Published: 08th September 2020
Students storm Twitter after Ambedkar University Delhi says SC, ST students from 3 lakh/pa homes and over are not eligible for fee waiver
The students have also been asked to produce caste certificates from NCT of Delhi and will only be eligible if their community is recognised the the NCT of Delhi government
Sneha* applied to the Ambedkar University Delhi, went through the process, was overjoyed to get selected and then suddenly things went haywire. She was informed that she would have to pay the entire fees for her course. It surprised the student because she had applied to the University under the assumption that like her sibling, who also studied there, she would get a fee waiver. The University provided a 100 percent fee waiver for SC, ST students — which was why Sneha was sure there had been some technical glitch but when she approached the administration, she was told that she would only be given the waiver only if her family’s annual income was below rupees three lakh and she had a certificate to prove that. And while she tried to approach other authorities and figure out what to do, the deadline to pay the fees came and went. Sneha lost her seat.
When nation-wide protests broke out in 2016 following Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula’s death, students in AUD also demanded better policies for marginalised students on campus. After undertaking various campaigns and fighting till the very end, the administration decided to implement a scheme that would waive off fees for students from SC, ST communities. The scheme came as a great relief to the students and in the last two-three years, many candidates from the community have had the privilege of pursuing higher education on this campus. Now, this news about the requirement of income certificates has left the students, especially those from marginalised communities, anxious and angry.
Sneha’s sibling said that her sister had decided to apply to the University because she herself was able to pursue an education there because of the fee waiver and not getting it at this point has left them perplexed, “We thought there must have been some mistake. So we enquired with the administration and we were told to produce an income certificate. Then they asked us if the annual income was below three lakh and when we told them that it wasn’t we were told Sneha would not be eligible for the waiver. But we showed them the brochure and said that nothing was mentioned in the website also, so how are we to know?” Sneha’s sibling said that they sent emails and sought an explanation, demanding to be told if there had been any written notice on this new modification.
“We asked them to hand over a notice or asked if a circular had been issued and we were just told that an announcement on this would be made soon,” they said. Ever since, students on campus have been raising their voice against the administration and are demanding a clarification and are also conducting virtual protests. The students are pointing out the irony of SC, ST students being asked to provide income certificates when the University they study in is named after the person who created reservations as an affirmative action and not as a poverty alleviation scheme.
“We worked so hard to get this scheme passed by the then VC. Now with every VC, are we supposed to go back to making the same demands? So far I was never once asked for an income certificate, now why is the administration making these demands,” asked Riya Singh, a PhD scholar and a member of the Dalit Bahujan Adivasi Collective. “And how many years ago was it decided that 2-3 lakh was the limit till which students can avail these scholarships or waivers. How does the income slab make sense today, especially when the economically weaker sections are allowed an income slab of 8 lakh? How will marginalised students be able to choose higher studies if they are forced to pay fees? I myself have told so many people in the past they can choose to pursue higher studies because it’s free and so many people aspired to come here. Now what will they do?” she questioned.
Call for On-campus Protest !— Aishe (ঐশী) (@aishe_ghosh) September 7, 2020
The AUD Administration has decided to revoke full fee waiver for the SC/ST/PWD students from this session.
➡️ Delhi. Govt do you have an answer to this ?#AUD @ArvindKejriwal pic.twitter.com/5HAlZ7jJuc
AUD admin must take back full fee charges for this online semester and reinstate the full fee waiver for SC/ST/PwD students. Ensure accessible education for all! #BoycottHighFees #UpholdSCSTPwDFeeWaiver@msisodia @AamAadmiParty @weareAUD pic.twitter.com/UvCptvc5Wp— COLLECTIVE (@COLLECTIVEDelhi) September 6, 2020
When we got in touch with the University, the Assistant Registrar said the following, "Dr BR Ambedkar University Delhi is a State University. The proposed decision regarding fee waiver is in accordance with the policy of GoI and GNCTD. In the proposed policy, all SC/ST students as well as students of other categories, who fall in the specified income criteria, will get 100% fee waiver."
But the University’s demand for an income certificate is not the only obstacle that marginalised students face now. The University has introduced provisions to the eligibility of SC, ST students within the 85 percent who live within the NC-Delhi region, “An applicant needs to produce a certificate of SC/ST from NCT of Delhi. The community of such an applicant needs to be part of the presidential list of SC and ST for NCT of Delhi. But the administration fails to realise that NCT Delhi doesn’t have a presidential list of Schedule Tribes because it is believed that no tribes live here, even though so many tribal people have come to this city from other states and have made this their home. Even otherwise, it is unfair to demand that someone from another state has to come here and get a caste certificate, if they fail to do so then they’ll be pushed to the unreserved category. They just want to make the process more difficult for us,” she explained.
Riya feels that because the scheme found so much success, the obstacles to avail it have been made difficult, “This always happens, initially we hear that these schemes are available and once people actually begin to avail these and become a part of the campus, then they try to make it difficult for us. If no one was accessing these schemes then they would have continued to exist,” she added.
The scholar feels that ‘we are going back instead of forward’, “Ambedkar is just in the name.” Riya is demanding to know that if these modifications are being made, why is the proposal not being presented to the student body and why there has been no statement, “We’ve heard that they will make an announcement on September 8 but the admissions are already underway and people like Sneha have lost their seat.” Riya has been writing to the authorities demanding an explanation but she hasn’t received any proper responses
Father’s income does not have any relation to the daughter’s education, one of DBAC’s posters read, “We demand 100 percent fee exemption for all the women for SC and ST communities irrespective of our father’s income. The administration is obstruction g the access to higher education for Dalit and Adivasi women.” The Collective also pointed out that in the Dr Ambedkar University Delhi Act, 2007 it is clearly stated that “any special provision for the appointment or admission of women or of persons belonging to the weaker sections of the society and in particular for persons belonging to SC and ST.”
The DBAC also invoked a 2005 Supreme Court judgement and a notice from the Home Affairs Ministry that the eligibility of SCs and STs for reservation in jobs under government of NCT of Delhi is applicable irrespective of nativity, “This simple means that SC, ST, OBC students from outside the NCR region will be considered in general quota. So this is a violation of reservation policy,” the Collective argues. Students launched a Twitter campaign and have decided to continue the protests till the university withdraws the new provisions.