The high-powered committee set up by the HRD Ministry will meet the officers-elect of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) this week, even as the university administration has refused to engage with them to end the standoff over the hostel fee hike.
The ministry set up a three-member committee, comprising former UGC chairman V S Chauhan, AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe and UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain, late Sunday to “recommend ways to restore normal functioning in JNU”.
Incidentally, Chauhan was the ministry’s first choice for the post of V-C at JNU in 2016. However, the then President Pranab Mukherjee had informed former HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s recommendation to appoint M Jagadesh Kumar as the V-C.
The committee held its first meeting Monday even as university students marched towards Parliament on the first day of Winter Session, demanding a total rollback of the hostel fee hike.
“The committee plans to meet the JNUSU-elect and hostel presidents Wednesday, and university teachers Thursday. The idea is to initiate a dialogue immediately and find a way out,” said a member of the committee, who did not wish to be identified.
On Monday, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal also met Union Home Minister Amit Shah to brief him about the protest and its background. The Prime Minister’s Office is also learnt to be monitoring the situation.
It has been a week since JNU students took their protest against the hike in hostel fee outside the university campus. On November 11, Pokhriyal was trapped inside the All India Council for Technical Education campus for around three hours after agitating students blocked the main gate.
The main point of protest is the introduction of service charges — for maintenance, mess workers, cook and sanitation — and utility charges (power and water consumption) which were so far not included in the hostel fee. Rent for a single room has been increased from Rs 20 per month to Rs 600 per month, and for a double-sharing room from Rs 10 a month to Rs 300 a month.
Although the university, after protests last week, reviewed the fee structure, it reserved the bulk of changes for students falling under the ‘below poverty line’ category.
The administration said it is open to having a dialogue with the elected hostel presidents but not the JNUSU-elect since it is not officially notified. However, a delegation comprising officers-elect met a senior ministry official Monday to hand over their charter of demands to the government.