Bhopal: Nearly 1,800 students of the Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology’s (MANIT) Bhopal campus have demanded for a withdrawal of a notification concerning fees for the semester and a reduction in additional charges except tuition fees, since classes have been shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The students demands are with regard to a notification issued by the college administration on May 8, which has asked students to pay registration and semester fees by June 30, else their admission would be cancelled. The amount is close to Rs 65,000.
The students responded to the notification in a two-page letter, urging the administration to deduct additional charges from the semester fee in light of the classes switching to online mode. The charges include education tour fee, students medical fee, institute development fee, internet fee, transportation fee and professional activity fee.
Aside from the aforementioned demand, they said the college administration must allow students to pay a nominal fee for registration, adjustment or repayment of the previous semester’s hostel fee and electricity and water charges. They also asked to be provided with an e-marksheet, failing which the document submission deadline should be lifted.
The students mailed their complaint along with their demands to the college Director N.S. Raghuwanshi and Registrar B.D. Mittal with a list of students who supported the demand.
The college’s fee demand notification is also a violation of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) guidelines. The body had asked engineering, management, architecture and pharmacy institutes not to compel students to pay fees during the lockdown.
Prashant Rao Gokhle, a third year Chemical Engineering student with the college, said that the notification was unethical. “At a time when the lockdown has affected every household in the country and even the middle class is hardly making both ends meet, the College administration has unethically issued the semester fee notification, undermining the AICTE’s guidelines and asking students to pay the next semester’s fee which is around Rs 65,000,” he told NewsClick.
Another student from the Civil Engineering Department, who did not wish to be named, said that their classes had shifted online in view of the lockdown. “So, there is no basis for the college to demand additional charges including education tour and transportation fee,” they added.
Students claimed that hostels have been vacant after March 17 and hence the administration must either repay a proportionate amount of one and a half months, or adjust the same into the next semester’s fee. They said that they had not been using the hostel facilities, including electricity and water, the charges for which amount to Rs 17,000 a year.
The Bhopal MANIT campus has been flooded with complaints and demands from around 5,000 students within a week of the notification being issued.
Later, on May 18, the college administration issued another notification asking students to pay the registration fees (nearly Rs 5,000) by June 30. It also mentioned that fees could be paid in two instalments, by July 31 and September 15, 2020. It added that a failure to pay would result in students not being allowed to sit for the examination.
Commenting on the new notification, Gokhle said: “The college has undermined our demands and only given a relaxation in fee payment. The notification does not mention a reduction in additional charges and other charges.”
The Registrar of MANIT, B.D. Mittal, said that the fee payment deadline has been extended. “The students can pay fees in two instalments, by July 31 and September 15 respectively. The decision has been taken after the students raised questions on the previous fee payment notification,” he added.
When asked what happens if any student failed to pay fees due to situations arising out of the pandemic, he said, “Those students may not be allowed a seat in the examinations.”
The administration of the Bhopal-based journalism institute, Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication (MCNUJC), has chosen to operate on similar lines. Its administration has asked students to pay examination fees by June 20, with a fine of Rs 500 for tardiness by June 30.
Rishav Raj Singh, a final year student of the Mass Communication Department said that at a time when COVID-19 cases are “skyrocketing in Bhopal and there is no sign of normalcy, the University is asking for fees.”
“The majority of the students are at home owing to the lockdown and some live in remote areas. The lockdown has also hit the incomes of many families. In such a situation, they may not be able to pay the fees. The university should immediately withdraw the fee notification until the lockdown is in place,” he added.
The students have written a letter to the university administration, demanding a waiver of semester, hostel and examination fees, owing to the COVID-19 scare.
Commenting on the matter, MCNUCJ exam controller Rajesh Pathak said: “The university has only asked for the examination fee and students have to submit it by June 30 with a late fine. If they fail, the students would not be allowed to sit for the examination.”