The students of Pondicherry University (PU) occupied the administration block on Thursday morning beginning an indefinite protest, demanding rollback of tuition fee hike and scrapping of transportation fee charged to the day scholars. The council is also demanding implementation of 25% reservation for Puducherry native students. The Pondicherry University Students’ Council (PUSC), which is leading the protest, has resolved to continue their demonstration until their demands are met.
The university administration has been citing lack of funds as the reason for the fee hike and transportation fee. The reduction in allocation of funds by the Narendra Modi government is adversely affecting the socially and economically backward students from accessing quality education.
The university administration had erected barricades in front of the admin block and locked the doors of the block to prevent the students from entering. However, the protesting students managed to enter the block. They have accused the administration of turning a blind eye to the long pending demands, while the fee hike is as high as 225% for certain courses.
Parichay Yadav, the president of PUSC, while speaking to NewsClick, said, “The university administration had hiked the fee by a large amount at the beginning of the previous academic year and the then students’ council members had opposed the move and sat on an indefinite fast. The vice chancellor constituted a grievance committee to look into the demands, but the administration has been lethargic in paying heed to the demands.”
The registrar (in-charge) of the university had asked for the details of students’ attendance to prevent them from boycotting the classes. But it did not deter the students from reaching the admin block and voicing their demands. The students’ council termed the attitude of the administration in conducting the grievance committee meetings “unacceptable”. The council also accused the vice chancellor of not attending the meetings held so far to discuss their demands.
“The demand of the PUSU is to completely withdraw the fee hike and rollback of the newly introduced transportation fee for the day scholars. We are for an affordable and accessible public education for the students, but the government is continuing to reduce the allocation of funds. So, our fight is not restricted to the fee hike here; it’s about protecting the public education system,” said Yadav.
The students of the Bharathiyar Engineering College in Karaikal, affiliated to the university, too joined the protest condemning the lack of teaching facilities in their campus. They demanded appointments of required faculty members in the campus to ensure quality education. The central executive member of Students’ Federation of India (SFI), S Jayaprakash, said that the students have been attending the college for the past three months without any faculty members being present to teach them.