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APU Students Commence Hunger Strike Against Shuttle Fees

Students at Azim Premji University have demanded a rollback of shuttle fees amounting to Rs 8500/Semester

Bengaluru: After nine days of protest, students at Azim Premji University (APU) in Bengaluru have commenced a hunger strike on Wednesday. They have demanded a rollback of shuttle fees of Rs 8500/semester which applies to all first-year students who have opted for a hostel facility. The students say that it is contrary to University Grants Commission (UGC) rules to demand additional fees which are not mentioned on the University website. Moreover, it will apply only to the present batch of students as the university hostel will be readied before the next academic year commences.

The university does not have a hostel on campus. They have leased apartments which are located 2-3 km away from the main campus. The journey can be a dangerous one due to the absence of street lights on this stretch. In 2022, after several students complained of sexual harassment, APU set up a shuttle facility to ferry students back and forth from the hostel. There are around 12 trips per day. The first-year students allege that they cannot opt out of the shuttle service and are being forced to pay the fees fixed by the university. However, students also say that there have been cases where they could not find a seat on the shuttle and were forced to walk or make alternate arrangements to reach the campus/hostel. Around 400 students live in the hostel.

Sangam (name changed) told NewsClick, “after nine days of protest, we finally met the vice chancellor, Indu Prasad, on Tuesday. However, without even reading our petition, she announced that the shuttle fees could not be revoked. Moreover, she told us to move the protest off-campus in light of a university fest which will begin next week.”

Another student, Sonu (name changed), spoke about the overcrowded hostel room. Speaking to NewsClick on the phone he said, “in a 2BHK apartment, there are six students staying. This has been possible because the kitchen area has been repurposed into a makeshift bedroom and two students sleep there. Six students have to share two bathrooms. Moreover, the area where the hostels are located is unsafe. For these facilities, the University is charging us Rs 42,000/semester.”

Sonu receives a scholarship and spoke about how the University has been deducting the shuttle fees from students on scholarships as well. He said, “some students who receive 100% scholarship have to pay a security deposit of Rs. 5000. This is refunded at the end of the semester. However, the university has deducted this amount for shuttle fees.”

Indian Express reports that students on assistantships are having the shuttle fees deducted from their stipend. Assistantships are part-time jobs within the campus for students who want to earn some pocket money. They have to put in around 60-80 hours per month, and they are paid Rs 120/hour. This can involve work at the library and other centres.

The students have been demanding an open house to air their grievances. This meeting will likely occur on Thursday.

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