High drama ensued at the campus of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune on Tuesday when a second-year cinematography student, Satish Kumar, sat on a hunger strike as part of protests against the “proposed break” to be given to 82 contractual workers, eventually forcing institute’s director Prashant Pathrabe to postpone the decision by a month.
Tuesday was the 82nd day of strike called by students against the appointment of TV actor Gajendra Chauhan as the president of the FTII society and others as its members. Since the strike began, the students have stayed away from classes. Talks with the government, including the Information and Broadcasting Minister, have proved futile so far. A committee of the I&B ministry had visited the institute recently on a fact-finding mission and the report of the committee is to be expected.
The strike had also taken an ugly turn when director Prashant Pathrabe lodged FIRs against the students for their alleged misbehaviour.
Earlier, the FTII administration, citing audit objections, had decided to give a break to 82 contractual employees by a month. The protest on
On Tuesday, students staged a protest against the decision to lay off staff and Satish went on a hunger strike as part of the protest.
While Satish refused to speak to the media, student leaders Vikas Urs and Harishankar Nachimuthu addressed the media, saying the contractual staff were being victimised for no fault of theirs. “It was decided that no break would be given to the staff and yet it was done,” they said.
Late Tuesday evening, an official release issued by the administration of FTII stated that the proposed break was deferred by one month and that it would be effective from October 1 in case the strike was not called off by then. “There is no justification for employing them since no activity like classes, projects or productions are taking place. I would like to state that as the director, I have nothing against them and the decision was taken due to audit objection. However, in view of the extraordinary situation that developed and a student going on hunger strike, I had to intervene. I met the student and the contractual staff and told them I would try my best to do something to defer the decision. After consultations with the Ministry, I have also decided that the contract staff issue would be placed for a final decision before the GC (which is the empowered body) in a month’s time. I have conveyed this decision to the staff in the evening today,” the press release read.
Meanwhile, the three-member panel constituted by the I&B Ministry to to assess the “ground situation” at the institute is learnt to have submitted its report to the I&B Ministry. The committee headed by the Registrar of Newspapers S M Khan had visited the institute on August 21 and had held series of meetings with students, ex-students, faculty members, non-teaching staffers and contractual employees trying to understand the issues and possible solutions to the current imbroglio over appointment on the FTII society. Officials at the I&B Ministry are tight-lipped about the content of the report.
Students said they had written to the minister for state (I&B) asking for a quick resolution of the strike.