“We have been asked to pay for the college fest. We have been asked to pay for the sports facilities at the college. We have been asked to pay for the laboratory maintenance. All of this when the college is shut. Why?” asked a student of National Institute of Technology (NIT), Calicut, while referring to the fee being demanded by the institution.
NITs across the country – there are 31 in total – have asked students to pay the tuition fee of Rs 62,000 as well as the miscellaneous fee for maintenance-related expenses even though college campuses are still closed. This miscellaneous fee varies from college to college.
Students have been asked to make the payment by the end of this month to be able to register for the next semester. According to the notification, students will be fined if they fail to make the payment before the deadline.
“The funniest part is they’re charging Rs 500 per day as late fees and Rs 200 per day as late registration fine up to September 15. That’s going to burden those who might have already looked in every nook and corner to arrange that amount in the first place so much more,” said a student from NIT Hamirpur.
‘Why are we paying for unused resources?’
While the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (now the Education Ministry) has decided a common tuition fee for all the NITs, students say that the colleges can at least let them pay the whole amount in instalments as the ongoing pandemic has hit India hard economically.
The students have also bee asking questions about why the whole amount is being demanded in the first place as most of the college’s amenities have been lying unused since March.
“I shouldn’t have to pay the whole amount because all the study materials I am using are all from online sites. I am not going to the library. I am not using any of the college facilities. I don’t think it is fair to ask us to pay for the same,” said a third-year student from Bangladesh at NIT Calicut.
While NIT Calicut has allowed some students to pay the fee in instalments, which is also going to be a hard task for a few, other institutions have set a fixed deadline and have only said that they will “look into the matter”.
The plight of international students is multifold. First, they have been stuck away from their home countries in the middle of a pandemic and secondly, the fee that they have to pay is “humongous” in comparison to the amount to be paid by Indian students.
All international students at the NITs are registered under the DASA (Direct Admission of Students Abroad) category and those who are from the SAARC countries have to pay $2,000 (Rs 1,49,528.60 ) and those from non-SAARC countries have to pay $4,000 (2,99,057.20).
“I can’t pay it all at once because the situation back home is not that stable right now. Also, the amount is much higher for me than the average Indian student,” said the student from Bangladesh. “It’s already hard for me to manage the expenses due to the lockdown and now I will have to pay for things that I haven’t even been using.”
At NIT Calicut, there are students from Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Afghanistan and a few other countries who couldn’t go back home after the lockdown and are have been stuck in the college’s hostel.“I feel we should get some kind of a recession because it is a hard time for everyone,” said one student.
Situation in Kashmir
Students at NIT Kashmir have been stuck in the same boat much before the pandemic even started as they have been paying the full amount for many previous months despite the campus mostly being closed since August 5, 2019 when Article 370 was revoked by the Centre.
“We have been under lockdown since August 5, 2019, the day when Article 370 was scrapped, and our college only opened for 60-70 days at the end of the year. But we have been paying the tuition fee, miscellaneous fee and even the mess fee for the whole semester,” said a student from NIT Srinagar. “Our college somehow managed to complete the syllabus, but we don’t know what we studied.”
According to the students, there is always a curfew once or twice a week and now their college has been turned into a quarantine centre. Currently, students are writing their semester exams using 2G internet services because 4G data services have only been restored in the Ganderbal district of Kashmir and Udhampur district of Jammu.
Although the college’s director issued a notice to its staff asking them to look into the problems faced by the students in Kashmir and those stuck in flood-ridden areas, the notice reached them after their theory exams were held.
“We received the notice at the end of our theory exam and now we are writing our practicals without even attending any of the lab classes,” added the student. The college, the student says, only sends YouTube links for lab preparation and then the students have to upload their answer sheets on google classroom (which runs on 2G) for evaluation. “It took me over 48 minutes to upload my answer paper (of 10 MB) for today’s exam,” said the student.
In such a situation, students ask, how can the college charge the same as students in other states with good internet connection and other facilities.
Ministers write to the MHRD
NIT students have been running a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #reducenittutionfees for the past couple of weeks to draw the authorities’ attention to the issue. After two such Twitter storms, a few ministers from Kerala have written to the MHRD requesting them to either cancel the tuition fee or provide concession to the students.
The ministers include Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam of the Community Party of India, Lok Sabha MP M.K. Raghavan of the Indian National Congress and Rajya Sabha MP Elamaram Kareem of the Community Party of India.
LiveWire has written to the joint secretary of the MHRD seeking their response on the matter and will update this copy if and when a reply comes in.
Featured image credit: PTI