As the protests over hostel fee hike in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) continues, the university has issued a statement in its defence. Pointing towards the reports of hostel fee hike, the Jawaharlal Nehru University has alleged a misinformation campaign. The university is having a deficit of more than Rs 45 crores, because of massive electricity bills and water charges, along with the salary of contractual staff.
Clarifying its stand on hostel fee hike issue, the JNU has said that the increase in fee is actually the service charge which has been levied. The Jawaharlal Nehru University further said the varsity has not been charging any amount in the name of service charge, so far.
"The UGC has given clear instructions to JNU that all shortfalls in the non-salary expenditures should be met by using the internal receipts generated by the University. Thus, there is no alternative for the IHA than to collect service charges from the students," it said. According to preliminary estimates, the revised hostel charges for each general student is approximately Rs 4,500 per month. Out of this, Rs 2,300 is for food charges per month.
Of the remaining amount of Rs 2,200, BPL category students have to pay only 50 per cent.
Therefore, a BPL category student has to pay approximately Rs 3,400 per month, it explained. This is to underline that there is a misinformation campaign which says that there is a massive hostel fee hike in JNU, they said.
"In reality service charges are being levied, which have been zero so far. For sustainability of the University budget which has run into a huge deficit, it is necessary to levy the service charges in the hostel," the institute said.
There is also a propaganda that a large number of poor students will be adversely affected by the revised hostel charges, it said.
"It may be noted that out of around 6,000 students who are residing in the hostels, 5,371 students receive financial assistance in the form of fellowships and scholarships," the statement said.
The university also dismissed reports that the revised hostel charges in JNU are more than similar charges in other Central Universities. "It needs to be underlined that JNU does not charge developmental fees, unlike other universities. Moreover, the admission fee in JNU has been minimal for decades and no revision has taken place for more than four decades," the varsity said.
They said the Central University of Hyderabad charges admission fee of Rs 10,000 per annum whereas JNU charges around Rs 300 per annum.
Students of JNU have been protesting for over three weeks against a draft hostel manual, which has provisions for a hostel fee hike, a dress code and curfew timings.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University administration has also issued a list of pending mess fees from hostel residents, amounting to over Rs 2.79 crore from July to October, which JNUSU vice-president Saket Moon termed "an attempt to threaten students".
JNU protest: What happened on Thursday
On Thursday, the JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA) had met the HRD Ministry-appointed high-powered panel and had demanded a complete roll-back of the hiked hostel fee, besides removal of the university's vice-chancellor, even as some teachers disassociated themselves from the group owing to their "indifference" towards the alleged attack on their colleagues by protesters.
Amid talks to resolve the impasse, members of RSS-affiliated Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) tried to march towards Shastri Bhawan on Thursday, that houses the HRD Ministry, demanding scrapping of the panel.
However, they were stopped on Parliament Street by police and over 160 of them were detained.
The ABVP said Delhi University Students' Union president Akshit Dahiya and their state secretary Siddharth Yadav were also detained by police.
The three-member high-powered panel was constituted on Monday to recommend ways to restore normal functioning of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and mediate between the administration and students who have been protesting for over three weeks over the hostel fee hike.
In the over two-hour long meeting, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers'' Association (JNUTA) Executive Committee told the panel that the "recurrent problems arising from the way JNU is being governed is impossible to address while the current vice-chancellor continues in office".
JNU protest: Panel to visit campus, will hold meet with students today
The three-member high-powered panel will visit JNU campus on Friday to hold a second meeting with the students. The first meeting was held with JNU Students Union (JNUSU) office-bearers, student counsellors and hostel presidents on Wednesday at HRD Ministry.
However, a section of the university's teachers expressed unhappiness over the constitution of the high-powered panel and said it may complicate the current situation.
They also accused the JNUTA of "being hand in glove" with the protesters and alleged the agitating students had held a professor hostage for over 24 hours during the fee-hike protests.
Meanwhile, the students' agitation has got the support from Sanjaya Baru, the media advisor to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Former JNU Students' Union president N Sai Balaji shared a video in which Baru, a JNU alumnus, said, "At a time when almost every year we are spending almost six billion dollars on Indians studying abroad, it is extremely important to save public universities."
"Jawaharlal Nehru University is one of the best public universities according to the HRD ministry's ranking and it is important to ensure that good students can study at affordable costs," he said.
The agitation over hiked hostel fee escalated on November 11 when thousands of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students clashed with police, leaving HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' stranded for over six hours at the venue of the university's convocation.
A week later, students staged a march from the university campus to HRD Ministry but were stopped at multiple locations and finally outside the Safdarjung tomb. The protesters alleged that the police had lathicharged and manhandled them, including a blind student, which led to a fresh protest by a group of visually challenged students.
The mother of missing JNU student, Najeeb Ahmed, visited the university on Thursday and met the visually challenged student, Shashi Bhushan Pandey at the campus and expressed solidarity with the cause of the protesting students.