Students at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Hyderabad have been protesting outside the academic block since July, 8 – not allowing the faculty to enter.
The administration, in the last week of June, notified students about the hostel’s fee structure asking them to make an upfront payment of Rs 54,650 if they want to stay in the hostel. According to students, hostellers – availing the government of India post-metric scholarship (GOI-PMS) – had to pay only Rs 15,000 in three instalments before this.
As soon as the students got the news, they wrote several emails to the administration asking them to restore the previous fee structure. The college’s student action committee (SAC), in their brief charter of demands said, “for the students who are unable to pay the dining hall fee immediately to be provided the option to pay off their dues once they receive the students aid and scholarships.”
For this, the administration had to give assurances to the service providers – a private entity managing hostels. Students, however, said that when one of the GOI-PMS students went to her hostel, the service provider said that they didn’t have any such information.
One July 9, a day after the agitation, the college’s office of student affairs released a statement saying that the hostels are run by a private body and that the administration will bear the “students’ accommodation and dining charges for the entire year at one go.”
Further, they also said that the they have requested the service provider to “accept partial payment” and provide hostel accommodation “on case by case basis to which he [service providers] has agreed.”
Students also say that the administration is not ready to come up with a final solution to the problem and instead, they are dealing with particular instances in a case-by-case basis.
“The administration is refusing to address this as a blanket issue for the GOI-PMS students. They are addressing it case by case for a couple of students. For one such student, they have sent a mail to the service provider asking them to let her stay in the hostel if she makes two months’ payment. But what about other students?” said Debarati Choudhary, SAC member.
She also pointed out that the fund cuts in the education budget shall not affect the hostel fee because, as mentioned above, they are run by a non-governmental body. “The service providers are private bodies and therefore can’t be affected by the education budget. The college administration must interfere and reintstate the previous order but are not doing so,” she added.
Moreover, all hostel-related details are up on the institute’s website which, according to students, shouldn’t be the case if the hostels don’t come under the administration.
The service provider, C.N. Reddy, said that he has no say in the decisions taken by the administration, adding that he would like to “step down from the role of managing TISS hostels immediately and urge the students and management to take a decision on this.”
With no satisfactory response from the administration, students decided to start a signature campaign assuring the service providers that the GOI-PMS students will make the full payment as soon as they receive their scholarship amount. Students also came together to agitate outside the academic block to build further pressure.
The administration, on July 10, wrote an email to students’ parents saying that the institute “responded positively and promised a resolution on a case-by-case basis.” They also said that necessary action will be taken if students continue to protest.
On the same day, according to SAC, the college’s equal opportunity cell and the chairperson met the GOI-PMS students to hear their grievances. However, students say that the meeting was not only “humiliating and intimidating,” but also the college’s inability to pay for the hostel was “framed as their [students’] unwillingness to stay in the hostel.”
A student who attended the meeting said that non GOI-PMS students were not allowed inside and the college administration allegedly said that four students misbehaved with them. She says that nothing of that sort happened.
In a statement released by SAC, several students were diagnosed with food poisoning. The reasons, according to the statement, are “contaminated water and unhygienic food.”
According to a student, a chairperson of one department visited the hospital but left the place without paying any attention to what the students were trying to say. “The students were mentioning their concerns regarding food poisoning and contamination etc., but he completely ignored them. And asked them to have breakfast with him – that was his solution. He did not even let the students speak,” she said.
The students have decided to continue with the agitation and resort to legal recourse if the administration doesn’t comply with their demands.
All images: Special arrangement