For close to 20 days, about 300 girls of Hyderabad’s prestigious Nizam College sat on a silent protest near the physics department. Holding placards that said, “Why UG girls denied hostel? Why only PG?” and “Struggle for our rights. We won’t give up”, the girls were seeking what they said was a “basic right”: accommodation for undergraduate girls on campus.
On November 16, the girls scored a historic win when the government decided to allocate a newly built, 76-room hostel building for 400 undergraduate girls – a first in the 135-year-old history of the college.
From skipping classes to sit on the protest from 10 am to 5 pm every day, to submitting representations to the Education Department and boldly putting their point of view across to Education Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy, the 17-18-year-olds persisted till the government directed the college management to accommodate the girls.
“It was exhausting but it was worth it. And yes, it is a sweet victory for us,’’ says Navya G, a second-year psychology student who was one of the leaders of the protest.
Nizam College, which has about 3,000 students — both girls and boys across PG and UG courses — had until recently one 98-room hostel for undergraduate boys and one 90-room hostel for male PG students. Besides, PG students, both men and women, were provided hostel accommodation on the campus of the state-run Osmania University, to which Nizam College is affiliated. With undergraduate girls the only group without hostel accommodation on campus, around 400-500 of them, especially those from Telangana districts far from the capital, stayed in a row of private hostels on Gun Foundry road.
For years now, the girls have been demanding hostel accommodation, citing security and the high fee charged by private hostels.
“Many of us are from rural areas of Telangana — Warangal, Adilabad, Narayanpet and so on – and are new to the city. The private hostels are expensive and charge at least Rs 6,000 per person per month but we had no option. When we took admission here, college authorities said a new girls hostel was under construction and it would be allocated to us. But on November 4, we saw that a pooja was being performed at the new hostel and the rooms were being allocated to PG girls. That’s when we undergraduate students decided that it was time to stand up for ourselves,’’ says Navya.
P Pavithra, another student who took part in the protests, says they were initially called for a meeting with Commissioner of Technical and Collegiate Education Navin Mittal, who suggested that 50 per cent of the rooms could be allocated to the UG students. “We did not agree to that,’’ she says.
On November 9, they were called for a meeting with Education Minister Reddy, who promised to consider their demand.
While the negotiations were on, the girls met the PG students of Osmania University who had been allotted rooms at the new hostel. “We discussed our problems with them, and asked them if they were willing to not apply for rooms at the new hostel. All of them agreed and gave us a written representation. We conveyed this to the Education Minister,’’ says K H Shravani, a second-year student of Political Science.
At a second meeting with the Minister at her official residence, the earlier proposal — to reserve 50 per cent of the seats at the new hostel for UG students — came up. “We informed the minister that we were against it,” says Pavitra.
However, a “misunderstanding” meant that the government issued an order on November 11, saying the students had agreed to take 50 per cent of the beds in the new hostel.
“We again rushed to the minister and made our position clear — that we want the entire hotel for UG students,” says Pavitra.
The students’ predicament reached IT and Municipal Development and Urban Development Minister K T Rama Rao, who urged the Education Minister to resolve the issue. On the evening of November 15, Minister Reddy finally agreed to allocate the entire hostel to the undergraduate girls.
Nizam College’s principal Prof B Bhima said 71 of the 76 rooms in the new hostel would be handed over to the UG students. While the hostel fee for those in the general and OBC categories is Rs 10,000 per annum, SC/ST students will pay Rs 7,000.
Though four students can be accommodated in each of the 71 rooms, the girls have decided to squeeze in – at least 350-400 students will move into the hostel.
When asked why it had taken so long for undergraduate students to be allotted hostel rooms, Vice Chairman of Telangana State Council of Higher Education, Prof V Venkata Ramana, said there is a shortage of hostels on campuses across the state. “Usually only UG students coming from far off places ask for hostels. The demand is higher among PG students because of the nature of their study, when they spend evening hours on campus. But we are trying to make arrangements for undergraduate students too.”
Education Minister Sabita Reddy said that she was glad the matter got resolved amicably. “For the first time in Nizam College’s history, the Telangana Government is providing housing to undergraduate students, especially female students. I have instructed the principal to ensure that the girls are able to move in as quickly as possible and they get all the facilities they deserve,’’ she said.
The girls will be allotted rooms later this month.