New Delhi: On December 5, 2019, minister for human resource development Ramesh Pokhriyal responded to the Rajya Sabha over the fee hike debate in Jawaharlal Nehru University by stating that the revision in hostel charges was happening after 40 years to cover the increase in the cost of running hostels.
The first two parts of the question put by three members of the Upper House were the following: “(a) whether it is a fact that there has been a significant fee hike in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi; (b) if so, details of heads under which the fees have been increased.”
JNU Teacher’s Association (JNUTA) president D.K. Lobiyal condemned the MHRD’s response, saying it was creating a misleading impression on the reasons as well as the extent of the fee hike.
JNUTA secretary Surajit Mazumdar claimed that relevant information was partially concealed in the response.
He explained, “In addition to the room rent, even before the current revision there already existed several other heads under which students were charged – like mess bill, mess security, establishment charges, crockery and utensil charges, newspaper charges, etc. While the mess bill is as per actual cost of food and has increased enormously over the last 40 years because of rise in food prices, the university has successively increased the other charges too.”
Several charges have been doubled as recently as January 2018, JNUTA has pointed out.
The revision that students are opposing includes new heads of charges – namely utility and service charges – and the major part of the increase in fees is through these heads. JNUTA believes that by levying hefty fee hikes, the university wants to shift the expenditures that have till now been its responsibility, including the salaries of hostel staff, on to the students.
Mazumdar said, “This is by no means a change that can be justified in the name of covering increases in the expenditure for running hostels.”
If what is now being proposed is implemented, the annual hostel charges paid by resident students will increase by Rs 15,600 to Rs 19,200 – which would be over and above the Rs 30,000-35,000 they were already paying. If the original intention of the vice-chancellor was carried out, the increase would be between Rs 27,600 and Rs 31,200 (and an additional increase of the refundable mess security from Rs 5,500 to Rs 12,000).
The teachers’ wing asked, “If this is not a significant hike, what is?” They called the MHRD’s response a deliberate manipulation of facts in parliament.
JNUTA demanded that the vice-chancellor be held accountable for the “misconduct” of the administration. They have also decided to raise this matter with the chairman of the Rajya Sabha.