STUDENTS OF the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, (IIT-B) launched an indefinite relay hunger strike on Monday to protest against the institute’s fee hike. The agitation was launched after negotiations with the institute management did not yield any result. The agitation — where students will take turns and each protestor would be on a 24-hour hunger strike — kicked off on Monday morning with a protest march on the campus. Nine students had started the strike and were supported by as many as 150 others.
Even as students said they were being intimidated by faculty members asking them not to participate in the movement, over 500 handwritten letters to the institute director have been collected and will be submitted to the management. It is the second protest over fee hike after the institute announced the raise in May.
On June 22, a students’ collective, ‘Students Against Fee Hike’ launched a protest march and held dialogues with the institute management. The meeting remained inconclusive. With a week left for the last day of fee payment, students have now intensified the protest.
“The institute management had promised to hold an open house with students and give us a white paper explaining the fee hike. However, the management failed to do so and hence we have launched the hunger strike,” said a student on condition of anonymity. Through the strike, the students are also raising their voices against the “government’s recent moves to cut financial supports to public institutions”.
In May, the IIT-B administration introduced a fee hike for the new academic session citing inflation as the reason.
For the 2016-17 session, the hostel seat rent and establishment charges were Rs 500 and Rs 2,000, respectively. The amounts have been raised to Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000, respectively. the gymkhana fee that was Rs 750 has been raised to Rs 2,000. Examination, registration and medical fees were Rs 500, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, respectively.
Students claimed that after the hike, all those using hostel facilities will have to pay anywhere between Rs 8,670 and Rs 11,170 higher than the usual at the end of the autumn semester, including the mess overdue for hostelites.
IIT-B Director Devang Khakhar told the Indian Express that the institute was planning to revise its fee structure. “We are taking the students’ demands into consideration. The fee will be revised but a final decision will be taken at the next board meeting,” he said.
The meeting is scheduled in the second week of August. “If the fee is slashed, it will be implemented retrospectively. The amount paid by students above the finalised fee will be refunded,” said Khakhar.