Several students from the South Asian University (SAU) have decided to boycott classes and are protesting for the immediate disbursal of "scholarships and freeships with arrears from October 2020" in addition to demanding "phased accomodation" on the university's campus.
Students have been protesting since March 28. The university has been insistent on a physical verification while students who were admitted in March last year have said that they were not being granted visas owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of now they are being taught online.
"The first-year students were forced to decide on a class boycott after the university’s uncaring and unresponsive attitude towards our emails demanding what was promised in our admission offer letters. The university administration issued an ambiguous notice on March 19 mandating physical registration of students to disburse scholarships without clarifying when such verification would occur," a statement released by the students said.
SAU is funded by the eight countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – which are part of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
The protesting students have alleged that SAU has not been disbursing scholarships without physical verification and demanded that an e-verification process be put in place. In a statement issued on Wednesday the students said that they would boycott classes until their demands were met.
The students have also demanded that steps be taken to "complete the UGC-JRF (Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) – UGC) approval process and approve fellowships for those eligible students pending for the past few months". Students have also said that the university should begin a phased return to campus or that they be provided with Rs 8,000 as a "housing allowance per month as per SAU rules."
Other demands by the students include the issuance of "bonafide certificate for all non-Indian students for visa purposes” and that the verification process for "non-Indian student’s income certificates for freeship purposes" be expedited.
A SAU official told The Indian Express that getting rid of physical verification and a phased return to campus were not possible and that it was "very clearly written in the scholarship offer letter that scholarship will be disbursed only after completing all in-person registration formalities", mentioning that physical verification of documents and a physical presence was required on campus.
"The fact remains that the scholarships will be effective from the start of the first semester i.e, 26 October, 2020. Arrears will be paid when the university opens for physical classes and students turn up in person and carry out in-person registration process," the official was quoted saying.
The official also told the newspaper that a disbursement of scholarship to first year students was not "feasible" at the moment as the "students do not have an account in the banks that the university deals with", adding that there were "challenges" in transferring money to bank accounts in many SAARC member states.
The official reportedly added that it was not possible to disburse a housing allowance either. "Since the students are not physically present on campus, paying living allowance to the students who are attending classes from their homes makes little sense," they were quoted saying.