The Pondicherry University Students’ Union (PUSU) has started an indefinite waiting and hunger strike against the anti-student policies of the Pondicherry University (PU) from July 25. The union is headed by the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) which has been fighting for the infrastructural and academic facilities for the students of the University.
The University administration has reportedly cited reduction in financial sanctions from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) for the crisis and the lack of developmental activities.
Shortage of Faculty, Research Scholars to take up Academic Work
The vice president of PUSU and secretary of the PU Students Federation of India (SFI) unit, Shonima Nelliyat, said, “There is severe shortage of teaching faculty in the departments of the university. Now the university has decided not to recruit more guest lecturers and has decided to utilise the services of the research scholars drawing various scholarships and post doctoral fellows to assist the university in its academic work. This will not do any justice to the students and we demand the university to appoint regular faculty members to the existing vacancies.” The professor and dean (research) of the PU has issued a circular on July 22 to all the deans, head of departments and centre heads to this effect.
The dean has categorically stated that ‘due to severe financial constraints, as the expenditure have to be met from internal resources of the university’. With the reported reduction of funds for central universities every year, the students are bearing the crunch of additional financial burden due to the policies of the central government. It has to be recalled that the draft National Educational Policy (NEP) has also recommended that the government move away from funding the public educational institutions.
Council demands rollback of fee hike
The university has hiked the fees for various courses from the past academic year; the decision had met with severe criticism and agitations. Even though the fee for a few courses has been reduced by the university administration, the students’ council demand the earlier fees to be restored.
Former secretary of SFI, Pondicherry region, Anand, told NewsClick, “The fee hike by the university is very steep and we demand a complete rollback of the hike. Another major demand is the reservation of 25% of seats in the university for the residents of Puducherry. Since there are no other universities in the union territory, the higher education aspirants are forced to move to other states. Also, the university has been providing free bus service for the residents of Puducherry for the last 34 years. Now the students are being charged a very high fee of Rs 8,000 per year. We demand the bus fee should be cancelled and free service should be provided”.
Lack of Infrastructural Facilities
The students allege that the newly constructed girls’ hostel too lack the basic amenities for the inmates. Shonima added, “The new hostel does not have enough drinking water facilities and the necessary internet connections. There are very small number of buses operated inside the campus which is hampering the academic activities of the students. The repeated representations to the registrar of the University for the redressal of issues have not been looked into. The students and the demands continue to be neglected by the university. So, we have decided to sit indefinitely on hunger strike until the vice chancellor calls us for a meeting to discuss on the issues”.
Shonima and Bharathi, executive committee members of the PUSU, are sitting on a hunger strike. The students’ council also alleged that the authorities have claimed that the Ministry of Human Resource Development has reduced the funds to the university compared to the previous years resulting in the financial crisis. The council also demands a student-friendly administrative system to address the issues faced by the students.
The policies of the union government on privatising education and the proposed NEP are set to push the student community to strive hard for quality education and pay more for the basic amenities.
The calls made to Dean Dr Pratap Kumar Sheddy remained unanswered for comments on the issues raised by the PUSU.