“My mother is a worker in a tea garden in Jalpaiguri of West Bengal and she earns Rs 3,000 per month. Post studying hours, I would join her at work. This is how I completed my studies. But I am not sure if I would be able to continue my studies. The administration at the institute is demanding an upfront fee of Rs 54,000 in advance for this semester. When I told my mother about this, she said come back. If there is no deduction or relaxation, I will have to drop out," says Aarti, who is pursuing her post graduation from TISS, Hyderabad.
Aarti's words depict the precarious situation students at Tata Institute of Social Sciences face after the administration decided to increase the hostel fee from Rs 15,000 to Rs 54,000 per semester. As a result, hundreds of students are up in arms against the administration.
“I am the sole student in my area who was selected to M.A (Education) in Tata Institute of Social Sciences at Hyderabad. After graduating from North Bengal University, I chose TISS because it's a public funded institution. An acquaintance of mine who has also passed from the institution had suggested me to pursue higher education from this institute. I thought I will have a bright future and would serve the society after completing my studies," she said.
TISS, which recently opened its Hyderabad campus has been operating from the Telangana State Institute of Panchayat Raj and Rural Development (TSIPARD) Campus in Rajendranagar. However, the college and hostel were shifted to the KB School campus in Turkayamjal in the city. The hostel facilities to the institute are being provided by private service providers, which has led to the increased fees leaving the enrolled students in doldrums.
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Sushmita, who hails from West Champaran, argues that the selection of new service providers was done without taking the students into confidence. She said,"The administration has denied our demands to disclose the details of the contract but the officials are still adamant on not revealing it. The present location of campus is in the outskirts of the city and very less numbers of rooms are available on rent. We want safety and that's why we are emphasising on our stay in the hostels but they cannot demand fortunes for it.”
Sushmita too, like her junior, Aarti faces uncertainty regarding education. She said, “I came here because my home state Bihar does not have any strong education system to support students like us. That's why I moved to Hyderabad. But what's the difference now? Earlier, we used to pay Rs 15,000 in three installments only after we received post-matric scholarships of the Government of India. But it is no longer an issue of SC, ST or OBC students. How would a normal student manage such a big amount?"
She added, "When we complained about our problems, we were told by the administration that the students from marginalised sections can be accommodated but other students will have to stop the agitation. I want to make it clear that this is a students’ struggle and the increased fee affects us all. If the administration wants to divide us on our identities, it will not succeed. We remain united."
*This is a developing story. We will keep reporting on new developments.