Vinod and Anup jumped out of their beds when they heard a loud crash inside their room a little after midnight on Wednesday. The two visually challenged students ran out of their room in the Maharaja’s College men’s hostel at the sound.
When their friends came in to investigate the noise, they found that a portion of the ceiling had fallen to the floor, just missing the two students asleep on their cots.
Chunks of plaster falling from the ceiling are a regular experience for students of the more than 60-year-old hostel building. The entire structure is dotted with patches of cement that mark locations where the plaster has fallen off. Wednesday’s incident shocked hostellers as the large chunks of plaster could have easily injured the sleeping students.
“It was a close shave. Their cots had been moved from underneath the crumbling portion of the ceiling just a few weeks before, after computers were installed in their room. They would have been injured seriously if the plaster had fallen on them,” said a student at the hostel.
A team from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) that visited the hostel recently had noted the many faults of the building.
The Public Works Department (PWD) had also declared it unfit for habitation, said a hostel official.
Students allege that the college and hostel officials had misused the funds granted for hostel maintenance. “The recent tile-laying work done in front of the hostel is faulty. The tiles have already starting breaking and coming loose,” said a student. The front face of the hostel was re-painted for the benefit of the NAAC team that visited recently. The rest of the building was left as it was.
The NAAC team was also not shown the clogged drain running near the hostel mess, said a student. Water from the drain flows into the hostel corridor and forms a pool there. Rats and other rodents are frequent visitors to the drain and they even make it into the kitchen, students said.
Hostel officials, meanwhile, blame the PWD for the poor maintenance of the hostel. “They take ages to respond when we send a complaint. Even the repairs they undertake are not carried out properly,” said an official.
Even as the students lose their patience with the authorities, they live in the fear that their hostel will be shut down if they make too many complaints. “We can at least live here now close to the college. What will we do if they shut it down?” a student said. from the ceiling of the hostel