They are toppers in their own right. Many were in the top 5000 in the AIEEE ranking; some had given up seats for the sciences in the IITs; some others had rejected MBBS seats in coveted government colleges – and they all had come for engineering education at the National Institute of Technology – Puducherry, set up in Karaikal. Three years later, the 330 students of NIT believe dreams were sold to them on false premise.

Set up as a national institute of excellence, the NIT-Puducherry was formally laid out by the then Union Minister for Human Resources Development Kapil Sibal. It was promised that the institute would get its own building complex in a year. Today, confined to four class rooms that function as multipurpose facilities, NIT is not what the students from across the country had opted out to study.

Isolated, the students are on strike since last Tuesday, demanding they be heard by the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development that had cleared the setting up of NIT-P with inadequate infrastructure.

They have multiple grievances. The institute with no permanent faculty has been running on contractual, locally drawn faculty. According to the students, the teaching quality is abysmal.

Lack of own building infrastructure is used as an excuse for not having a standard lab facility, a computer lab, or a library. “We are of three streams and one batch will always be seen waiting outside for a class to be vacated. Of the 30 computers, only nine are functional and the hardware is missing in the rest. We have three lab equipments that are set up ad hoc in the classroom just before our practicals. When experiments fail for lack of chemicals, the experiment is scrapped from the syllabus,” says a girl. The syllabus followed is not from the prescribed texts and results were not declared for the last two semesters. Three racks of books constitute the library of NIT here.

But, S.K. Pandey, Director of NIT-P, does not see merit in their strike, and believes they were instigated by outgoing contractual faculty. “I had delegated work to faculty and students to help obtain quotations for books from publishers. But, there is no participation. Besides, we lack space” says the Director.

NIT was set up under the mentorship of NIT-Tiruchi, where the students could go for practicals until their facilities were set up. However, the overburdened NIT-Tiruchi is not willing to accommodate our students, Dr. Pandey says.

Among many allegations, the starkest is the claim of full fees collection of Rs.21,850 per semester in the last year from SC/ST students. “I have a cousin in NIT-Warangal, and he does not pay full fees. I will not be able to afford this anymore,” says a student from Andhra Pradesh.

But, Dr. Pandey says the full fee collection for reserved category students was in line with the practice of all other NITs under the MHRD. “There is no circular, but this is practiced in other institutions, and they can get reimbursements from their State Governments.” However, for students, who had been paying Rs.4,350 as per the terms of admission, this hike is unmanageable.

The students have now refused to call off their strike until an official from MHRD, competent to make decisions meets with them. On Saturday, parents of the students were already receiving calls from NIT, threatening disciplinary action against their wards.

The students have been instigated by outgoing contractual faculty, says NIT-P chief