Published: 12th January 2021
Former JNUSU president enters his 'locked' hostel room on return, varsity slaps fine for 'illegal entry'
Former JNUSU president N Sai Balaji was asked to pay a fine of Rs 500 for allegedly breaking the double lock of his room
On New Year's Day 2021, PhD scholar and former JNUSU president N Sai Balaji opened his room in JNU's Periyar Hostel. Except he couldn't. The room had been locked by the university's administration in March, owing to the lockdown. "They had locked the room without my permission. I'm the resident of that room," says Balaji.
Ten days later, he received an email from the administration asking him to pay a fine of Rs 500 for illegally breaking the double lock of the room and thereby violating a COVID-19 guideline. "You are requested to pay a fine of Rs 500 within a week at the hostel office," reads the email sent by the hostel's senior warden.
Refusing to pay the fine, Balaji maintains that he hasn't done anything wrong. "I am a third-year PhD student and the lack of access to the library has affected my research. Owing to the lockdown, I wasn't able to get my synopsis approved on time and this has caused a delay in the disbursal of my fellowship," he says, adding that in this scenario, he has no option other than living in the hostel room allotted to him. He also says that while the students were asked to vacate their hostel rooms, none of the staff had to vacate their quarters — a situation that he called this "unfair".
On January 1, Balaji says that he wrote an email to the university's Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Student Affairs, asking them to reopen the hostels. "However, despite restaurants, cinema halls, public transport and every other sector of the economy allowed to reopen, the University administration hasn't allowed hostels to be opened. JNU's is a residential campus with teachers, staff and other administrative staff residing with their families. There were no restrictions on their movement and no circular was passed asking them to vacate the campus. It was students who were made to move out and have suffered," it reads. At the same time, he says that the email didn't receive a response.
However, it goes without saying that the MHA and MoHFW guidelines are still stringent when it comes to the opening of universities and allowing of scholars and researchers back on campus — and a lot of discretion lies with the varsity.