IT IS that time of the year again when preparations are underway for the elections to the Panjab University Campus Students’ Council (PUCSC) and similar bodies in city colleges. Like every year, this time too, the student outfits can be seen highlighting the same old issues. Provision of better hostel facilities, women security, curbing sexual harassment on campus, clean washrooms in hostels, problems faced by students in hostel admissions, an improved placement cell and central university status for the varsity are some of the top issues the student leaders are talking about.
“Once any party wins elections, promises made to the students are forgotten. I have spent almost 10 years at the university. Every year these party leaders play the recorded tape but not much has been done yet to address the issues of the students at the university,” says Jaideep, who did his PhD and now is a post-doctoral fellow at PU.
Jaideep claims that in every election, parties promise a better hostel accommodation, good quality food, improvement in the class infrastructure but nothing much has happened over the years.
“Hostel waiting list is increasing with each passing year as university is introducing new courses but nothing is done for accommodation,” he adds.
Many other university students, too, believe that each year, PUCSC makes promises that are never fulfilled.
Interestingly, this year, a few students claim that they are not going to vote for any party. It was last year only when the university authorities for the first time included “none of the above” (NOTA) option in student council elections for university, colleges, departments and institutions.
“It’s better to choose NOTA, instead of wasting my precious vote,” says Akansha, a second year student at Department of Hindi.
Ramanpreet Kaur, another PU student, says, “I don’t think this year’s elected council has gone beyond organising trips for the students so far. Making big promises during the election campaigning and then forgetting them on being elected is the story of every student outfit.”
However, there is a section of students that believes some issues have been resolved, the most prominent being fee hike.
“I think that whenever the issue of fee hike was highlighted, the student parties did play an important role. After the involvement of the PhD research scholars in the campus elections, a few issues relating to them have been resolved as well,” says Upasna, a PhD student.
In the beginning there were indirect elections wherein department representatives (DRs) elected members of the PU Campus Students’ Council (PUCSC), consisting of two vice-presidents, working under the Dean Student Welfare.
These DRs were backed by different political groups.
Then in 2013 and 2014, the Congress-affiliated NSUI won the council president’s post for the first time. In 2015, for the first time, the council president from Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal)’s student wing SOI was elected. In 2016, Amritpal Singh, first presidential candidate in PU from Students For Society (SFS), gave impressive performance with 2,494 votes.
With each passing year, the number of parties is growing. In 2013, only 10 student organisations took part in the elections; the number has risen to 21 this year.
Manoj Lubana, a senior NSUI leader, says, “The number of parties has certainly increased over the years. In the last four years, the number has doubled. The involvement of smaller groups, non-political organisations and activism have played a vital role in this regard.”
Among the main student outfits are the National Students Union of India (NSUI), Students Organisation of India (SOI), Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Panjab University Students Union (PUSU) and Students Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU).
The smaller groups which have emerged in the last four years include Himachal Pradesh Students Union (HPSU), Himachal Pradesh Students Association (HPSA), All India Students Association (AISA), National Students Organisation of India (NSO), National Youth Association (NYA), Gandhi Group Students Union (GGSU), Pal Pehelwan Students Organisation (PPSO), Panjab University Helping Hands (PUHH) and Panjab Students Union (Lalkar).
“The smaller groups are equally important. For four years, I was with the politically backed party, SOI. Not everyone was getting an equal chance there,” says Karan Randhawa, of Independent Students Association (ISA). This year, two new parties, PUSU for Students (PFS) and Independent Students Association (ISA), have launched, which will also be fighting the campus polls.
While ABVP is known for campaigning against corruption on the campus and helping girl students from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in finding hostel accommodation, the members of Society for Students (SFS) are actively speaking on issues of sexual harassment at PU, setting up of a separate women cell and affordable education. NSUI has always batted for involvement of more youngsters in the PU elections.