The students of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, the country's premier journalism school, on Tuesday, February 18, began a hunger strike after the administration came up with a new circular directing students to submit their increased fee by March 2. The students have been locking horns with the administration on the steep fee hike over the years for past two months. The students allege that the administration had promised a review of the fee structure in its executive council meeting in January this year. The council had resolved to come up with recommendations on fee structure on March 2.
The new circular by the institute read, “With reference to circular dated 10th February, 2020, all students of all PG Diploma courses are hereby informed that last date for remitting second and final installment of tuition fee has been extended up to March 2, 2020. All students are advised to deposit the second and final installment of tuition fee on or before 2nd March, 2020."
Talking to NewsClick, Akash Pandey, a student of Hindi Journalism, said, “The move by the administration is illegal as we were promised that the fee will be made affordable. Many of the students hail from economically deprived families and we were expecting that relief will be delivered to us. The administration is also trying to muzzle the voices of the students as it extended the suspension of students by four more days without citing any reason."
Also read: IIMC Terms Protest Against Fee Hike ‘Indiscipline’, Suspends Students
Another student, Astha Savyasachi, a student of English Journalism, said, "The new fee submission circular has been issued on the very same day when 11 students were suspended, that, too, without any revision or review. They have betrayed us. We have asked explanation regarding this but no response has been served. We also suggested to call for an emergency meeting of Faculty-Student Grievance Committee but no such meeting has been called yet. On 17/2/2020, we informed that if by 10 AM, our demands are not met, we will go for hunger strike. This, too, has been ignored by the administration. Having no option left, we have begun our indefinite hunger strike today."
Students suggest that the public funded institution has witnessed a meteoric rise in fee in the last few years. A look at the trajectory of the fee hike in the institute clearly shows how the aspirants are finding it more and more difficult to pursue education. The institute recently increased the annual fee for English/Hindi journalism courses from Rs 79,000 to Rs 95,000; from Rs 1.45 lakh to Rs 1.68 lakh for Radio and TV, and from Rs 1.12 lakh to Rs 1.31 lakh for advertising and PR.
Students further alleged that the rising fees in the institute has also deprived students from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. They alleged that in English Journalism, eight seats for SC and ST each could not be filled. A similar situation is prevalent in Odia and Malayalam Journalism, where two seats from SC community and one seat from ST community remained vacant.
Commenting on the exclusion of marginalised communities from media, eminent journalist Anil Chamadia told NewsClick, “We are witnessing indirect assault on reservation from all spheres. As far as journalism schools are concerned, fee hike is being used to cut Eklavya's thumb. You increase the fee and many more will be out of the system."
NewsClick repeatedly tried to reach the director general of the institute, K S Dhatwalia, for his comments but he remained unavailable.
Also read: Dream of Higher Education Moves Farther with Fee Hikes