accommodation.
The argument that some students are too poor to pay the increased fees is contra-factual, if not mischievous. Every student enrolled in JNU is almost sure to get a loan if he or she is unable to pay the fees.
On the ruckus over fee hike, students are clearly mistaken. Bogus socialism combined with a sorry sense of entitlement do not qualify as a legitimate basis for protest.
Views are personal.
One can clearly see what is happening in JNU, and to JNU
Author and student activist
Students of JNU have all the right to protest against the fees hike and they should. Jawaharlal Nehru University is one of India’s most prestigious institutions that has produced stalwarts in various fields. It is one of the most inclusive spaces that has provided access to higher education to many students from all regions of India.
JNU is, in fact, one of the last few standing higher education institutions that in recent years has not succumbed to the pressures of the government. One can clearly see what is happening in JNU, and to JNU. It has provided the atmosphere for free thinkers to grow. But it is people like these who become the government’s target from time to time.
The student movements led by former leaders of JNU have resulted in producing narratives that are shaping contemporary India. They have acted as the opposition to the ruling party, something which ceased to exist for the longest time.
The protests by JNU students are not just about fighting for equal education but are also about saving the last standing intellectual bastion in new India. And this needs to be fully supported.
As a DU student, I stand with JNU students. The exponential fee hike is completely unacceptable
As a student of Delhi University, I stand with JNU students. The fees have been increased exponentially. We would’ve understood JNU administration’s perspective if there was only a slight increase in the hostel fee.
In DU, we have a policy of 2-3 per cent increase in fees every year based on the UGC guidelines, but JNU has no such provision. The fee was increased by 300 per cent. This is completely unacceptable. I’m shocked that the JNU administration did not consult with the JNU’s student union or bring the proposal of fee hike on the table before making the final revisions.
I’m not saying that increasing the fee is the problem. The issue, however, is that raising the fee puts a burden on the students. Especially because students from all over India come to JNU to study and not everyone is from the same economic background.
Being a union member in DU, our major issue is that of one course-one fee. I’m trying to bring some sense of uniformity across colleges in Delhi. If this doesn’t come through, you could see similar protests by DU students.
JNU students want to stick to ideological values and room rates from the 1990s, which is indefensible
Assistant professor, Delhi University
When I started studying at JNU in 2001, the hostel fee was around Rs 108 for 6 months. JNU has changed in many ways since then. At that time, the MCM scholarship for students was Rs 600, which is now Rs 2,000. Back then, research scholars did not get non-NET fellowship, but now they do. The number and amount of UGC and CSIR fellowships have also increased since then. Earlier, there was no Rajiv Gandhi Fellowship for SC and OBC students. Now, around 300 JNU scholars are awarded this fellowship.
The protesting students should have negotiated with the JNU administration. They could have asked for a reduction in fees for everyone and a full fee waiver for EWS, SCs, STs and persons with disability.
But the JNU students don’t want to move forward. They want to stick to ideological values and room rates from the 1990s, which is indefensible.
Under the category of social science research institutions, JNU gets maximum grants per student from UGC and help from different ministries for hostel and research facilities. Quality of rooms, toilets, reading rooms, gym and TV rooms should be maintained and students should share the cost of maintenance and renovation.
JNU cannot continue to be an island disconnected from the realities. It cannot continue to singularly consume resources that could be used to support other universities and equally deserving students in other parts of the country.
By Taran Deol, journalist at ThePrint