PANJAB UNIVERSITY has long been declaring its intent to turn its campus into a vehicle-free zone. Last week, it made some more noise in this direction when it announced that in Phase 1, it will purge all hostels of vehicles. Hostellers have been given a fortnight to clear the parking lots of their vehicles.
Newsline team took a round of hostels on the campus to find that most of the hostellers were in favour of the initiative though there were some who opposed the move on the plea that it should first be implemented on outsiders.
Gurmeet Singh of Law Department said, “More vehicles mean more pollution. This is an educational institute and it should be a role model for outsiders. Vehicle-free campus is a long-standing demand in the university and we hope that it will be fully implemented now.”
Mehmood Maherban of Afghanistan, who studies at the Economics Department, pointed out that vehicles cause unnecessary noise and disturbance. “Sometimes at night we cannot even sleep properly because of the noise of vehicles coming and going. This is a necessary step that governing body of the university has taken. It will curb the number of people coming from outside without any purpose,” he said.
But Chetan Chaudhary, former chairman of Students Organisation of India (SOI), opposed the move. This ban should first be imposed on vehicles coming from outside the campus and then on students. “Outsiders come and park their vehicles here without any permission. We have many other issues like security that the management must address,” he said.
“Nearly a month ago, black ink was sprinkled on a signboard with Rajiv Gandhi`s name. Such incidents should not take place in an educational institute,” Chaudhary said.
But Sandeep Kumar, a research scholar at the Public Administration Department, said the initiative is good for everyone but it may be an unwelcome step for those who like to parade their vehicles. It will help the authorities to control the flow of outsiders who come here just for fun. “Sometimes we cannot even cross the road due to heavy vehicular movement. At least this step will bring in some change and promote academic culture on the campus,” he added.
Director, Public Relations, Renuka B Salwan said this is a long-pending demand of the students. “We will implement this initiative in phases, and we have started the process by giving notices to hostellers first,” she said.
Kanu Priya, president of PU students’ council, said, “We have been demanding this ban for several years now. Thankfully, the university has heard our voice now. We are hopeful that the decision will be implemented at the grassroots level.”
It was in September 2014 that the council carried out a referendum in which students overwhelmingly voted in favour of making the university more student-friendly by restricting the parking of heavy vehicles inside the campus.
Voicing concerns about the implementation of this initiative, she said, “There are only two parking zones inside the campus with a capacity of around 400 vehicles, which is not sufficient as we have about 6,000 students studying at the university. We have only one shuttle bus on the campus, the other three are not in a working condition so it’s going to be difficult for students to move around on the campus. The number of buses needs to be increased in order to ease the movement of students.”
Another student demanded an increase in the number of e-rickshaws on the campus.
PU chief security officer Professor Ashwani Kaul said the decision of making the campus vehicle-free would be implemented in phases, beginning with hostellers, students and then visitors. “From the new session, freshers won’t be allowed to park their four-wheelers inside the campus. Only senior students will be permitted to bring their vehicles inside. That’s how we are going to implement this initiative.”
Salwan said no vehicle would be allowed to be parked in the academic zones of the campus. “We will also increase the shuttle bus service. Right now we have three shuttle buses on the campus which ply after every 10 minutes. We have two parking zones, one at Gate 1 and the other at Gate 2 with a capacity of 300 and 60 vehicles, respectively,” she added.