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Students’ Struggle against Assault on Public Education

Over the past one month, the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, with the JNU Teachers’ Association standing in solidarity, have built a mass movement against the proposed hike in hostel charges, as they realise that what is at stake essentially is the very idea of public-funded higher education.

The current episode of protest by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students has been fuelled by the decision of JNU administration to increase the existing hostel charges by more than double. The decision to increase the hostel charges was taken arbitrarily and without following any democratic and institutional processes established and followed in JNU for decades. Recommendation of a steep hike in hostel charges was deliberately pushed through the Inter-Halls Administration (IHA) meeting of the university held on 28 October 2019, without giving students the opportunity to present their views. The JNU students’ union, whose representation is statutorily mandated in the IHA, was deliberately not invited. The dissatisfaction among students was compounded by the persistent refusal by the vice chancellor to engage in any dialogue with the students who were protesting against the steep hike.

Although the mainstream media has been reporting that the students are opposing a hike in room rent—from ₹10–₹20 per month to ₹300–₹600 per month, the fact is that the administration’s plan was not simply a normal fee hike, but to adopt a totally different model of running the JNU hostels. As per the existing hostel charges, all students in JNU, irrespective of their social and economic background, pay roughly around ₹30,000–₹35,000 annually (which includes all consumables like food, utensils, room rent, newspapers, etc) per student. If the decisions of the IHA meeting were to be implemented, the increase would be 27,600–₹31,200 immediately (and an additional increase of the refundable mess security from ₹5,500 to ₹12,000). While the mess bill is as per the actual cost of food that has been mounting because of the rise in food prices, the university had already increased (more than doubled) several other charges levied on students, such as mess security, establishment charges, crockery, utensil and newspaper charges, etc, during the tenure of the present vice chancellor.1

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Updated On : 31st Dec, 2019

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