Over the past few days, students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have come under fire for their protests. Many opine that the protests should be supported for a number of reasons.
There is no doubt that the hike in hostel and food fees will hit the less-privileged students hard. According to JNU’s annual report for 2017-18, of the 1,586 students admitted that year, 40 percent belonged to the lower or middle income groups whose family income was less than Rs 12,000 per month. At present, students were paying Rs 2,500 per month as hostel and food fees, but this has been increased to Rs 8,000 per month.
Consequently, many students from poor backgrounds may not be able to continue their studies as they cannot afford to pay the hiked fee. In my opinion, the action of the university authorities violates Article 14 of the Constitution because it discriminates against poor students.
“I told the policeman I was a blind student. I asked him to stop hitting me as I couldn’t even run away. But he said why did you join the protest if you were blind?”
Shashibhushan Samad is lying on the bed at his JNU dorm room, recounting a protest rally on Monday where thousands of students clashed with police. Many received injuries and had to be taken to hospital.
In a video that has since gone viral, Mr Samad can be seen removing his glasses to show policemen that he cannot see, but he is still pulled away.
“The JNU has a deficit of more than Rs 45 crore and it is largely because of huge electricity and water charges and the salary of contractual staff. The UGC no longer allows payments of salaries of contractual employees of the hostel from the salary head of the budget. The number of such employees in the hostels is over 450. The UGC has given clear instructions to JNU that all shortfalls in the non-salary expenditures should be met by using the internal receipts generated by the university. Thus, there is no alternative for the IHA than to collect service charges from the students,” said the university administration.