This academic year has been witness to a severe crisis with regard to accommodation for new students. The crisis is particularly acute for boys, hundreds of whom have not got hostels so far. The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that many students who topped the entrance exams haven’t got hostels yet. Many OBC students who have won admission under general category, who ought to be given hostels as per OBC lists, are instead considered under the general category itself, causing undue delays in the allotment of hostels to them.
The AISA-led JNUSU also had acknowledged the severity of this crisis, but had remained utterly lackadaisical in addressing the issue. The AISA has been leading the union since 2007, and the process of implementation of OBC reservations along with the increase in seats in the university had begun in 2008. It was well-known to the university administration and the AISA that accommodating the increased intake of students following 54% seat increase would require a big expansion of hostel facilities. Yet, in her speeches in the various school GBMs, the incumbent JNUSU President kept stating the lame excuse that a hostel cannot be built in six months. The administration was clearly successful in mollifying the AISA-led union by fast-tracking the first batches of hostel allotment. After having abdicated the responsibility to take cognizance of the issue well in advance and pushing for the construction of new hostels, the AISA-led union was satisfied arguing for more dormitories. The dormitories that have been opened are themselves plagued by a number of problems, including the lack of adequate work spaces and a shortage of plug points even for basic electronic equipments.
The CAG report on JNU had revealed that the funds meant for the expansion of infrastructure in tandem with the proposed seat increase had been diverted for foreign trips, seminars etc. A large number of single seaters were converted into double seaters as the hostel crisis loomed large, hoping to pit different sections of the student community against each other while going back on the obligation to build new hostels. The AISA-led union was caught sleeping all through this period, and did nothing to ensure that the funds were utilised for the purposes they were meant for.
When the university administration is reluctant to spend funds to improve the basic infrastructure facilities, the construction of new hostels would require sustained pressure and struggles by the students’ movement. It is worth noting here that it was after a massive struggle led by the SFI-led union in 1999 that the construction of new hostels from Tapti onwards began. During this struggle, following a 14-day hunger strike, 63 students were arrested and 14 students including 3 office-bearers of the JNUSU were illegally detained in Tihar jail for three days. All sections of the JNU community had risen in unison against the high-handedness of the administration, which had to back down and accept the demands of the students. The new union which shall take charge after the JNUSU elections this month, being heirs to this militant legacy, must ensure that an uncompromising struggle is waged to ensure the construction of new hostels. Since it will take some time for new hostels to be built, alternatives must also be explored to address the accommodation crisis in the immediate. In fact following the 1999 agitation, the administration was forced to provide temporary accommodation to the students in Mahanadi hostel and in private accommodation facilities outside the campus. Renting out private accommodation once again is very much a feasible option. Moreover, today in our campus there are many new, spacious staff quarters which are lying vacant. The possibility of accommodating students who have not got hostels in such places on a temporary basis needs to be explored on an urgent basis.
Kopal, Siddik Rabiyath, Samuel Philip Mathew, Garima Sodhi, Viswanathan V
(For the SFI Unit Organising Committee, JNU)
Our Struggle for More Hostels Long Live!!
Students’ Unity Long Live!!