Uttarakhand: BJP leaders’ pvt colleges defy HC order, students protest for 50 days against 170% fee hike
Uttarkhand Ayush minister and Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal own Ayurvedic colleges. Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna run the Patanjali Ayurveda College
In Uttarakhand, students of private Ayurveda medical colleges have been protesting for more than 50 days over an arbitrary fee hike of 170 per cent which even the high court has found to be unreasonably high. Many of these colleges are owned by BJP leaders, ministers and Sangh Parivar-friendly businessmen. No classes are being held and annual exams for the current year have not been conducted either.
The students have been on hunger strike at the Dehradun Parade Grounds. “Everyday students from different colleges sit on the hunger strike. It is a matter of our future. Several of us cannot pay so much. We just want the colleges to implement court orders but they don’t want to do so. The managements have the nerve to disobey court orders because several BJP ministers own colleges here and they want the fee to be hiked,” said Bhaskar Chakravorty, a second-year BAMS student at Dev Bhoomi Medical College in Dehradun.
The tussle between administrations of private Ayurveda colleges under the Uttarakhand Ayurveda University (UAU) Board and its students have been going on for more that four years now.
In October 2015, a government order was passed by Uttarakhand principal secretary Om Prakash increasing the fees to ₹2.15 lakh per year from ₹80,000 per year. However, in the same 2015 order, the principal secretary stated that the final decision on the revision of fees would be taken by the fee regulatory committee. The order also directed private colleges under the board to return any excess fee collected.
This government order to the registrar of UAU goes against UGC guidelines. According to rules, the fee structure can be increased only by a fee regulatory committee.
After this order, colleges started demanding the enhanced fee retrospectively. So, if a student was in the final year of the BAMS course in 2015, which was when the government order was passed, the student would have to pay increased fees for all the previous years including the current year.
So, the students went to Uttarakhand High Court soon after and, on September 16, 2016, a single judge-bench stayed the fee hike. Then in July 2018, the court passed a verdict nullifying the fee hike and directed the management to return any excess fee collected by the colleges. Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia had mentioned in the order that the fee hike was unreasonably high.
Then, the management of the colleges went to the high court and got a double bench to look into the matter. The double bench passed an order in October 2018 again in favour of the students. The court also said that if private colleges had already taken the increased fees from the students, they had to refund the money within two weeks.
For a year, the students met several government and management officials, hoping that the issue would be sorted out. They demanded that the private colleges abide by the high court’s orders and refund the enhanced fee that had been paid. But, the talks did not progress.
“Jitesh Rajput of Haridwar Ayurveda Medical College sat on a hunger strike for nine days, after which the police forcefully admitted him in the hospital. Rajan Daleel of Patanjali Ayurveda Medical College had also sat on a hunger strike,” added Chakravorty.
“Kunal Katiyal of Motherhood Ayurveda College was beaten up when he was forcefully taken away from the hunger strike venue. He was in the intensive care unit (ICU) for two days,” underscored Shivam Tiwari of Doon Institute of Medical Sciences.
Several BJP ministers and Sangh Parivar-friendly businessmen own and run Ayurveda colleges in Uttarakhand. Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna run the Patanjali Ayurveda College through their Divya Yoga Mandir (Trust). The Uttarkhand Ayush minister owns the Doon Institute of Medical Sciences. Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal owns the Himalayiya Ayurvedic Medical College.
None of the colleges have been willing to accept the court’s orders and, instead, they resorted to coercive measures against students. When girl students of Patanjali Ayurveda College began to protest, several were not allowed to enter their hostel in November 2018.
The court had issued a contempt order against the owners of certain private colleges including Ram Dev’s aide Balakrishna, seeking a response within three weeks, on October 22, 2019. But nothing came of it.
The Uttarakhand Ayurveda University (UAU) Vice-Chancellor Professor Sunil Kumar Joshi said that he has taken up the matter with the Governor and even hinted at withdrawing affiliation of these colleges if they didn’t abide by the HC orders. However, nothing has changed on the ground.