Skip to main content

TISS Hyderabad: Burden of funds cut falls on students from 'marginalized' sections

Counterview Desk
Top activists associated with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), a civil society network, including Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Dr Binayak Sen, and Prafulla Samantara, has protested against the decision of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) administration for “sine die” closure of TISS, Hyderabad Campus, even as “denying” hostel access to Dalit and Adivasi students.
Addressed to Prof Shalini Bharat, director, TISS, Mumbai, acting deputy director Prof U Vindhya,TISS, Hyderabad, and MP Balamurugan, acting registrar, TISS, Hyderabad, the letter states that the students’ protests in favour of their demands to ensure “inclusive and accessible education are completely are “fair and reasonable”, asking the authorities to lift the closure order and “take necessary steps to ensure that Dalit, Adivasi and other students from marginalized and Bahujan backgrounds have access to hostels and other amenities.”

Text

We are deeply disturbed and dismayed at the unprecedented decision of the administration of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to suddenly ‘close down sine die’ its Hyderbaad off-campus in the wake of a week-long protest by the student community. We are also quite concerned at the manner in which the administration has sought to ‘respond’ to the peaceful protests of the students, which include young dalit, adivasi and women students.
From across the country, we have been witnessing the multiple rounds of protests by the students of TISS since last year, with completely fair and reasonable demands to ensure inclusive and accessible education, especially to students from marginalized backgrounds. It is a very unfortunate state of affairs that students have to repeatedly keep protesting for their legitimate demands and this time around, about 13 students had to even go on a hunger strike for the third consecutive day.
It has come to our notice that the administration has arbitrarily decided that students should pay Rs 54,650 upfront for tuition fee and hostel, without which they will not be allowed access to hostel accommodation.
This is clearly an exclusionary step whereby most students belonging to socio-economically marginalized communities will not be able to continue education and in an indirect way reinforces rigid caste structures whereby students only from certain social locations can access quality education. Such a huge monetary expectation runs contrary to the spirit and purpose of an exemplary institution like TISS as well as the previous guidelines which stipulated payment of Rs 15,000 as accommodation charges over three instalments.
In addition to the demand of reinstating the earlier fee structure, the TISS Hyderabad Student Action Committee (SAC) also raised in its Charter of Demands the need to enable those students unable to immediately pay the dining hall fee with the option of paying their dues once their student aid and scholarship amounts are disbursed.
The fulfilment of this demand requires that the institute provide an assurance to the service provider (the private party running hostel on TISS campus) to this effect, which the administration is reportedly unwilling to do.
It is also quite disconcerting that the TISS management seems unwilling to uphold principles of transparency and display its tender documents and contract with the private party, CN Reddy, despite repeated demands from students. This is even more worrying since the private party is charging the students hostel fee for 6 months at an exorbitant rate of Rs. 8,600 per month, while the semester itself is only for a period of four months (while reportedly the same service provider charges Rs 4,500 outside)!
Students have also been complaining that the location of the girls’ hostel is unsafe, with many women facing street sexual harassment near the hostel. However, we are informed that the administration has denied responsibility for their living conditions, stating that the campus is ‘non-residential’ from the current academic year.
Furthermore, the only ‘solution’ that the private hostel owner now offers to the girl students is a suggestion to ‘return back by 9:30 pm’! It is also a matter of record that with no campus of its own, the TISS-Hyderabad has shifted thrice, first from the Roda Ministry Social Work Campus, Gachibowli to the Telangana State Institute of Panchayati Raj and Rural Development campus, Rajendra nagar to Turkyamanjal now, which is further away from the city.
We would like to state that we have perused through the letter dt. 12th July, 2019 from Prof. U. Vindhya, Deputy Director (Acting) TISS, Hyderabad Off-campus addressed to the students as well as the Sine Die Notice dated July 15 of Acting Registrar MP Balamurugan and understand that over the past week some efforts were being taken by the administration to have a dialogue and address some of the demands of the students, although not to their complete satisfaction and in writing.
We also acknowledge the initiative taken meanwhile by TISS to approve an interim, financial support of Rs 15,000 for each GOI-PMS student to pay the Service Provider for admission into the hostel, benefitting about 26 GOI-PMS student (out of a reported 36 eligible students). However, as the students rightly point out, these are piece-meal efforts and what is required is a more structured and sustainable solution to the issue that is available both to the present and subsequent batches of students. 
As you all are well aware, the very legitimate agitation of the students at TISS-Hyderabad is situated within the larger struggle to ensure a nation-wide fully state-funded common education system that would uphold and not undermine the ideal of social justice. Previously, fee waiver of SC, ST, OBC (NC) students who avail GOI-PMS got cancelled in TISS. 
Exclusionary steps may force students from socio-economically marginalized communities to give up  education
High hostel prices and limited student aid has over the years led to a reduction in the number of SC, ST students on the campus. We are told, to our anguish that, as of now, there are only 26 students in the Hyderabad campus that study through GOI-PMS. The burden of the fund cuts of the institute is being shifted on the students from marginalized communities and this is certainly not in keeping with our constitutional spirit. This is a slow death of public higher education, where education is becoming a commodity only a few can afford.
In the past decade, we have been witness to protests by students as well as progressive faculty across the country trying to resist attempts of the state from withdrawal of higher education and during these years TISS was an institute that many of us ‘looked up to’ for upholding a certain degree of social commitment.
However, of late, the direction of the Institute has been quite disturbing and with this turn of events in Hyderabad the glorious history of TISS working as an institution to promote social justice values providing equitable access to education has been dented further. 
We also wish to state emphatically that campus issues need to be resolved amicably by the administration, faculty and students and nothing can justify calling in the police to deal with peaceful protests. The sine die closure order, asking all the students to vacate the campus by 5 pm, reflects badly on the institution which is unable to address the issue and rather affecting the education of all other students.
We earnestly appeal to administration, faculty and students to engage in another round of constructive dialogue and amicably resolve the matter. Given the power hierarchy, the administration clearly has a greater role in this context.
We stand in solidarity with the student community at this moment in their struggle to uphold ideals of social justice and their right to seek accessible, quality education with safety and dignity. It pains us to state that the approach of a) not engaging adequately and comprehensively with the student’s demands and b) unilaterally shutting down the Hyderabad centre, does not behove an institution of the nature and statue of TISS. In the light of the above, we call upon you to immediately:
  • Revoke the administrative order to close the Hyderabad Centre of TISS of sine die.
  • Take necessary steps to ensure that Dalit, Adivasi and other students from marginalized and Bahujan backgrounds have access to hostels and other amenities. 
  • Ensure proper medical support to students who have been on hunger strike for the past three days. 
We look forward to immediate response and action from you in the interests of the students and justice.

Comments

TRENDING

New Odia CM's tribal heritage 'sets him apart' from Hindutva Brahminical norms

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Mohan Charan Majhi took the oath as the new Chief Minister of Odisha following the electoral defeat of the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik, who served as Chief Minister for twenty-four years. The new Chief Minister is the son of a security guard and a four-time MLA who hails from the remote village of Raikala in the Keonjhar district. He belongs to the Santali tribe and comes from a working-class family. Such achievements and political mobilities are possible only in a democratic society. Majhi’s leadership even in the form of symbolic representation in a democracy deserves celebration.

Pellet gun fire severely injures Dalit worker off Bangladesh border

By Kirity Roy*  This is regarding an incident of firing pellets by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel attached with Panchadoji Border Outpost of ‘E’ Company of 90 BSF Battalion on a Schedule Caste youth of village Parmananda under Dinhata Police Station of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The victim was severely injured and one portion of his face became disfigured due to pellet firing by the BSF.

Sanction to persecute Arundhati Roy under UAPA politically motivated: PUCL

Counterview Network  Top human rights group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, has demanded that the authorities should immediately withdraw the prosecution against top author Arundhati Roy and Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Kashmir academic, under the " unconstitutional"  Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (UAPA), calling the Delhi  Lieutenant-Governor nod for the Delhi police move "politically motivated".

What stops Kavach? Why no time to focus on common trains meant for common people?

By Atanu Roy  A goods train rammed into Kanchenjunga Express on 17th June morning in North Bengal. This could have been averted if the time tested anti-collision system (Kavach) was in place. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Lip-service on World Environment Day vs 'watered-down' eco-safeguards

By Shankar Sharma*  Just a few days ago, the world remembered the routinely forgotten global environment on the occasion of World Environment Day, briefly though, maybe just for the day. There were reports of a few high profile ceremonies in different parts of the country, including a few in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the people of our country to plant one tree per each person as a mark of respect/ gratitude for our mothers.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.