‘Undemocratic Circular': Pondicherry Univ Students Slam Admin

Students of Pondicherry University slam administration for ‘undemocratic circular’ and demand rollback of fee hike.

Published21 Feb 2020, 04:17 PM IST
India
5 min read

"Conduct counselling sessions for students participating in ‘unauthorised rallies against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)."

This is the circular that was sent by the administration of Pondicherry University to all the departments on 11 February.This was to change the narrative of the protests against the controversial CAA, students alleged.

The student council released a statement condemning ‘the undemocratic circular’ and stating that this was ‘an attempt to curtail the freedom of expression of the students.’

This circular was to change the narrative of the protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), students alleged.
This circular was to change the narrative of the protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), students alleged.
(Photo Courtesy: Accessed by The Quint)

The circular was triggered by protests on campus, when an effigy of Home Minister Amit Shah was burned.

Students burn an effigy of Home Minister Amit Shah during a protest against CAA and NRC.
Students burn an effigy of Home Minister Amit Shah during a protest against CAA and NRC.
(Photo Courtesy: Accessed by The Quint)

This incident comes amidst an indefinite strike by the students, who have been demanding a rollback of a fee hike and a transportation fee.

The Quint tried reaching the Vice Chancellor of the University Gurmeet Singh for a comment but haven’t received a response so far.

The students also burnt the circular in a symbolic gesture on 20 February. The student council members stated that it was their democratic right to protest.

The student council released a statement condemning ‘the undemocratic circular.’
The student council released a statement condemning ‘the undemocratic circular.’
(Photo Courtesy: Accessed by The Quint)
Parichay Yadav, President of the student council holding the circular as it is being burnt in a symbolic gesture.
Parichay Yadav, President of the student council holding the circular as it is being burnt in a symbolic gesture.
(Photo Courtesy: Accessed by The Quint)
“We will instead go to each department and conduct our own sessions. We won’t let this counselling session happen.”
Student Council Member, Pondicherry University

A number of protests have been held on campus since December against the controversial legislations. During the convocation on 23 December, Rabeeha Abdurehim, a Mass Communication post-graduate, refused her gold medal in a show of solidarity with the students protesting across the country who have faced police brutality.

“Students have been protesting, many even said no to gold medals to express dissent but the management is trying every way possible to put a stop to it.”
Parichay Yadav, President, Pondicherry University Students Council

A Hunger Strike That Started It All

Since 6 February, hundreds of students have undertaken marches, boycotted classes, held sit-in demonstrations inside the campus, all in an effort to ‘Occupy Admin’ till the fee hike is revoked as the fees for many courses in the university were hiked exorbitantly last year.

The student council members pointed out that this ongoing fight was to make public education accessible and affordable for every student.

It all started with a hunger strike back in June 2019 by the previous student council when the fees for various courses was hiked to the tune of 225%, said the students. Later, the fee hike in MBA, MCA, MSc. Computer Science and PhD programmes was partially rolled back. The Vice-Chancellor later constituted a grievance committee to look into their demands.

The student council in a series of meetings even provided factual data to show how this hike is a huge blow to aspiring students, they said.

For instance, the fees for the MBA course was Rs 74,200 earlier and the revised fee is Rs 1,45,335, which is a 95.9% increase. Similarly, fees for MSc/MTech (Computer Science) courses was Rs 31,300 and the revised fee is Rs 70335, which is an increase of nearly 120%.
Data comparing the revised fee and the hike was presented by the student council members to the administration.
Data comparing the revised fee and the hike was presented by the student council members to the administration.
(Photo Courtesy: Accessed by The Quint)

In addition, transport fees of Rs 4,000 per annum has been introduced for the day scholars, which was earlier non-existent.

“When you establish an institution in a place, it is a rule that they offer 25% reservation in each department for the native students and free transport. But now they have introduced this transportation fees. Four meetings have happened with the grievance committee but no conclusion came out. They were adamant that they can’t change the new guidelines,” said Parichay Yadav, President of the student council.

‘An Attempt to Deny Marginalised Sections’

Some of the students alleged that they are being harassed in their departments for boycotting classes.“A copy of the attendance is being sent to the registrar and students are being personally threatened. And the PhD students who came forward to show solidarity are being pinned as leaders of the protest and it is insinuated that action needs to be taken against them,” said Parichay.

The student council organised a football tournament on 14 and 15 February to show their protest against the fee hike.
The student council organised a football tournament on 14 and 15 February to show their protest against the fee hike.
(Photo Courtesy: Accessed by The Quint)

Earlier this month, the committee held a meeting with the council and had suggested a 20 percent reduction for students from economically backward communities.

“But that is not fair because this university is for all. And the prospectus will still have the hiked fees, so students from marginalised communities will not even apply because they cant afford it,” said Al Rishal Shanavas, the Executive Member of the student council.

“And this will bring down the quality of the students and in no time it will be turned into a private university where the administration will be autonomous.”
Al Rishal Shanavas, Executive Member, Pondicherry University Students Council
Posters demanding a rollback of the fee hike all over the campus.
Posters demanding a rollback of the fee hike all over the campus.
(Photo Courtesy: Accessed by The Quint)

“My roommate can’t afford the amount right now. So how can they afford after the hike?” he asked.

“This is an attempt to wash out the marginalised sections. And then, the rich people will be pumped in. Money will be pumped into the institution. And if the rich come in, they won’t strike as they won’t have an issue with the fees or won’t care about anything much.”
Al Rishal Shanavas, Executive Member, Pondicherry University Students Council

The council gave a representation on Thursday as well and if the management is not willing for a fair negotiation, they said they will continue the protest.

So Why The Fee Hike?

The management had stated that the fee hike is due to not receiving funds from the HRD ministry, which in turn has strained their finances to pay the faculty members.

“Administration is just not looking at any other source for funds. They are putting the burden on the students saying they need to pay the teachers,” said Al Rishal.

On 6 February, the Vice-Chancellor had told The News Minute that the protests are unjustified. He said that the fee was hiked two years ago after consultation with the students and some of it was reduced. “I don’t know why the students are raking this up now,” he had told.

The copy will be updated after we receive a response from the administration.

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