By Arundhati Roy
New Delhi: New Delhi witnesses an influx of thousands of students every year for the sole purpose of getting admitted to its premier institution—Delhi University. With hopes riding on their back and starry eyes, these students come in search for a way to pave their paths and shape their dreams. Dodging sky-rocketing cut-offs and landing themselves into the best of colleges in the country, you might think that there is no stopping for these young minds. But soon enough these dreams face a road block, obstructed by the need to survive with bare minimum. That is when DU begins to show its ugly side that tends to remain veiled by the exciting and glamorous outer layer.
The slogan, “8,000 ka room, 5,000 ka khana, mushkil ho gaya Papa ke tankhwa mein padh pana” has come to address this emotion right on target, faced by the majority of the students studying in DU. Praveen Singh, an alumnus of the University and the convenor of the ‘Right to Accommodation’ movement, has been trying to get the issue addressed by the concerned authorities since September 2014. Angered by the lack of hostel seats and affordable living conditions for students, a group of young change-makers had started this movement demanding the implementation of section 33 of Delhi University Act 1922, under which the University is bound to provide accommodation to every student. The baffling bit of this story is that the University itself was oblivious to this Act, denying it on the grounds of non-feasibility due to the ever increasing student count.
“Even though the DU administration had assured that the demands will be met to call off the strike, a year later nothing has been said or done on the issue”, was what Praveen Singh had to say when asked about the responses to his dharna.
The indefinite strike, being hosted outside gate number 1 of the Arts Faculty building, is already a month old. Innumerable rallies and demonstrations have already been conducted around areas predominantly inhabited by students like Nehru Vihar, Christian Colony, Munirka, Gandhi Vihar and Mukherjee Nagar. DU V-C gherao was organised on September 15 to gain the attention of varsity’s vice chancellor Dr Dinesh Singh but to no avail. Next in line is an Indefinite Hunger Strike which is on cards from October 2.
“This movement is not just for me and you; it is for all the students who are yet to enrol into this university. It is now upon us to decide what legacy we wish to leave behind for the generations to come,” Praveen Singh said as he urged every student to join them in their Indefinite Hunger Strike.
Given to the exorbitant land rates in this part of the country, it becomes difficult for outstation students to solely depend upon private accommodations. The situation is even worse for female students as most of the co-ed colleges do not provide hostel facilities to women. This puts a lot of pressure on outstation students from lower strata of the middle class families as they can hardly cough up the rent realised by PG vallahs and local landlords. If that’s not all, the hassle of paying brokerage is another headache that the students wish to avoid. Adding to their woes is the landlords’ unwillingness to issue receipts or undertake general maintenance of the rooms given out on Emphasizing the need to ‘start’ building multiple floors on top of the already existing hostels, Singh believes that his demands are feasible and needs implementation at the earliest. Delhi University should take the responsibility of making arrangements for accommodation in the vicinity of college campuses.
Burdened by the weight to pay the rent along with the tension to feed his stomach, an average DU student has come to a point where he has to think twice before pulling out a 50 rupee note from his wallet. Both the Delhi Government and Delhi University need to take this matter more seriously in order to be able to call itself a truly ‘global university’.