34 students of Central University of Orissa (CUO) were hospitalised after their health deteriorated due to participation in the hunger strike. The students have been demanding better learning and living facilities in the University from March 1. Vice Chancellor (VC) Prof. Sachidananda Mohanty had refused to speak with the students and had declared indefinite shutdown of University on March 15. Police were called to apprehend students who failed to leave the University during the shutdown.
When the University reopened after the shutdown, on April 3, students inspected if their demands had been met, they said. When they saw that no demands except for the one for lights in bathrooms had been met, they started agitation and hunger strike.
‘Students are falling down unconscious as I speak,’ said a student over the phone to TWJ on March 5. One of the students is said to have vomited blood. As of March 6, 2018, nearly 40 students have been taken to the hospital after they fainted. The students said that no vehicle was provided to them and that they had to stop riders on the road to help them take their fellow students to the hospital.
The University authorities including Heads of Departments told the students that they should quit the strike and join classes. As more and more students fainted, VC Mohanty ‘agreed’ to have a talk with the students on March 5. The students said that the discussion lasted three hours and that they put forward the problems they were facing. The students had earlier submitted a charter of 60 demands. The VC is said to have given assurance that these demands will be taken care of. The students have demanded that he give it in writing and expect to receive the order today (March 6).
The demands include initiating a procedure to establish a students’ council, an entity that CUO lacks. There are demands that concern the functioning, maintenance, and installation of a number of facilities on campus, in hostels and in academic buildings. Others range from fitting lamps in bathrooms to providing ATMs and card swiping facilities on campus. Copy machines and printers, water supply in hostels, wi-fi facility for students, setting up of a students’ council, an auditorium, appointment of permanent faculty, setting up of a medical facility on campus are also part of the charter.
Students said that the situation is now calm and classes have resumed. ‘We are waiting for the decisions in writing. If (it is) not (given) we will continue strike,’ a student said.
VC Mohanty refused to speak with TWJ regarding the situation.
Earlier, following the strike by the students, allegations and documents of financial irregularities had surfaced against VC Mohanty.
In a 30 paged letter sent by ex-Registrar Rajive Chauhan addressed to the VC, and copied to 16 other heads and committees of administration on 28 October 2017, it was alleged that Mohanty, who joined CUO as VC on 7 August 2015, illegally and unconstitutionally removed three statutory key University officers (Registrar, Finance Officer and Controller of Examinations) from their positions in November 2015.
There was also a list of financial misconduct in 25 or more instances, where funds were allocated for the personal needs of the VC violating audit and vigilance rules.