On Friday night at about 8-30 p.m. Sahiram Goliya, a first-year student of Kirori Mal College, stepped out into the balcony of his hostel room to receive a phone call. He leaned on the railings. A few minutes later, he was lying flat on the ground, with all his teeth broken, a broken rib and a fractured hand. For company he had half of the balcony.

“I will be going home to Rajasthan, there is no question of writing my exams, I will be repeating first year,” mumbled Sahiram, struggling to get every word out. The students had rushed him to the nearby Hindu Rao Hospital and the next day staged a protest outside the Principal’s office.

“The Principal said that it was not his responsibility, that the UGC was supposed to take care of it. He then called in the cops, ostensibly to prevent a law and order situation, we continued to protest and he finally said he will bear Sahiram’s medical expenses,” said a second-year student, adding that even as the balcony collapsed with the student, they had asked for an FIR to be registered. But though the police personnel had come and examined the spot, they had refused to register an FIR.

“The hostel is in such a state of disrepair that getting a minor electric shock while opening the taps is the norm,” said a third-year hostel resident, adding that other ‘norms’ include deep cracks in the walls, zero sanitation levels and severe water shortage. He along with several others has protested, pleaded and complained to the authorities countless times since he first joined the hostel almost three years ago.

There are about 180 boys in the 90-room hostel but most of them do not want to reveal their names for fear of recrimination which they insist is “swift and nasty”. Another major issue that has made the hostel infamous is lack of security. The students insist that a drunk person walking into their hostel rooms at any time of the night doesn’t even surprise them anymore. “One day I was studying at 1 p.m. in my room when two boys came in drunk, they were outsiders and they created a ruckus,” said third-year science student Praful (name changed).

Another first year student was once leaning outside his balcony when he saw a man entering from outside the college gates. “Even as I was looking, the man started hurling stones at all the windows he could reach,” he said. There are enough broken window panes to prove this. Some are on the ground floor, right under the ill-fated balcony. Deep cracks run through the other balconies which look like they will give way any minute.”

“We are so tired of protesting; nothing happens and we learn to just live with it, and then in the middle of summer the fans don’t work and the water cooler gives off electric shocks and we start protesting again. Either we are warned with being rusticated or the college says they have no money. The Principal cancelled the alumni meet and graduation night dinner stating that he was into cost cutting. But for what? We all want to know but we never get a clear answer,” he added.

When contacted, acting Principal S. K Gupta said: “It is common sense that when something is broken, we repair it.” Asked whether the college was finally going to carry out the much-needed repair works in the hostel, Mr. Gupta said he did not have the requisite funds at the moment.

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