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The manifesto by the AIADMK-BJP-PMK coalition and DMK-Congress demands statehood for Puducherry but what is the people’s wish list?
The Quint traveled to the union territory to speak to students of Pondicherry University to find out what they think is the need of the hour.
Before they pointed out what was going wrong, the students lauded the past many years of governance for making Puducherry what it is today. The students said that the UT has been quite forward when it comes to women’s safety, cleanliness, eco-friendly methods and education.
They believe this election is going to create a paradigm shift in ideologies and style of governance.
“A lot of questions have been raised. A lot of doubts have been raised. The idea of democracy, the idea of India, the idea of nationalism, what patriotism means – all these are being questioned. And these questions have opened multiple perspectives and multiple answers. And this election will settle those answers.”Charan, Student, Pondicherry University
Puducherry has hit the headlines several times in the last few years because of the constant tussle between the Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi and the Chief Minister Narayanasamy. Many citizens feel this fight has been unnecessary and has affected governance.
“The current CM is from Congress. He is my CM. I have not voted for Kiran Bedi. She is not my Governor. I want my CM to rule me, not the Governor,” said Charan, student of Pondicherry University.
Another issue raised was the over commercialisation of the beaches.
A student, Aravind, said that though Puducherry is projected as “a good tourist spot with a Euro culture,” but there are glaring differences.
“There is no transgender representative visibility in Pondicherry that you see in other spaces. It's very much less. We need to discuss such small social strains. There are also some temples where Dalits are not allowed,” he said.
When It Comes to Education, What Is Wrong?
Puducherry boasts of housing some of the premier institutions in the country – Pondicherry University, Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute, National Institute of Technology, to name a few. However the students of Pondicherry University pointed out that the picture isn’t all that rosy.
“For the Central University here in Pondicherry, the government has made a lot of provisions and allotted land but the number of admissions of Pondicherry students is very less. So the government should ensure 20% reservation for Pondicherry students,” said Arul Arasan.
A few students said that there have been funding cuts for certain courses like Human Rights and Social Exclusion, thus discouraging students from taking up these subjects.
Another important issue is fee hike.
“Now, for MBA course, fees has been increased by 125%. We cannot look at this as a fee hike for just one department. This trend will continue. This is a burden for the student community.”Arul Arasan, Student, Pondicherry University
Charan highlighted another issue of great concern. “When you talked about policies, I'll just give a simple example inside the campus. We talked about Mudra, Startup India. Inside the campus, we have an Entrepreneurship Centre and since the day I've joined college, till this day I've never seen it open. This is the reality, am not exaggerating, not talking fiction,” he said.
Lessons India Can Learn from Puducherry
Walk along the Promenade (Rocky Beach) at midnight and you will see many women and children walking around. Many women have said that they have no fear while stepping out of their home after sundown.
“I really feel safe here. I am from Bengal, I've gone to Delhi also. We are not safe there. Here we can easily go out, it is all okay,” said Sujedha, Student of Pondicherry University.
Aravind believes the influence of the Self Respect Movement and the Dravidian movement has been the reason for women’s empowerment.
Manish Mahapatra couldn’t stop gushing about the serenity of Puducherry. “I came here in 2014, it's been five years. I feel I will take something from here and spread the message of Pondicherry... the peace, the fraternity, the love with which we stay together, I want to take that to my home state,” he said.