The students of Central University of Jammu (CUJ) have been persistently registering their discontent for nearly a week on social media regarding administrational and infrastructural issues on campus since Union Ministers Ramesh Pokhriyal and Jitendra Singh inaugurated recently completed structures there on Sunday.
Union Education Minister Pokhriyal along with Singh on Sunday virtually inaugurated and named a student hostel, a guest house and a road at CUJ after Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Pandit Premnath Dogra and Brigadier Rajendra Singh.
While Pokhriyal noted that the “development of infrastructure and education” in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir was in line with PM Narendra Modi’s “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas”, students said that the University lacks proper infrastructure and basic amenities. It is worth noting that the Central University of Jammu, which came into existence in 2011, was ranked B++ by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and has since failed to make it to the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).
There are nine state universities and two central universities in Jammu and Kashmir. The Central University of Jammu and Central University of Kashmir along with 15 other central universities in India were announced in 2009 under The Central University Bill. While the other universities became immediately functional, Central University of Jammu was mired in controversies after few political and social organisations demanded a local Dogra Vice-Chancellor. The demand was put to rest after former state Chief Secretary Sudhir Singh Bloeria assumed the charge of CUJ. Students from different parts of India, including Kashmir and Ladakh, study at CUJ.
NewsClick spoke to several university students to understand their problems. Pointing out their concerns, the students univocally said that their demands were basic and should have been met long ago. The major concerns students share are the unavailability of free transportation for hostellers, poor infrastructure, lack of basic amenities, shortage of faculty and the distance between the University and hostel accommodations.
Basic Amenities Missing
The CUJ is located at Rahya-Suchaniin in Jammu’s Samba district while the students’ hostels are as much as 30 kilometres away in Sainik Colony. The University website mentions the availability of transportation to facilitate to and fro commutation, but the students have outright denied the existence of any such facility saying that it is a farce. Speaking to Newsclick, students said that a year ago, the administration sent a notice asking students to pay a hefty amount to avail university bus services, after which the students protested but the administration remained indifferent. The students said that they have been forced to use private transportation, which is comparatively cheaper than the fee sought by the CUJ administration.
A student, who stays at the boys’ hostel and hails from Rajasthan, said, “When we took admission, we were told the university bus service will be free for hostellers. But a year ago, they charged us a huge amount of Rs 12,000 for 6 months (1 semester). We can’t pay for both hostel and transportation fees.”
On the other hand, the women from the girls’ hostel shared concerns about their security, food and Wi-Fi facilities. A hosteller studying at the Zoology Department of CUJ said that there are no CCTV cameras or fences around the hostel; there is only one mess meant for three hostel buildings, which are located far from each other, and there is no Wi-Fi.
“There are no CCTV cameras except for one hostel where an incident of men entering the building took place recently. Our hostel is huddled between shops and houses. So, it’s easier for anyone to cross and barge in, yet there is no fencing. We protested and were told that the administration would look into it but nothing happened.”
Another female student and a hosteller told NewsClick, “There is one mess in one hostel and the food is transported from there to two other girls’ hostel buildings. Till the food reaches us, it is cold and there is no option to heat the food. At times, we are not even served fresh food.”
Hostellers from both the boys’ and girls’ hostels said that there was no Wi-Fi, which makes it difficult for them to pursue research work. “There is a modem but that doesn’t work. For last one year, high-speed internet is banned in J&K. It is the responsibility of the University to provide us with Wifi facility so that we can work without facing any problem,” said a hosteller hailing from Kerala.
Poor Infrastructure and Faculty
Union Minister Jitendra Singh, during the virtual inauguration, emphasised that CUJ is the “first-ever government university in India where a complex is being named after Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee.” But the students dismissed the claims saying “such marketing won’t yield good infrastructure.”
A CUJ student who wished to remain anonymous said that the same classroom where he attends his lecture is later used for laboratory purposes because of lack of infrastructure. “At times, a plywood board is used to act as a barricade to separate two lectures happening simultaneously in the same classroom. It has been 10 years since the University came to existence and yet there are no proper classes.”
Another student lamented the shortage of faculty. “To run a department, one needs a Professor, Assistant Professor and Associate Professor but we only have an Assistant Professor who looks after everything. Can you believe that a Botany professor is heading the Social Sciences Department?” asked Gulshan.
Students also shared that there is no space for cultural activities and the politics in the college is dominated by the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which decides all the events that take place on the campus. A female student from the Mass Communication department said, “The student politics in the University is dominated by the ABVP and we have no problem with that until the university is open to diverse opinions. But the students affiliated to ABVP have been given a free hand to do whatever they want to.”
Another student from the English Department echoed similar views and said there is not even a fully functional separate library on the campus.
The students largely refrained from sharing their names with NewsClick fearing repercussions.
NewsClick was able to reach an Assistant Professor (who also sought anonymity) of CUJ who said that the students’ demands were valid, but added that the University was trying its best to provide better services. “The situation is not ideal but functional. The land chosen by the University for the college is challenging as it is far away from the city. Even the students in Jammu have to travel 25-30 km to reach there, which is problematic. But there have also been some financial irregularities,” he said. “To be honest, infrastructure is a problem and there has been no exponential growth in the last four years but things are getting functional. The work is ongoing and a boy hostel was inaugurated a few days ago. Let me be honest with you, the picture is not that rosy as it appears to be,” he added.
Speaking on students' politics in the University, the professor said, “Yes, the political space is dominated by the ABVP and there is no denying that, but I would want students to carve out their own space.”