Published: 08th July 2019
We have nowhere to go: Several SC, ST students contemplate dropping out of TISS-Hyd as hostels demand exorbitant fees upfront
According to the new rules, the accommodation and mess would only be made available to the students if they pay an upfront amount of Rs 54,650
Several students belonging to the SC, ST category are contemplating quitting their course at TISS Hyderabad as they are being forced to pay exorbitant hostel fees. Students from the institute are protesting on campus today against the administration for allegedly washing their hands of the issue.
The students are especially finding it tough because unlike the previous years, they are being asked to pay the fees upfront. Students have to pay 54,650 rupees at the beginning of the year. Previously, the students were allowed to pay the fees monthly and the GOI/PMS students had the time to wait for their scholarship money to come to pay. Now they have to pay from their own pockets. The hostels are run by service providers who are determining the fees and the rules despite the fact that the administration had promised earlier that they would have a say in the matter.
Ever since TISS, Hyderabad was established, the hostels have been arranged for by service providers. "The Institute has always been a mediator between the two parties and made the arrangements. Suddenly in December 2018, they declared that they were a non-residential campus," one of the students said. It was then that students had protested against the management.
Injus-TISS: Students protesting on Monday morning against the exorbitant hostel fees
In response to the protests, the TISS director had written to their students saying the institute will "continue to play the existing role in arranging accommodation for the current batches and future batches of students with their active participation. Similar arrangements through service providers will be made till the institute is able to secure its own campus, existing arrangements will continue"
Despite making this promise, the students say the service providers have complete autonomy of the fee structure. What is ironic is that the hostels are named 'TISS hostels'. They have made it mandatory for students to pay the fees semester-wise instead of monthly payments. And according to the new rules, the accommodation and mess would only be made available to the students if they pay an upfront amount of Rs 54,650 (accommodation Rs 20,400 + mess Rs 24,250 + caution deposit Rs 10,000).
The students who are dependent on scholarships have assured the service providers that they would pay the fees when they get their scholarship money, but the hostel administration is refusing to listen. "We've had this issue in the past even though we know scholarship money comes late but this is extremely unfair on the students," a protester said.
"Many students have chosen to live outside because they cannot afford the fees. Several students are crammed into one small apartment because they have no other option. Earlier, four adivasi students laid siege on the road as they were denied entry to the hostel. They are now staying in a private hostel seven kilometers away from the college and are unsure that they will be able to complete their course," the students said.
Priya*, an SC student from Bihar has been staying at her friend's house and is not sure how much longer she can stay there, "So only people who have money can study here and stay here? Then where do people like me go? They only put out the fee structure five days ago, how do they expect people like me to arrange so much money in five days? Who will I go and ask?" Priya is from a remote village in Bihar and says she only had access to a computer in the process of applying to TISS.
In-considerate?: A part of the acceptance letter of one of the students on campus
"Another friend of mine is also living with friends but she's now saying she will leave the course because she is completely homeless. What other option do we have? How is this fair to students who are battling poverty? When we complain the administration says we can go live outside but that's not how it should work. The institute must provide for students who are disadvantaged," she added.
One of the protesters says that the students have found that other women's hostels and homes functioning close by are not demanding such exorbitant amounts of money, "These fees are too much and it's unfair. We've seen how much other people are asking and it's much lower in comparison. When we say this, they are asking to move out," she said.
The students also raised doubts over the transparency in the conduct of the hostel, "The service provider, named CN Reddy, is also the owner of the current college building. Transparency lacks in the conduct of the hostel as the administration has not come up with any contract that it had signed up with CN Reddy whereas properties of TISS including furniture and manpower are used by Reddy in the hostels. This is contradictory to the statements made by the administration that the hostels are out of its ambit. The administration had also refused to give in paper the role of it in the conduct of the hostel when it was asked by the students."
The students also seem to suspect that the contract was given to the service provider without floating a tender since they have not revealed the tender documents.
Response: The administration has told the students that they are looking into the matter
The students also condemned that fact that the Office of Hostel Management which is a body that dealt with hostel issues and represented by both students and faculty has been disbanded. This again violates the clauses of the guidelines issued at the time of admission. " The revocation of the OHM is crucial at this juncture when the campus has been shifted to a remote locality outside the city at Turkayamjal. In this new area, the students are facing the threat of sexual harassment, even on the road that leads to the hostel. The administration has not tried to intervene on the subject of inaccessibility of the hostel facilities to the GOI/PMS students. It has pushed the students into the mouths of the ruthless market," the students said.
"The TISS Hyderabad campus was made non-residential from the current academic year according to a newspaper advertisement. But the same institution that claims to be non- residential has uploaded the hostel fee tariff of the service provider on its official TISS Website," the students wrote in their statement.
Now that the students are protesting, the administration said they would look into the matter, "They are saying that's how market rates are and since it's private this is how the prices will be. They cannot just wash their hands off this, they have to take some responsibility and be held accountable," a student said.
When we contacted the U Vindhya, the acting Deputy Director, they said that they are still in dialogue with the students and will need a day to give us a detailed response with all the facts.
(This copy was updated with the administration's response)