Partial roll back of fees-hike cuts no ice with JNU students

JNU Executive Committee on Wednesday partially rolled back hiked fee that students are protesting against. But teacher members were kept out by changing the venue. Students were not consulted either

JNU students protesting against the fees hike near varsity campus on Tuesday (PTI photo)
JNU students protesting against the fees hike near varsity campus on Tuesday (PTI photo)

Ashlin Mathew

In a partial victory for the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, HRD secretary R Subrahmanyam on Wednesday announced that the JNU executive committee would partially roll-back hostel fee and other stipulations. The Executive Council (EC) is the highest decision-making body of the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

JNU students have been protesting since October 28, 2019, against the proposal to increase fees and change in rules while JNU Teachers’ Association had planned to stage a demonstration on Thursday against the New Education Policy of the Government and privatisation of education among other issues.

“Executive Committee announces major roll-back in the hostel fee and other stipulations. Also proposes a scheme for economic assistance to the EWS students. Time to get back to classes,” tweeted Subrahmanyam. There will be no change in mess and utility charge in the new fees structure of JNU.

The room rent which was raised to ₹600 from ₹20 for single occupancy will now be ₹200. Similarly, for double occupancy, the rent was hiked from ₹10 to ₹300. The amount will now be ₹100. Significantly, the main bone of contention — the utility charges of Rs 1,700 that have been introduced for the first time – have not been removed or reduced.

However, the students are likely to continue the protests. “The major component and the policy of students paying service charge has not ended. 95% of fee hike remains. The govt is trying to save its face but in reality, the policy and fee hike remains,” said protesting students.

“Only Rs 100 has been reduced as room rent! Moreover, they are looking at only EWS students! What about those SC, ST, OBC, Minority students? What about others? The curfew timings of 11 pm restriction, closing down 24x7 library reading rooms, dress code and dangerous punishments like rustication, withdrawal of degree and many more still stay,” pointed out N Sai Balaji, the former JNUSU president.

"The portion of Service charge and the policy of students paying for salaries of mess workers, hostel staff, hostel maintenance & other charges which the admin conservatively estimated to be Rs 1700 along with electricity & water also remains," underscored N Sai Balaji.

The JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA), representatives of which attend the EC meeting, alleged they were not informed about the change in the venue of the meeting to the office of the Association of Indian Universities near ITO.

The University has been in the throes of a protest against a proposal to increase fees, introduce curfew timings and impose a dress code.

The protest which began on October 28, 2019, is part of the agitation against the hostel manual and several other issues like restrictions by the administration on entry to the Parthasarathy Rocks, attempts to lock students' union office, according to the students.

Students had even tried to march towards the auditorium where the university was holding its convocation ceremony, with Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu as the chief guest on November 11. Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who was also at the function was not allowed to come out of the venue.

"JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh and vice president Saket Moon were asked to talk to the students to make way for the HRD minister. Police requested the protesters to move from the gate, but they refused," an officer said. The JNUSU office-bearers later met Pokhriyal, who assured them that their demands would be looked into.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Students Union stated that the revised hike was “999% more than the earlier one”. It also said that over 40% of the varsity’s students belonged to the category with a yearly income below the poverty line.

The draft of hostel rules, which was circulated on October 4 showed that the hostel mess security deposit had been increased to ₹12,000 from ₹5,500.

Students alleged that the administration did not consult them before preparing the draft of the manual. They also claimed that Vice Chancellor M Jagadeesh Kumar had refused to meet them since they started objecting to the plan nearly two weeks ago.

The JNUSU vice-president claimed that CRPF personnel had been deployed on the campus to put students behind bars, a charge rejected by the management.

Over 600 security personnel were deployed to handle the protest on Monday by the Jawaharlal Nehru Students' Union (JNUSU) against the varsity administration's recent decisions, but the “students were not lathicharged”, officials said.

In the wake of the protest, all five provosts, in charge of 18 hostels, had either resigned or signed statements rejecting the new hostel manual. The provosts, however, alleged they did so under pressure from JNU Students’ Union. The JNUSU said it had given the provosts two options — reject (the manual) or resign.

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