On September 11, Pravin Kumar, a second-year outstation student of MA Buddhist Studies and the founder of Students Right to Accommodation at Delhi University, was picked up by police around midnight from the Faculty of Arts. Kumar and 20-odd outstation students had been on a 10-day hunger strike to demand more hostel seats, subsidized canteen facilities, 24x7 library facility and a centralized hostel admission system for DU students.
Students allege their ‘peaceful’ hunger strike was disrupted by police and the group’s convener Kamlesh Kumar Mishra was run over by a police ambulance when he tried to block their way. “There were around 70 policemen from the Maurice Nagar Police Station who came to disperse the gathering. But when I resisted by lying down in front of the ambulance in which Pravin was being taken away, one of the inspectors ordered the ambulance to run me over,” says Mishra, who broke his leg.
This isn’t a one-off occurrence. Several independent and political students’ groups have been raising the issue of lack of infrastructure and hostel facilities for students from outside Delhi. However, the movement has picked up pace after the newly elected DUSU and DUTA decided to back it with rallies and protests on campus.
“Of the total number of students, not even five per cent can avail hostel facilities because there are none. We have been fighting for the cause for quite some time and will continue to do so,” said Aman Awana, Delhi University Students’ Union president. DUTA also condemned the police brutality and promised support to students.
An English (Honours) student from Bhopal, who is currently scouting for lodgings, said, “The rents at nearby areas including Mukherjee Nagar, Patel Chest and Kamla Nagar Market are going up as we speak. Getting admission to a hostel is not easy. It has become very difficult for any outstation student in DU to find lodging with the course now being four years long,” she said.
Currently, the university has 15 off-campus hostels and nine colleges with hostels within the premises. The off-campus hostels include boys-only Gwyer Hall with 100 rooms, Jubilee Hall with 196 rooms, Mansarover Hostel for Boys with 108 rooms, Postgraduate Men’s Hostel with 100 rooms, D S Kothari Hostel for Boys with 89 rooms, V K R V Rao Hostel for Boys with 65 rooms, Meghdoot Hostel for Girls with 100 rooms, University Hostel for Women with 290 rooms, North Eastern Students’ House with 400 double-seat rooms, Ambedkar-Ganguly Students House for Women with 100 rooms, Saramati Post Graduate Men’s Hostel with 65 rooms, Aravali Boys Hostel (South Campus) for 74 students, Geetanjali Hostel for PG Women for 96 students, WUS University Hostel for girls with 18 rooms and Rajiv Gandhi Hostel for Girls at Dhaka Complex with 750 seats.
The college hostels include Daulat Ram College for 200 undergraduate girls, Hindu College with 119 rooms housing 200 UG and PG male students, Kalavati Gupta Hostel, at Indraprastha College for Women, for 166 students of which 30 seats are reserved for students from the North-East, Kirori Mal College with 89 rooms housing about 170 students, Lady Shri Ram College for Women with 300 hostel seats, Miranda House with 120 rooms available on twin-sharing basis and seven four-seaters, Hansraj College hostel which accommodate 200 boys, Shri Ram College of Commerce with 203 seats and Sri Venkateswara College with space for 140 students.
Of these, the NE Students’ House and Rajiv Gandhi Hostel came up last year after several letters to the Vice Chancellor and protests by North Eastern students’ groups over the past five years. According to estimates, there are only 6,000 seats for over 1.8 lakh students.
University authorities say they are doing everything possible to make all necessary arrangements for outstation students. Professor J M Khurana, Dean Students’ Welfare, DU, said, “We admitted about 60,000 first-years in 2013. Is it possible to provide accommodation to all of them? There are several procedures before a new hostel can come up. We need clearance from DDA, from the horticulture department and funds from UGC. Even if we have the funds, we cannot erect a hostel in a day. So students must also understand,” he explained.
Khurana said the university had met the demand of a revised canteen rate but providing a 24x7 reading facility may not be feasible. “At present, we close the reading halls at 9 pm but we are planning to extend the closing time by another two hours. But tell me who comes at 3 am to read? What is feasible is being done,” Khurana said.
Sources said the university is planning to build five new hostels. However, no official statement has been issued yet.