Published: 08th May 2018
BITS Pilani students protest against fee hike, try to reason with management
Students at the forefront of the protest against fee hike at BITS tell us about their struggle and what they expect from the management
On May 5, the BITS Pilani website announced a revised fee structure for their academic year 2018-19. But this wasn’t anything new for students, as the tuition fee has consistently seen a rise of 15% per annum. One would now have to pay Rs 1,60,000, which does not include hostel, mess or any other advances collected by the university, as opposed to the Rs 89,000 which they paid four years back. So since May 6, students of the institution and sister campuses Goa and Hyderabad are protesting, albeit peacefully, while they continue to study for their end semester exams and trying to reason with the management about their fees, which have been hiked every year since 2011.
Twenty-one-year-old Sidhartha Namburi woke up to this issue almost a year back. This final year student of BITS Pilani researched the annual financial report of the institute, which was available and accessible but not detailed enough. So he resorted to filing an RTI for the income and cash flow statements, but that did not help either. Encouraged by his friends, this boy from Warangal is now helming the protest, which has a hashtag of its own in #BITSAgainstFeeHike.
Namburi is pursuing his final year of Mechanical Engineering from BITS Pilani. He is also a Programme Coordinator for Vision For India Foundation.
Citing the example of the founder of BITS, Ghanshyam Das Birla and his philanthropy which led to the establishment of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, he says, “The institute needs more philanthropists like him.” The institute is hiking fees to self-sustain, but their rankings remain the same. There are even complaints of power cuts, slow WiFi and no stark change in facilities for students, he shares.
Coming to the response, even the BITSAA (BITS Alumni Association) has come out in support of the students and implored the management to listen to them. The Pilani police too are satisfied with the way students are carrying out their non-violent protests, and are urging them to maintain decorum.
All together: Students during the ongoing protests
“The founding principles of universities revolve around the words ‘equal opportunity’ and ‘providing good and value-based education for all’, and with increasing hikes in fee structures, how are we ensuring that the students from the lower middle class and their aspiration of studying in premier institutions are met? All institutes — whether private or government — need to think about this,” says Sidhartha, when we asked him about the pattern behind institutes like TISS, IIT Bombay, IIT Kharagpur and others raising their fees and students protesting against it.
Scene in Hyderabad
Continuing in the same vein, Anuj Saxena from BITS Hyderabad tells us, “We keep talking about attracting the best talent, but if talent can’t afford institutes anymore, what’s the point? It just doesn’t make sense.” He, along with Mayank Agarwal and a few others, are coordinating the protest in the Hyderabad campus.
And though many of those who are protesting are final year students and will be on their way out in a few days, their juniors are all set to continue their struggle till they receive definite answers, confirms Saxena.
The protest continues as the Vice-Chancellor in Pilani told students not to expect to hear from them before Friday. While in Hyderabad, students are sitting outside their classrooms, clad in black, with ribbons on their arms and holding placards
"The stakeholders who are making these policies and deciding hikes don't know the scenario. So, student bodies should have a larger say in these matters,” he says when we ask him about solutions.
Highlighting the nature of the protests, which have been peaceful throughout, Saxena says, “We all love BITS and we do not want to create a ruckus. All we want is a dialogue with the administration. It's not about fighting them, it's about saving the spirit of BITS,” the 21-year-old concludes.