Students of Pondicherry University (Screen-grab, Copyrights: Edex)
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35 days have passed since the Students of Pondicherry University started their protest over the steep fee hike. While the administration has decided to move to court, the students are not ready to call off the strikes.

A poster published in the student’s union page reads, ” The doors of courts open to the students too #NotAnInchBack”. But why are these students protesting? What had been the response of the administration? Here are some details

Why are the students protesting?

From the Protest March at University (Screen-grab, Copyrights: PU Students Council 2019-20)

Like many other central universities, the Pondicherry University administration had suddenly increased the academic fees. An 83 percent fee hike was implemented by the admin. While the total fees for all the courses amounted to Rs4,42,900 in 2018-19, it was increased to 8,11,998 this year. The university also had introduced a transport fee of Rs. 4000 per annum.

The hike is uneven across departments and courses. There is even a 225 percent hike in certain departments. Though the university had proposed a hike in fees last year in the prospectus, an indefinite hunger strike had led the varsity to reduce the hike suggested for MBA, MCA, and M.Sc (Computer Science) courses and Ph.D.

The university had set up a grievance committee, to address the issue of fee hike. Though the students met with the committee there had been no positive response. The students also complained that the Vice-Chancellor did not attend any of the meetings, leading to further protests.

“Boycott Classes, Occupy Admin”

From the Protest March (Screen-grab, Copyrights: PU Students Council 2019-20)

As the administration failed to roll back the academic fee, the students boycotted classes and occupied the admin block of the varsity.

Soon after the call to occupy admin was given, the registrar released a circular – in an attempt to repress the protest asking the departments to forward details of the students who were boycotting classes. The students wanted the university to roll back the fee hike, a transportation fee waiver and 25 percent reservation for Puducherry students in all courses.

“The hike in the fee structure will deny a large section of our society access to a central higher education university,” the student council said.

Meanwhile justifying the hike, University said, ” “Any amendments to a fee structure after nearly a decade or in some cases over three decades would show an exponential increase and not linear increase patterns.”

“The doors of the court open to the students too”

The poster released by students (Copyrights: PU Students Council 2019-20)

The students also launched an indefinite hunger strike on February 28th. Five students who initially participated in the strike were rushed to hospital on the fifth day and they were replaced by another five students.

Following this, the registrar filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court. The Court has now directed the students to call off the protest in order to create a conducive environment for deliberations with the administration.

Though the students have now withheld the strike, they plan to approach the High Court as well. Responding to the admin, the union posted on their social media handle, “The doors of the court open to the students too.”

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