SRFTI students protest against bad food & water, faculty misconduct, CCTV surveillance

The students' union of the institute has repeatedly echoed their concerns regarding the administration’s negligence when it comes to basic necessities on campus like food, water, student safety and well-being, privacy, and grievance redressal
Today, May 31, marks the 12th day of protest
Today, May 31, marks the 12th day of protest(Image: EdexLive Desk)

Today marks the 12th day of protest by the students of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata, which started on May 20, demanding basic necessities on campus like clean water, food and safety.

For over a year, the students' union of the institute has repeatedly echoed their concerns regarding the administration’s negligence when it comes to basic necessities on campus like food, water, student safety and well-being, privacy and grievance redressal. However, in a press statement released by the student union on May 28, it was stated that the institute has not yet “taken any meaningful action” to address them.

Now, after the institute’s decision to install CCTV cameras on the residential campus came out earlier this month, the students claim that “it is an attempt to exert control over students through constant surveillance, masquerading as a safety measure”.

“The administration of SRFTI has a history of intimidating and suppressing the protesting students approaching them with demands for their basic needs. The recent decision to install CCTV cameras under the guise of enhancing safety and security is nothing short of absurd and authoritarian, especially when the administration consistently neglects basic necessities like food, water, healthcare, safety on sets and due redressal of harassment cases,” the statement released by the student union said.

So, why are the students protesting? Let us look into their demands:

Quality food and drinking water

The students of SRFTI shared that they are being provided substandard quality food and drinking water on campus which has even led to several students developing health concerns like skin infection and gastrointestinal diseases.

Visuals from SRFTI campus
Visuals from SRFTI campus(Credit: Instagram @srftioutloud)

Anusree Kelat, General Committee Representative, SRFTI Students’ Union, told EdexLive, “Since the institute is a residential campus, food and water are the basic necessities. But the water supplied on campus is not even fit for daily use, let alone drinking. The water filters and coolers are also in a pathetic condition. Recently, students have found glass shreds and worms in the hostel mess food.”

Along with hygienic mess and kitchen area, quality food and water, the students are also demanding an increase in the existing mess subsidy from Rs 65,000 to Rs 1,50,000.

Instances of misconduct, inappropriate remarks

Another major concern that the student union highlighted was the inadequate redressal of complaints by the students regarding harassment and misconduct at the hands of faculty members of the institute.

Reportedly, several students of the institute filed a complaint against Associate Professor Oindrilla Hazra Pratapan in June 2023, for making discriminatory remarks against students from different states and communities. However, no action was taken against the professor.

“Students have complained about several instances where she has used problematic, sexist and discriminatory statements against students. This is not the first time that such complaints have surfaced. Previous batches have also reported similar instances but this time, the issue escalated and 67 students from the batch submitted a formal complaint against her,” Anusree added.

Despite the complaints, the SRFTI administration allowed Prof Pratapan, who is accused of and has admitted to charges of discrimination and bullying, to hold significant positions like the head of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for the Staff Members that examines sensitive complaints of sexual harassment, the press statement by the student union informed.

While a fact-finding committee was formed in August 2023 to look into the complaints and take students' testimonies, the students alleged that the administration claimed that the committee’s report was "missing".

Constant surveillance

(Credit: Instagram @srfioutloud)

The recent decision by the SRFTI administration to install CCTV cameras on campus in order to enhance safety has also received much flak from the students.

Students claim that this move by the institute is “absurd and authoritarian” and an attempt to “exert control over students through constant surveillance”. The students even added that the institute has had a history of intimidating students.

In their statement, the student union narrated an incident from last year, where the dean, “explicitly threatened protesting students through CCTV footage”.

“This is a residential campus and they want to install CCTVs outside the hostel, to monitor everything that students are doing. It is our home and it is the only private space the students have. We do not want people to be looking into our daily activities,” added Kelat.

Substandard working conditions

Lastly, the students also raised concerns regarding no job permanency or healthcare benefits like insurance covers for the staff working at the institute.

Reportedly, students and staff have suffered multiple injuries, especially in the lighting and art departments. In a recent accident, two weeks ago, heavy equipment injured an individual who was handling the lights.

Students expressed that these incidents underscore the hazardous working conditions prevalent in SRFTI.

The students have been constantly protesting on campus since May 20 and even met the SRFTI administration multiple times. Allegedly, the institute has assured the students that the issues will be taken up in the council meeting which is likely to be conducted in July 2024.

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