OVER 100 students of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) blocked the gates of the Mumbai campus on Wednesday evening in a demonstration against the institute’s decision to withdraw financial aid to students from reserved categories.
The protest started with boycott of classes and field work on Wednesday morning, and by evening the students blocked the gates and raised slogans against the institute management. Even as students at all the four campuses – Mumbai, Tuljapur, Guwahati and Hyderabad – participated in the protest, the Mumbai campus saw an intense agitation.
A member of the TISS students union told The Indian Express that the protest began around 9 am with students boycotting classes. “Slogans were raised and a petition was prepared with all the demands of the students,” said the member. Acting director Shalini Bharat addressed the protesting students and accepted the petition, said the students union member. The deadlock continued until the late Wednesday.
“We’ve met the protesting students and told them that we’ll meet a delegation of students within 24 hours to discuss the matter,” said PK Shajahan, dean, students affairs.
The students union was protesting the institute’s decision to withdraw financial aid to SC, ST and OBC students under a government of India scholarship scheme. While earlier, the institute provided direct aid to eligible students, last year the administration asked students to pay the fee and get funds reimbursed from the central government under the scheme. The institute cited a financial deficit of Rs 20 crore as the reason behind the decision. Despite protests across campuses, the decision was not revoked.
The students union, which has been negotiating with the administration over this issue, had called for a bandh across all its campuses. Union general secretary Fahad Ahmad said, “There are three specific issues we are raising. We are asking that the 2016-18 batch is exempt from this withdrawal as they were informed about it midway through their course. For the 2017-19 batch, the aid was mentioned in the prospectus but was withdrawn at the time of admission. That, too, is illegal and should be revoked. And for the upcoming batches, we are demanding that a provision be made for students who cannot afford to pay the full fee.”
The intensity of the protest took the institute administration by surprise. “We are surprised by the protest. Usually the office of the dean, students affairs, is informed of a protest. However, this time, no prior information was given to us,” said Shajahan.
He, however, said that the institute was taking all necessary measures in the interest of students. “The institute is going through a financial crisis. We are asking students only to pay charges for the dining hall facility. The rest of the components of the fees are waived. Moreover, for students who genuinely can’t afford to pay, we are exploring options with CSR funds of corporates,” said Shajahan. He said that under the scholarship scheme, students can apply to the central government and the scholarship amount will be transferred directly to their bank accounts.