Published: 06th March 2020
'Just want negotiation with admin': Pondy varsity students enter 30th day of fee hike protest
The students have refused to accept the administration's offer of a 20 per cent fee reduction for students from economically weak backgrounds
The protesting students of Pondicherry University have now been outside the administrative building for 30 days straight. While they have been only carrying our marches, raising slogans and holding demonstrations, singling songs outside the office all these days, over the last week, students have also embarked on a hunger strike. Five students who went on a hunger strike for five days are currently in hospital. Another five have replaced them.
The students have refused to accept the administration's offer of a 20 per cent fee reduction for students from economically weak backgrounds. The Student Council President, Parichay Yadav said that while they are demanding a complete rollback of the fees, they are also up for negotiations. So we asked him if there was a certain number that they were willing to agree to? "We have been protesting now for 30 days, and nobody from the administration has come to address the gathering and our dialogue with the grievance council was of no use because they kept offering the 20 per cent reduction over and over again. We want them to come up with new negotiations, we want to discuss how it can be reduced," the student leader said.
The University administration has issued an appeal to the students to call off the strike stating that the fee was not unilaterally decided and that they had taken the previous student council into consultation as well. They are accusing the Yadav-led council of coming up with 'new demands'. "While the Students Council of 2018–2019 had in principle agreed to the new fee structure by signing the Minutes of the Meeting held on March 19, 2019, and all the changes requested by the Students Council being executed to a large extent. This protest is uncalled for," the administration claims.
"The Students Council of 2019-20 has now once again taken the issue in February 2020 and is unreasonably demanding 100% roll back to the fee that existed during 2012. Only a small section of the students are bent upon disturbing the peaceful academic culture of the University," the administration said in a press release. However, the Council claims that they only knew about the hike when it was mentioned in the prospect and that they had not accepted the proposed hike. It was only when they protested that the administration constituted a committee to look into the matter. Meetings with the committee didn't yield any solution for the students then and the latest one, also didn't appease them.
"The appeal also seems like veiled threats to us. But we are not paying it any heed. They have not called us for a meeting and are not offering to hold any negotiations," Yadav accuses. But how long will the students carry on the protest if both the grievance committees didn't work out, "We will go on for as long as we need to," the student leader says. And what is the semester comes to an end? "We also don't want to be here, we also want to attend classes and more than anything our friends are on a hunger strike and putting their health at risk for this protest. So we don't want to carry on this protest for two or three months. But we can only stop when the administration comes forth with better negotiations," he says. He also accused the administration of not organising health check-ups for the students who are on a hunger strike.
Responding to the administration's claim that only a few students are protesting and disturbing the peace on the campus, Yadav said that there were many people supporting them including those outside the campus. "Till our demands are met, we will carry on," he adds. However, the administration has said in a release that they put in 'sincere effort' to settle this impasse.