The protest at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) entered the fifth day as students, who are agitating against withdrawal of financial aid given to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) scholars at the institute, showed no signs of relenting. The Students' Union has been protesting since Wednesday against the withdrawal of financial aid to the Government of India-Post Matriculation Scholarship (GOI-PMS) students from SC/ST category across all the campuses of the institute.
The protests, which are being anchored in Mumbai, are also being held at different centres of TISS — Tuljapur (in Maharashtra), Hyderabad and Guwahati, reports said. According to reports, the students have told TISS authorities that they won't back down unless the demands are met.
Protests began last Wednesday
Last Tuesday, the TISS Students' Union announced a strike across all campuses of the institute from 21 February against the administration demanding tuition, dining hall and hostel fees from scholarship students. The association stated that students studying at TISS under scholarship are exempted from paying such fees. "All talks and mediation with the administration over the past several months have failed. The students’ union of TISS calls for a university strike across TISS campuses on 21 February. We call for boycotting all classes, field work and submissions," TISS Students' Union President Archana Soreng was quoted as saying by PTI.
The Centre's GOI-PMS issue stands unresolved since the institute has notified its withdrawal from all forms of financial aid to students, she claimed. "Now students, both current and newcomers, will have to pay their full fees even as they wait for their state scholarship amounts to come," Soreng said.
The association has also demanded a notification from the institute about ways in which financial assistance for the PMS students of the upcoming batch of 2018-2020 will be provided. Explaining the issue, Soreng said that the institute, without mentioning anything in the prospectus, was now demanding tuition, dining hall (DH) and hostel fee from scholarship students of the 2016-18 batch.
"The administration has also said that the 2017-2019 batch will have to pay the full fee for the dining hall and hostel as the notification was out in May 2017 before they took admission and they were very well aware about the notification.
"But the argument cannot be bought as the notification was released in May 2017 in between the admission process, not before the admission process was initiated," she said.
"On Thursday, the administration had agreed to exempt the SC/ST students of the 2016-18 batch from paying the hostel and dining hall fees," Professor PK Shajahan, Dean, Office of Students' Affairs at TISS told IANS. "If they are not able to pay now, they can pay it later when they get a job or scholarship is credited to their account. They will be allowed to appear for their examinations," he said.
However, a Union leader rejected this offer. "The 2016-18 batch SC/ST students have been told that they need not pay the fees now, but after they get jobs. Payment has been postponed, not waived off," the student leader said, adding that the administration has not promised any relief for the OBC students and students of the 2017-2019 batch and upcoming batches. The students decided to continue with their protest till the demands are fulfilled, even as the TISS administration said that they have not stopped any scholarships and are strictly following all government guidelines.
Meanwhile, in an official statement TISS clarified and "categorically" denied "having stopped any scholarships for its students, and is continuing to follow all Government of India guidelines on student welfare." The statement further said that these scholarships are transferred by the government concerned directly to the student bank accounts. "The Institute has no role either in the sanction or disbursement of the scholarships. The role of the Institute is restricted to only certifying the bona fides of the student applicants. Therefore, the claim that the TISS administration has stopped GOI Post Matric Scholarships for eligible reserved category students is incorrect."
The statement was issued on 24 February. "We are working to find resources and hope that we will be in a position to provide further subsidisation for the coming batches as well," IANS quoted Shajahan as saying.
The Post Matric Scholarship scheme is a centrally sponsored scheme implemented by the state governments, providing financial assistance to the Scheduled Caste students studying at post matriculation or post-secondary stage to enable them to complete their education.
On Wednesday, after securing a successful shut down of all classes in the campus, around 500 students gathered at the TISS main gate and blocked the gate. Since then, the protesting students have been sitting at the main gate of the campus, even sleeping there at night.
TISS students at the Hyderabad, Guwahati and Tuljapur campuses also held protests. The students are getting the support of TISS SC/ST Employees Welfare Association and the TISS Teachers' Association. They are also being supported by TISS alumni along with students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Delhi University Student Union, All India Students' Association, among others.
Latest in student protests
According to latest reports, faculty members, alumni and student bodies of various institutes across the country have extended their support to the protests. "We want all four of our demands met, unconditionally and will not give in. Students are anguished and frustrated," The Indian Express quoted Fahad Ahmad, general secretary, TISS Students’ Union, as saying. Warning of intensifying protests if their demands weren't met, Ahmad told The Indian Express that the students are prepared to "gherao the residence of Ramdas Athawale," Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment.
Here are the demands made by the students:
According to reports, the students have made three demands from the authorities:
- Fee exemption to SC, ST and OBC students who are eligible for GoI-PMS.
- Extension of Financial aid mechanism for more students.
- Government of India should increase allocation to centrally and state funded universities and the PMS provisions so that no student is denied the right to higher education.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Feb 26, 2018 16:08:15 IST