For perhaps the first time, students of IIT-Madras will protest the fee hike introduced by the Central government for all Indian Institutes of Technology.

Students said the hike — 80 per cent for undergraduate courses and almost double for postgraduate students from this year — is an attempt to make the IITs self-financed and render them inaccessible to poor aspirants.

Undergraduate tuition fees have gone up from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 90,000 per annum, the steepest so far after a four-year hiatus. Fees of research scholars too, have been increased.

“The fee structure this semester is unimaginable. The authorities have also increased gymkhana fees, exam fees and medical fees,” said a student. “Even after we indicated our displeasure with the hike, fees for this year’s first semester have already been deducted from the stipend given to PG students,” he added.

Over the last few months, there have been several discussions in student council meetings at the IITs, about the recent hikes. On Thursday, the students will hold a silent march as well as panel discussions with experts, to review the government’s decision.

“We are convinced that the hikes are not due to inflation as officials here claim, but because the government is making an attempt to privatise IITs, by putting in place the findings of the Kakodkar committee report,” said a postgraduate student.

The Kakodkar committee was set up by the ministry of human resources development to upgrade the quality of research and further the development of IITs. It was headed by Anil Kakodkar, a mechanical engineer and nuclear scientist. The report suggested raising fees to Rs. 2.5 lakh for students whose parental income is less than Rs. 4.5 lakh per year.

“There are hundreds of students at IITs who take loans just to get laptops or for travel arrangements. Even if 30 per cent of them get scholarships, the subsidies offered by IITs don’t cover a lot of other expenses,” said a student.

IIT-M director, Bhaskar Ramamurthy, said the decision to hike the fees was made by representatives from all IITs, and that it was meant to rationalise fee structures. “The last time the fee was hiked was in 2008. Before that, there was a hike in 1998. There are several subsidies provided to students and they pay very little for facilities like medical care. Students should also know that their scholarships have increased thrice in the last few years,” he said.

However a student said, “We want the government to revoke the fee hike. We hope students from other IITs will also join this fight.”

This story has been edited for a factual error.

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