Published: 24th August 2022
DNLU Jabalpur: Students alleging sexism, abysmal infrastructure & arbitrary fines go on indefinite hunger strike from today, August 24
Students of the university have been protesting for seven days alleging several financial and administrative irregularities by the university administration
Students of the Dharmashastra National Law University (DNLU), Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh have begun an indefinite hunger strike today, August 24 after multiple days of protest against the maladministration by the university officials and lack of basic necessities within the campus.
Students of the university have been protesting for seven days alleging several financial and administrative irregularities by the university administration. Among other issues, students of the university have claimed that the appointment of the Deputy Registrar Jalaj Goantiya was illegal as he was already serving as an Assistant Professor in the university and the post of the registrar is meant to be a non-academic post according to the university’s rules.
In fact, on August 22, the university notified through a circular that they appointed Prof Shailesh Nagappa Hadli, Prof of Law as the Registrar (in-charge). However, this appointment too violated the university’s rules as he is serving as a professor in the university, said Kartik Jain, a third-year law student from the university.
The students have also been demanding the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Prof V Nagaraj.
What problems are students facing?
Students of the university claimed that the current campus they study in is a rented one with abysmal infrastructure. “The new campus was supposed to be constructed in 2021 but it hasn’t started yet. The current campus has seepages everywhere,” said a fourth-year law student from the university who wished to stay anonymous.
In a written representation to the university’s administration with detailed demands and pictures as proof, the students stated that, “Despite charging hefty amounts in the name of Campus Development Fee and Maintenance Charge, no work has been done in the campus. The main play-ground is in a pathetic condition. The ground is unkept, putting the lives of students in peril as it serves as a breeding ground for venomous snakes, bugs and dangers of similar kind.” In fact, the expenses for maintenance of the grounds touches Rs 18 lakh per month and it is the students who had to pay for it yet, they don't get to use it, said Jain.
Internships and placements
Additionally, students also demand an inquiry into the functioning of the Internship and Placement Cell (IAPC) on campus. “Although we are in our final year of law, the VC told us that they cannot assure us of any placements or internships,” said a student who wished to stay anonymous. Though there is a placement cell on campus, it is not functioning well, the student said. In fact, in the written representation, students stated that members of the IAPC are only responsible for grunt work — like maintaining the directory, sending emails, making calls and so on. “They are neither given any opportunity to put forth the interest of students nor are they involved in the decision-making of any kind,” it added.
Fees and fines
Students have also claimed that apart from a 10 per cent rise in fees, they were also asked to pay the hostel fees during the COVID-19 pandemic when hostels weren’t in use. “We had to pay Rs 60,000 - Rs 70,000 per month for hostels even during this time,” a first-year law student said. Although the University Grants Commission (UGC) had earlier directed all the universities and colleges to refund the hostel and mess fees taken during the COVID-19 pandemic at the earliest or adjust it in the other fees, students of DNLU said that their fees haven't been refunded yet.
While highlighting the instances of arbitrary fines imposed on students, Jain recalled an incident wherein a girl student was fined Rs 5,000 for “harming the reputation of the institution.” “This happened after she sent an open mail to the VC highlighting mismanagement on part of the warden and other officials when she was injured on campus and there was a delay in getting the right medicines,” Jain calimed.
Plight of female students
Several female students of the university have also narrated instances of sexism on part of the warden, guards and other university officials. “They openly comment on girls' clothing and call us ‘characterless’ and ask us why we are wearing ‘short clothes’,” shared a female law student who wished to stay anonymous.
She added that the sexual harassment grievance redressal cell on campus is headed by the warden who is the one actually making such comments about them. “We have been asked not to wear short clothes and use the washroom as it is near the boys' hostel and they might end up seeing us,” she said. They also alleged that they have to walk half a kilometre to use the washroom facilities, which are not properly maintained.
Additionally, on multiple occasions, unauthorised persons carrying out construction work on the campus have barged into female hostel rooms, they claimed. “There is no one to supervise who is entering our rooms,” the student said.
Response from the administration
The VC of the university issued a letter on August 20, in response to the representation made by the students. While addressing some of the students’ demands, he stated that the construction of the gym and sports facilities is underway but has been facing some delay due to rain. He regretted the inconvenience caused to female students and stated that once renovation work is completed, the university is planning to make the first-year students stay comfortably and also explore the possibility of providing food at the above-mentioned quarters. Despite a detailed response by the VC, students claimed that it was not “satisfactory” and none of their demands have been met yet.
Earlier, reports pointed out that students of DNLU had moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court seeking permission to retake examinations without paying for the remedial classes which were compulsory for them to attend to be able to appear for the re-exam. The petition had stated that the fee fixed by the university — Rs 7500 per subject — was arbitrary, according to reports.