JNU administration's hostel draft manual, which proposed a hike in hostel fee along with other changes like hostel curfew timings, dress code for the mess, has become a subject of yet another controversy for the university.
In attempts to oppose the administration's "anti-student" policy, hundreds of JNU students have been protesting for weeks, bringing the city to halt by raising anti-government and anti-administration slogans and even clashing with the police, forcing the authorities to deploy police and paramilitary personnel at several areas.
Police actions have allegedly left many agitating JNU students injured, leading to the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) and the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers' Union (JNUTA) demanding resignation of Vice-Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar.
JNU, on the other hand, has approached the Delhi High Court against the students who are protesting against the fee hike, alleging "gross violation" of the previous high court order, which banned protests within 100 metres of the institution’s administrative block.
The revised fee structure is set to make JNU the most expensive central university. In fact, it will be more expensive than even Delhi University, which has an annual fee of Rs 40,000- Rs 55,000, including food and accommodation.
The fee hike proposed by the administration, which will be effective from the next academic year, will nearly double the annual fee for the students living in hostels to Rs 55,000-61,000 from Rs 27,600-32,000 currently.
The new fee structure comes with a mufti-fold hike in room rent, taking it to Rs 300/600 per month from Rs 10/20 per month. Additionally, a new service charge of Rs 1,700 per month will be levied, taking the monthly hostel fee up to Rs 2,000-2,300. Establishment (Rs 2,200 per annum), mess (Rs 3,000 per month), annual fees (Rs 300) and other charges, however, will see no changes.
Source: Data compiled by The Print (The figures mentioned are averages based on the annual mess spending and hostel fee.)
In attempts to oppose the hike fee structure for hostels, the students went ahead to first confine a female associate professor in a classroom for about 20 hours. The professor was rescued by a Station Head Officer of Vasant Kunj police station along with an ACP rank official.
Later, the students went ahead to confine Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' who was inside the AICTE headquarters, the venue for JNU convocation.
The minister was confined in the venue for over five hours as a protest by the JNU students against a steep hostel fee hike escalated.
But the protest did not stop there, just two days after this incident, the students of the university allegedly broke into the administration block of the university, beat up female security guards present at the venue and defaced entire block with graffiti.
In the quest, the students allegedly also vandalised and defaced the yet to be inaugurated Vivekananda statue installed in the vicinity of the block.
The students also attempted to march to the Parliament on November 18.
What JNU is doing
The administration’s rationale behind the change in fee structure is that the fee hasn’t been revised for 19 years.
Due to pressure from the agitating students, the administration scaled down the hike in hostel charges and other proposed decisions, describing it as a "major rollback". However, it was later learnt that the university has kept the room rent same as proposed before and offered 50 percent relaxation for students from the Below Poverty Line(BPL).
"...To take care of students coming from weaker sections, the EC decided that all the students belonging to Below Poverty Line (BPL) category are eligible for 50% concession in the charges at single-seated room rent, double-seated room rent, utility and service charges," a press release by JNU Registrar said.
With the announcement, the students from BPL household will now have to pay Rs 300 as room rent for a single occupancy room and Rs 150 as room rent for a double occupancy room. However, the students seemed dissatisfied and continued the protests.
JNU has approached the Delhi High Court against the students who are protesting, alleging "gross violation" of the previous high court order, which banned protests within 100 metres of the institution’s administrative block.
Hub of controversies
From being known as one of the most prominent educational institutes in the country to being one of the most controversial Universities in India, JNU has travelled a long way within about three years.
The unwanted journey began with the infamous 2016 'Tukde-Tukde' episode which allegedly brought university the 'anti-national' tag which the varsity is yet to recover from.
It was in 2016 when the administration and students locked horns over holding an event against the hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, though the admin denied permission for the event, the students held a debate on February 9, 2016, during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised, leading to several university students charged with sedition charges.
Another major controversy that the university has yet to get rid of is the unsolved case of a missing JNU student, Najeeb Ahmad, who went missing from the university campus after a brawl with members of RSS-affiliated ABVP.
Najeeb is not forgotten by the students of the university, as his name comes up in almost every protest, even in the latest defacement of administration block where walls of the admin block were painted with graffiti — Najeeb name found space in most walls. "Bring Back Najeeb," students wrote on the wall of the block.
Apart from Najeeb, the students and the administration have always found a way to initiate battle against each other, as in March 2019, the Vice-Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar levelled charges against students that they confined his wife inside his residence after they broke into the house, to protest against Mamidala's decision to ban protest in vicinity of administration block.
Just a few months later, the university administration announced that walls of the varsity will not be used to put up posters or to write slogans for any protest. The students saw the step as an attempt to cut-short their right to expression, while the university admin argued that it was a step to stop defacement of the university's property.
The matter was still on the boil when the hostel draft manual was dropped by the administration.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)