Protest over fee hike at Allahabad University crossed two weeks and continued to intensify, even as the management stuck to its justification on two counts — that it’s the first hike in 100 years, and the fees are still lower that other universities’. “In fact, I am saving the university,” said Vice-Chancellor Sangita Shrivastava.
The university cited the underlying reason in the first line of its press note last week too: “A clear message has been given to universities by the government that they will have to arrange funds at their own level, and reduce their dependence on the government.”
Citing an example, it said the post-hike fee for undergraduate course in science, at Rs 4,151 a year, is “the lowest compared to all other central universities”. It also mentioned that the tuition fee — one component of the total fee — was “Rs 12 per month for over 100 years”.
But students continue to demand a rollback of the hike, which has seen fees go up by 400 per cent in some cases.
More of them poured petrol on themselves — one climbed a building with a gas cylinder — but they were stopped by police and fellow protesters from setting fire.
Police used the water cannon when protesters laid siege to the Vice-Chancellor’s office. Rain did not deter them either.
Abhishek Yadav, one of the agitating students, said, “At least 100 students have poured petrol on themselves, and now thousands will do the same if our demand isn’t accepted.”
The protest subsided somewhat after police assured the students of talks with the university administration.
Santosh Kumar Meena, a senior police officer, said, “Like yesterday, some students became furious, and we had to use force. We told them they should not get so angry when the university administration is coming forward for talks.”
The logjam is likely to continue as Vice-Chancellor reiterated that the fee hike “is a must”, and was approved by the executive council of the 135-year-old institution. “The university has been suffering a teacher crunch. Some departments had just one or two teachers left. I have now been able to make 162 appointments, and we will appoint 56 more. Only after that can we implement the National Education Policy by next year. A lot of things have to be put in place.”
On the protesters, she said, “They have been troubling [the university authorities] a lot. But these things don’t impact me.”
Citing high fees of private universities, she claimed, “These youngsters are unable to see what I am seeing. I am looking at the next 30 years.”