In Delhi University's North Campus, student bodies across political lines, it appears, are united in their defiance of Swachh Bharat.
Ahead of the elections, which are scheduled for 12 September, every other wall is taped with posters and the streets are besieged by a sea of pamphlets. While some continue to believe that paper wastage isn't as big a problem as chemical or industrial wastage, data from the Studies conducted by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), as quoted by NITI-Aayog's 2015 report of the sub-group of chief ministers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, shows that solid waste composition has changed rapidly during 1996-2011. If in 1996, paper composed 3.63 percent of the country's solid waste then in 2011, the figure stood at 9.63 percent.
Just last week, the Delhi High Court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) expressed their shock over the massive misuse of pamphlets, flyers and posters during the DUSU elections. A high court bench asked authorities to inspect areas where such posters had been put up by student wings and sought an action report before the next date of hearing on 11 September, a day before the elections. The court is hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Prashant Manchanda, alleging disruption of classrooms by candidates and student outfits.
Judgments have been made in the past but haven't as such managed to intervene. In July 2016, the NGT principal bench responded to an application regarding directing paperless canvassing in DUSU elections and ensuring of environment-friendly methods of campaigning. The applicant raised the issue of large-scale abuse of paper in canvassing for the election for the Delhi University and South University Unions and to curtail this abuse.
Counsel appearing on behalf of the applicant submitted: "This Tribunal has taken cognizance of the wrong to the environment caused on account of the indiscreet use of paper in elections resulting in environmental degradation. It is true that the abuse of paper finally adds to the pollution load on the environment."
The same order stated that the University Grants Commission (UGC) reveals that it has no power to direct and regulate the conduct of the elections to the student unions in the university. So, it directed that the respondents 'shall not allow use/pasting of posters/pamphlets everywhere within the campus and public streets by the students but only allow the candidates contesting elections or their pre-notified student agents to utilise handmade posters at certain notified places not exceeding two within each campus'.
Another point it makes is that the respondents 'shall strictly enforce the Lyngdoh Commission recommendations and for that purpose frame rules or incorporate in the rules governing the student body elections stringent provisions – even to the extent of disqualifying the concerned contestants for implementation of the said recommendations including these directions.'
The Lyngdoh Committee was set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2006 as per the direction of the Supreme Court to reform students' union elections and to get rid of money and muscle power in student politics. Here are the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations specific to cleanliness:
"No candidate shall be permitted to make use of printed posters, printed pamphlets, or any other printed material for the purpose of canvassing. Candidates may only utilize handmade posters for the purpose of canvassing, provided that such hand-made posters are procured within the expenditure limit set out herein above. Candidates may only utilize hand-made posters at certain places in the campus, which shall be notified in advance by the election commission/University authority. No candidate shall, nor shall his/her supporters, deface or cause any destruction to any property of the university/college campus, for any purpose whatsoever, without the prior written permission of the college/university authorities. All candidates shall be held jointly and severally liable for any destruction /defacing of any university/college property. All candidates shall be jointly responsible for ensuring the cleaning up of the polling area within 48 hours of the conclusion of the polling."
We asked both the NSUI and ABVP candidates about the excessive use of paper while campaigning. ABVP's presidential candidate Rajat Choudhary said that the NSUI had put up more posters and then moved on to other issues his party is focusing on – metro fair, lack of hostels and women's safety at night.
We also asked Avinash Yadav of the NSUI, who is contesting for the post of joint secretary, about the environment and he immediately reacted by saying that the ABVP has made the university's environment violent and volatile.
Independent candidate Raja Choudhary told Firstpost that he had received threats from ABVP saying they'd cancel his nomination. They let him retain his candidacy only after his supporters staged a protest. "In the Lyngdoh Committee, it is stated that students will be the representatives and student bodies cannot overpower them. Among the many other recommendations of the committee that are being violated is a budget ceiling of Rs 5,000 per candidate and paperless campaigning," he elaborated.
His supporters can be seen on campus carrying hand-coloured chart papers, staging a silent procession. Raja has now been given security following his complaint to the police and the chief election commissioner about being beaten up and threatened by the ABVP.
In this social media age, it might be logical and easier to go paperless. Unlike in JNU, where satire and poetry are sketched on walls and street plays and parodies lend rhythm to the elections, a typical DU wall will carry a cluster of similar posters – bearing only the name and party of the candidate and sometimes a ballot box number.
It lacks the sort of creativity that is expected from young minds committing themselves to democracy and change. Instead, an arrogant violation of guidelines and a flashy show of power foster an environment of hostility, making both the students and the locals tense.
Updated Date: Sep 12, 2017 14:03 PM