The University Community for Democracy, which has been protesting against displacement of students from Delhi University hostels owing to the Commonwealth Games, held a public meeting at the Arts Faculty here on Friday. The meeting was attended by scholars and teachers who spoke on the matter and other contentious Games-related issues.
The UCD, a grouping of concerned DU students and teachers formed to resist the “shrinking democratic space in the university”, also marked its ninth day of relay hunger strike on Friday. The organisation is demanding that students who have been displaced should be exempted from hostel fees for 2010-11 as well as no hike in overall fees owing to the upgrading of hostels. There is also a demand for regulation of rent in the university's neighbouring areas.
Grants of over Rs.1 crore have been given to each of the colleges to spruce up and renovate the hostels for the Games visitors. College authorities have alleged that the University Grants Commission does not give sufficient funds for the upkeep of the hostels and hence the money which is being made available for hostel renovation is a windfall.
The total number of visitors who are expected to be lodged in DU college hostels as well as a couple of other educational institutes is over 3,500. Visitors looking for budgetary accommodation will be lodged in these accommodations.
“The students may have to rough it out temporarily, but later on they will be able to use world-class facilities,” a college warden said. Some of the hostels in the university are rather old with leaking roofs, insufficient toilet facilities and small messes.
However, the fallout of the renovation process is that several students who come from outside the Capital to study have been displaced and are at the mercy of whimsical landlords who have raised the rents following increased demand for accommodation by the students.
Hostel residents were asked to vacate their rooms in June when renovation work was to begin. They will be given rooms only after October 14 once the Games are over .
The going rate for regular and AC rooms to be shared by three people during the admission season, which recently drew to a close, was Rs.7,000 and Rs.9,000 respectively to be paid by each student.
During the admission season, a few outstation students expressed uncertainty if they could study in Delhi University at all given the high costs.
A few colleges have tried to make some alternate arrangements for their students; a majority of students have been left to fend for themselves. A college hostel warden said: “We are planning to write to the Organising Committee and ask them to provide some financial relief for the displaced students. A sum of at least Rs.10,000 is required per student to live decently. ”
Whether the hostels are on track for the Games appears uncertain.
The deadline for some hostels to be ready was reportedly August 15. Most of the hostels were not ready by this point and some have said that they will be ready by August 31.
However, a few college authorities have admitted that hostels will not be ready before September 15.
Asked if the hostels would be ready before the Games, many college authorities said they “hoped” or stated that the “hostels should be ready”. Barring one or two hostels, none could give a positive assurance that they would be ready on time.