How The Left Manufactured ‘Fee’ Hike Controversy In JNU

by Arihant Pawariya - Dec 1, 2019 10:15 AM +05:30 IST
How The Left Manufactured ‘Fee’ Hike Controversy In JNUStudents at Jawaharlal Nehru University protest in New Delhi. (Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images) 
  • The recent student thuggery masquerading as protests at JNU had nothing to do with a fee hike.

    It was a well-planned strategy by the extremist communists to keep the pot of ‘kranti’ boiling.

It’s been more than a month since a section of students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) took control of the campus in a daylight coup d'état of sorts. They have been in charge ever since and are running the university as their fiefdom while the official administrators remain paralysed.

These ‘students’ have slapped locks on the gates of all school buildings where they stage sit-ins throughout the day and do not allow their professors to even enter their offices.

No professor dare defy them. Those who try are heckled and harassed until they give up. The official security guards keep standing in utter helplessness.

It all started when the left-wing mob stormed the meeting of Inter Hall Administration (IHA) which manages all the JNU hostels. Here, the protesters held under hostage the Dean of Students (DoS), whose health was deteriorating by the minute. First, he was denied access to an ambulance and later, it wasn’t allowed to take him to the hospital.

Since then, the left-wing mob has held a female professor hostage for 30 hours. They barged into the home of a hostel warden in the dead of the night, snatched his four-year-old toddler and refused to give it back until he resigned.

These vandals defaced the buildings of their university with the choicest abuses and didn’t spare even the statue of Swami Vivekananda. Their hooliganism during the attempted march to Parliament ensured they lost any sympathy the larger public might have had for them.

What do they want? Azaadi, again. Azaadi, primarily, from what they call a sudden ‘fee hike’. The mainstream media has also been telling us that these protests are over ‘fee hike’.

Let’s examine the facts and set the record straight.

There has been no hike in fees at all. Tuition fee for some Bachelor and Master courses is still Rs 108 per semester (Rs 216 per annum). For M.Phil and Ph.D courses, it’s Rs 240 per year. Below is the detailed structure which remains unchanged and has been so since the time Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister.

Source: <a href="">JNU website</a>
Source: JNU website

Compare it to other central government universities of JNU’s stature. In Delhi University, the tuition fees ranges from Rs 6,000 to Rs 40,000, in Jamia Milia Islamia from Rs 7,000 to Rs 10,000, in Aligarh Muslim University from Rs 4,000 to Rs 9,000, in Banaras Hindu University from Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,500 and so on.

JNU continues to remain the most subsidised university in the country with little to show for in terms of output. As an earlier article in Swarajya estimated, the government spends upwards of Rs 6 lakh on each JNU student per year.

Still, there is no hike in fees. What changed on 28 October was that a resolution was passed in the IHA meeting to raise hostel expenses under some heads including rent for single- and double-capacity rooms.

This means that the whole campaign to make higher education free is total bunkum. It’s almost free at JNU. What is not free is living expenses, including food. But one is sure their idea of ‘free education’ also includes free food and free stay.

The changes recommended by IHA needed a stamp of approval from the Executive Council (EC) of the university to be enforceable. Due to intense protests over two weeks following the IHA meeting, the EC, which convened on 13 November, tried to meet the students halfway and approved a revised expense structure for hostels where expenses for students from economically backward families (BPL) were reduced to half.

Mess security advance (refundable) for every one was cut down from Rs 12,000 to Rs 5,500 as shown in the below table.

Hostel expenses as approved by Executive Council on 13 November.
Hostel expenses as approved by Executive Council on 13 November.

But the protests didn’t stop. In fact, the extremists, took this concession as a weakness and smelled blood. They intensified their protests.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) buckled under pressure and constituted a three-member high-level committee, thus, setting a bad precedent.

Later, when the MHRD committee was yet to submit its report, the JNU administration set up its own high-level committee of seven members which submitted its report this week and recommended further reduction in utility and service charges from Rs 2,000 per month to Rs 1,000 (Rs 500 for BPL students).

The ‘students’ have rejected this capitulation too. They want complete surrender. It would have become clear to any reasonable person by now that these protests have nothing to do with the paltry hike in hostel expenses.

The misinformation about the inability of the students to pay up these increased charges has already been busted by the administration by revealing that ‘out of around 6,000 students who are residing in the hostels, 5,371 students receive financial assistance in the forms of fellowships and scholarships.’

Below are the details of scholarships given to students: 3,080 students get Rs 5,000-Rs 8,000 per month; 1,375 students get up to Rs 8,00-Rs 5,000 per month, 431 students get Rs 31,000 to Rs 47,000 per month and so on.

Scholarship details of students in JNU
Scholarship details of students in JNU

It’s not about the money at all. The so-called fee hike issue is just the latest manufactured excuse to keep the pot of kranti boiling.

How did they manufacture it?

The process of increasing hostel expenses didn’t begin last month but three-and-a-half years ago. On 10 June 2016, a committee was set up to revise the hostel manual, which was 15 years old. This committee submitted its report to the Dean of Students in 2018.

Then a committee of Provosts met on 20 September 2019 and deliberated on the committee’s report and finalised a draft hostel manual. This was uploaded on the JNU website on 28 October so that all stakeholders could submit their feedback. The meeting of IHA took place on 28 October to finalise the hostel manual.

It is on this day that the Left woke up from its well planned slumber. It didn’t care two hoots for three-and-a-half years, precisely because it waited patiently to make a mountain out of this molehill.

And when they did wake up, note the irrationality of their demands.

The left-wing extremists disrupted the meeting of the IHA on 28 October and demanded that JNU Students Union be consulted as a part of the IHA. IHA committee consists of Dean of Students as its chairperson and five Provosts, three Associate Deans, 18 hostel wardens who are professors and 18 elected student representatives of hostels.

JNUSU has three seats on the table. But, presently, JNUSU doesn’t exist. It has not been ratified legally as the case is pending before the Delhi High Court because the administration says JNUSU elections were not conducted as per the Lyngdoh committee recommendations and are thus void.

Legally, there is no JNUSU elected body and thus can’t be recognised as such by the JNU administration when the matter is sub-judice.

One must also understand why the IHA felt compelled to increase the JNU hostel expenses.

JNU hostel messes run on “no profit, no loss” model — meaning that whatever expenses students eating there incur, they divide it amongst themselves. Their monthly bill comes around to Rs 2,500. But as the administration informed the press last month, pending dues from students for the last three months alone stand at Rs 2.8 crore.

But it’s not just about the mess expenses. University Grants Commission (UGC) under the previous UPA government had directed the universities to make their hostels self sufficient.

Now, UGC doesn’t allow payments of salaries of contractual employees of the hostel from the salary head of the budget. JNU has over 450 such staff. It’s now up to the JNU administration to raise money to plug any shortfall in non-salary expenditure.

If the students don’t pay up the money in form of utility and service charges, the administration will have to let go the staff in hostels and mess whose services including basic amenities such as sanitation, which are not up to the mark.

Some hostels stink as they don’t even have workers to clean the toilets and bathrooms let alone the premises. Any further cuts will lead to closing down of essential facilities such as the mess.

To solve the current crisis, the UGC has released Rs 6 crore as an emergency measure, which also allowed JNU to reduce utility and service charges from Rs 2,000 per month to Rs 1,000 per month (Rs 500 for BPL).

But there is no reasoning with the left-wing extremists.

Semester exams start from 12 December. Classes remain closed since 28 October and there is no end to the impasse in sight. Thousands of students are being made martyrs for the sake of netagiri of a few hoodlums.

If they fail in the upcoming exams, they risk delaying their course duration and the poorer students will, of course, be more adversely hit. But the revolution demands sacrifice and who better than the proletariat to be made the useful guinea pigs in this charade.

Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.
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