College authorities draw flak for failing to address students’ demands

The authorities of the National Institute of Technology, Calicut (NIT-C) have drawn severe criticism for the “irresponsible and thoughtless” manner in which they handled events following the death of a Computer Science student in a wall collapse on the campus on Saturday.

The authorities, who “failed” to appropriately handle the students’ agitation seeking justice for the family of Mannam Venkateshwaralu, a native of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, including a proper investigation into the accident and a fair compensation for the loss of life, instead on Monday issued a notice on the institute website announcing the closure of the institute for an indefinite period.

The notice wanted the students to vacate the hostels before 10 a.m. on Tuesday, leaving the students in “utter confusion.”

The NIT teachers’ body, the non-teaching staff association, and the student community have reacted strongly to the allegedly inconsiderate and rude ways of the institute authorities, especially its director M.N. Bandyopadhyay.

In a strongly worded statement sent to The Hindu on Tuesday, the central committee of the All India Federation of National Institute of Technology Teachers expressed strong concern over the “inept” decision of the authorities. Its secretary, A. Sujith, said the director sought the presence of police personnel with lathis on the campus and threatened the students though their agitation was peaceful.

‘Fair demand’

“The students’ demand for compensation for the dead student’s family, a proper inquiry into the accident, an ambulance and proper medical facilities on the campus were only fair and justifiable,” Dr. Sujith said.

The director, the federation alleged, however, was not ready to talk to the students or given any assurance to them. Instead, he ordered the closure of the institute, and wanted the students, including girls, to vacate the hostels immediately or face legal consequences, it said. More than 50 per cent of the total 5,000 students on the campus were from other States. These students, the federation alleged, had been put to indescribable hardship by the order.

The teachers’ body said there was no serious law and order situation on the campus. It expressed concern that the decision to close the institute indefinitely would adversely affect the future of the students.

The NIT Staff Association, a body of non-teaching staff members on the campus, also criticised the director’s decision. “The administration cannot wash its hand of if something happens to these students, who will not get a ticket to their native places at such short notice,” K.A. Somanath, association secretary, said. He alleged that Dr. Bandyopadhyay cut a sorry figure, and the students, parents, and the entire campus community were worried about the situation.

Meeting today

In the meanwhile, Dr. Bandyopadhyay was said to have left the campus on Monday. Asked about his absence from the campus, V.K. Govindan, the director-in-charge of the institute, told The Hindu that Dr. Bandyopadhyay had left the campus for a programme he had committed to earlier. He said that everything was “peaceful” on the campus, and an executive committee meeting of the Parent-Teacher Association would discuss the issue on the campus on Wednesday.

He said though there was an order in place asking the students to vacate the hostel immediately, the authorities were not forcibly expelling anyone. “If they have any problem, we will listen to them,” he said.

Many students, who packed their bags following the order, had a tough time searching for temporary accommodation outside the campus or finding train tickets home.

“We are hanging around outside the campus without going home, and keeping close tabs on the situation through the social media,” Akhil V. a senior civil engineering student, said. “We feel completely failed by our authorities,” he said.

Many students, including from outside the State, were seen stranded in different parts of the city, including at the railway station and bus-stands,looking for tickets. Some such as Anil Kumar from Bihar spent the entire day at the railway station.

“There is a train at 8 p.m. for which we have managed a third-class ticket; we have no idea what the journey will be like without a reservation,” said Anil, who has no idea when the institute will reopen.

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