Minister for higher education P. Palaniappan, on Tuesday morning, visited the Madras Institute of Technology (MIT) which is at the centre of a row with students and residents protesting a management decision to use a part of the playground to build a hostel.

The minister told reporters that in a day or two, he would convene a meeting of all the stakeholders. Elected representatives, including Pallavaram MLA P. Dhan Singh, would attend the meeting, the minister said, adding he was hopeful of an amicable settlement.

The problems began a couple of weeks ago after residents learnt a ‘bhoomi pooja’ had been performed on the 26-acre playground, located at MIT (annexe) on Chitlapakkam Main Road. 

Residents protested the move as it would rob them of precious lung space and many youngsters would lose a perfectly good playground, they said.

On Tuesday, representatives of civic groups and residents told Mr. Palaniappan that the playground had produced several athletes of repute over the past six decades.

“As per the plan, four floors of the hostel will take up 1,500 sq. m. of land (about 15,000 square feet). There is no way the hostel can be built without affecting the track and field portion and the rest of the playground,” said S. Narasimhan, a former councillor of Pallavaram municipality.

R. Kanagasabapathy, former dean, said of the 3,500 students studying at MIT, nearly 2,000 were hostelites. The existing hostel facility with six blocks, including two for women, was just about satisfactory.

The male students faced problems as five students were forced to share a room meant for just two or three students.

There were similar problems in the newly-completed Marutham hostel for men, located near the playground in the annexe portion.

The new hostel proposed was for non-resident Indian students, who paid a fee of US $7,500 (around Rs. 4 lakh a year).

“The NRI hostel will not in any way affect the playground. Moreover, the MIT management of Anna University cannot be dictated to by a small group of residents, who have also been assured the hostel will not disrupt their morning or evening strolls,” said Prof. Kanagasabapathy.

Inmates of Marutham hostel told The Hindu they paid Rs. 18,000 as hostel fee a semester and there was a desperate need for better facilities.

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