The indefinite hunger strike by women residents of Yamuna hostel in Jawaharlal Nehru University here demanding immediate eviction of their former warden entered its eighth day on Sunday without any let up from either the striking students or the administration.
“There has been no response from the administration. A circular was issued on the third day of our strike, but we rejected it because it was very vague and there was no concrete promise to address our demands,” said hostel head Vibha.
The students have alleged that their hostel warden had been behaving badly with the workers and students in the hostel for the past 12 years. “These violations include illegally deducting wages of sanitation workers, falsifying employment records, subverting tendering processes in the mess, withholding refundable security deposits of students [especially foreign residents] and physical abuse of workers,” she added.
The Delhi Commission for Safai Karamcharis had visited the hostel this past week, spoken to the workers and had decided to institute legal proceedings against the university, said a student.
An enquiry into the warden's conduct had been initiated by the administration with her services being terminated in December. The warden has, however, been occupying her quarters ever since despite there being a university rule that the quarters be vacated within a month.
“Her actions were criminal in nature and she does not deserve to continue staying here,” added Ms. Vibha.
The university had appointed an Officer on Special Duty to oversee the running of the hostel but suddenly relieved him of the post which has further worried the students that the warden might not actually leave at all. “It now seems that the administration has changed its mind and intends to keep her at Yamuna until her retirement. This means that despite having been found to have committed serious violations of workers' rights and to have treated students in such an appalling manner, she will continue to enjoy the privileges of wardenship at JNU while not even having to work for it, what a punishment,” said another resident Urmila.
The students have also alleged that the warden told several students and workers that she will reassume her wardenship after a short break and that she had applied for an extension of her tenure in the university so that her retirement might actually take several years.
While some of the students have been on a relay strike, some have been fasting indefinitely for five to six days now.
Meanwhile, the continued strike has teachers worried despite hunger strikes in the university not being uncommon. “It is a concern for the entire community here that the hunger strike has continued for so long. There should be a dialogue between the students and the administration,” said Assistant Dean of Students' Welfare Sachidanand Sinha.
However, the students are in no mood to relent with a protest demonstration being planned outside the administration building on Monday. “We will not stop because it is a gross violation of workers rights…she made sanitation workers work for 30 days but paid them only for 26 days and the administration actually threatened to evict us if we continue,” added Ms. Vibha.