Authorities assure to fulfil demands after Collector and SP intervene
The protesting students of Madurai Kamaraj University have agreed to withdraw the sit-in protest after Collector Anshul Mishra, Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan, along with student representatives (Madurai Kamaraj University Students Association -MUSA), held talks with Vice-Chancellor Kalyani Mathivanan on Tuesday night.
The talks which went on for almost three hours came to an end where the university authorities agreed to fulfil almost all the demands of the students. The major demands were to stop any move on the alleged privatisation of the hostel; doing away with the dividing system followed in the mess; and locked hostels be opened for students.
The Vice-Chancellor had assured that the above demands would be met and for all the other issues related to increase in fee structure, stay of research scholars, implementation of the Government Order No. 6 on higher education of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students, research committees would be formed to implement, as it was a lengthy process and could not be done overnight. The VC thanked the Collector and SP for their effective intervention. As per the talks, hostel welfare committee would be there with the appointment of administrators and dividing system would continue in the hostel mess with students electing their own representatives.
Mr. Mishra, who led the talks, told The Hindu on Tuesday night that almost all the demands were taken up and for the demands related to scholarships a committee led by Registrar would look into it, and on stay of scholars in hostels a Syndicate Sub-Committee for Research which was already in existence but had become defunct needed to be revived.
Earlier, the relay protest by students of Madurai Kamaraj University entered the sixth day with the impasse continuing as most of the demands of the students were not taken into consideration by the university authorities. Talks held on Monday night between representatives of the protesting students and the Vice-Chancellor did not come to any conclusive decision. The protest was intensified by MUSA after the Malligai Girls’ Hostel and its mess were closed down. The cook and other support staff in the hostel abstained from work in support of the university authorities.
Meanwhile, the protesting students, using firewood, cooked porridge for the hostel inmates in front of the Kamaraj statue and distributed it to girl students. The protesting girl students of Malligai hostel alleged that even the water supply was stopped.
The university has a multicultural environment and has a substantial number of students from other States and interestingly placards could be found in Hindi and Malayalam, expressing students’ grievances.
MUSA demands include continuation of dividing system in the hostel mess; opening up of Malligai girls’ hostel and Thiruvalluvar men’s hostel; provision of single rooms for research scholars; seven-year stay period for men and women; and abolition of Mess Manager post. They alleged that a technical assistant who was part of the Hostel Welfare Committee had been psychologically harassing girl students and demanded that she should be relieved from the post.
Bharathi and Kavimani hostels had separate kitchens and they should be made functional, they said. The admission fee for hostel had been increased from Rs.6,750 to Rs.9,550 and because of the protests, it had been decided to reduce it again. The students demanded an official announcement on this and repayment to students who had already paid.
According to Government Order No. 6, students belonging to SC/ST and Christian Converts from SC/ST are restrained from paying tuition and establishment fees, so this GO should be implemented properly, they said.
Meanwhile, the notice sent as resolutions by the Registrar (in charge) with the approval of the Vice-Chancellor said that all hostels were open now but were kept closed to gather details about the inmates and their stay period to provide rooms to them based on rules. Dividing system would be followed with students as mess committee members under the supervision of the Hostel Welfare Committee with transparency. Stay of research scholars beyond the stipulated time shall be considered under special cases with the recommendation of the guides and chairpersons.
The chairman of the protesting students committee, A. Jaganathan, said that the whole issue seemed to be a case of discrimination against students hailing from rural background and disadvantaged sections of society. “Using a terminology like “Operation Clean-Up” has a very discriminating tone; it presents a picture that the hostel space is polluted and needs to be cleaned up; the usage of such term is socially unacceptable,” he said.
Most of the university students hail from disadvantaged sections belonging to Most Backward Classes and SC/ST and any increase in the fee structure and mess bill would be a burden on them, said a Professor from Department of Sociology.
A representative of Madurai Kamaraj University Faculty Association said that the hostels were maintained using funds provided by the University Grants Commission which prioritises welfare of students hailing from poor background. Moreover, UGC in its guidelines has stated that construction of women hostels were supported to achieve the goal of enhancing the status of women and harness the potential available for the development of the society at large, as also to bring about gender equality and equal representation of women.
UGC’s objective was to support all eligible universities and colleges for construction of women hostels for providing a residential place for women students, researchers and teachers.
While the students till last month had shared the mess bill which accounted for not more than Rs. 35 per girl and Rs. 45 per boy on a daily basis, the university has now fixed a flat rate of Rs. 60 and Rs. 70 for girls and boys now.