The situation at TISS: The students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences have stopped all academic proceedings, on all four campuses since February 21, consequently drawing support from social, student and political organisations. When TISS management threatened to take some “actions”, students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi) protested outside the Ministry of Human Resource Development as an act of unity. The student’s union has called for a bandh across campuses to withdraw the decision of withdrawing a fee waiver given to SC, ST and OBC students, who are eligible for the Government of India Post-Matric Scholarship (GoI-PMS). It has been called the “privatization of education”. Since even after proceedings of dialogue with the administration, no results were obtained, students have been protesting outside on the gates of the Mumbai campus. Faculty members joined in the protest even after a notice was issued against the students, informing them to make the gates accessible.
Protest. Why?: A circular was issued last year which was ought to withdraw financial aid to the SC, ST and OBC students who were eligible for the Government of India Post-Matric Scholarship (GoI-PMS) scheme. For these eligible students, hostel and dining fees would now have to be paid upfront. To avail this scholarship, the students would have to apply to the central government and the amount would be credited to their bank accounts and this reformation would be applicable to the existing students as well. Hence the student’s union demanded that the batches of 2016-2018 and 2017-2019 be exempted from paying this fees. “The financial aid was mentioned in the prospectus at the time of admission and it was unfair to ask students midway through the course to pay their fees,” said Fahad Ahmad, general secretary of the TISS students’ union.
The decision’s impact on the students: Some students who belong to these marginalised sections cannot afford to pay this fees even if they are reimbursed by the union government later. The students of the 2016-2018 batch have been exempted from paying the fees , however they’d have to pay the dining hall fee which would amount to Rs. 62,000, per annum. The 2017-19 batch have asked for a similar exemption which the authorities have disagreed to instead an effort to raise funds for those who cannot afford to pay the dining hall fees. For OBC students, the withdrawal of exemption from paying fees has been in place since 2015. According to the information gathered by students through RTI, the number of OBC students has fallen to 18% in 2016-17 from 28% in 2013.
The students have three core demands:
* The 2016-18 and 2017-19 batches be exempted from paying the hostel and dining hall charges.
* A notification regarding payment of fees for the incoming batch of 2018-20 be withdrawn.
* The institute offer waivers to students with disabilities.
Among the other demands, the union has sought a symbolic representation of students from the SC, ST and OBC categories in the institute’s Special Protection Office.
The administration’s say: The administration cited that the funds were short of funds which stood worth of 20 crore. Until 2014, the money was being transferred to the institution but since the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme came into action, the amount was being directed straight to the students- Once after the end of the second semester and once on the completion of the course for the second session.
The administration has claimed that they have been arranging funds to meet the deficit. “In the current year, above Rs 1 crore is being disbursed thus far, from endowment funds and through grants generated from different sources, as additional funds. In the current year, Rs 25 lakh has been generated to meet the hostel charges of GoI-PMS eligible students. Additionally, Rs 80 lakh has been allocated/ disbursed from endowment funds and grants to support students from weaker financial backgrounds,” read a statement issued by the institute. Meanwhile, P K Shajahan, dean of student affairs, said that negotiations with the students’ union were under way. “We are committed to resolving this issue democratically,” Shajahan said.