Massive protest at JNU

Hundreds of students of Jawaharlal Nehru University staged massive protests right outside the university premises demanding a rollback of the proposed fee hike and changes in the hostel manual that imposes curfew hours, dress code and other restrictions on students.

The agitating students waited all day demanding a meeting with the University’s Vice-Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, who refused any discussion on fee hike and other issues raised by the students.

The students clashed with policemen deployed to control the situation as the protest turned unruly. They upturned barricades and hurled shoes at the cops. The police in turn resorted to water cannons and batons to control the crowd that finally dispersed in the evening after an assurance from the Ministry of Human Resources to look into their grievances. They were backed by the JNU Teachers Association that held a Teachers’ Assembly on Monday where the police action was condemned and a strong demand for the VC to step down was made.

“The police action was clearly only to defend the obstinate refusal of the VC to engage in any dialogue with students on their concerns….The Assembly was an expression of the collective view of the JNU faculty that the changes in the hostel manual and the steep increase in hostel charges are unacceptable. It is the university’s responsibility to provide residential and mess facilities to students at reasonable cost and hostels cannot be run on a self-financing principle as the new Hostel Manual proposes,” an official statement of JNUTA read.

Students claimed that the fee hike was three-fold to 999 per cent in varying cases that would drive out 40 per cent of the students since a large number come from economically weaker sections of society. The varsity has increased fees for a single-occupancy room from Rs.20 to Rs.600 per month and from Rs.10 to Rs.3,000 for a double-occupancy room. A new service charge of Rs.1,700 per month has been levied, taking up the monthly hostel fee from Rs.2,000 to Rs.2,300. The onetime mess security deposit has also been raised from Rs.5,500 to Rs.12,000.

The JNU administration explained that this was the first fee revision in 19 years and that the previous fee structure was outdated and extremely low. The authorities have previously stated that an annual expenditure of Rs.10 crore on electricity, water and service charges is incurred. This, they said, has to be borne from the general fund given by the University Grants Commission that could have otherwise been used for maintenance and giving the university a facelift.

The students demanded the resignation of the VC.

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