Education Minister Vinod Tawde on Thursday announced that students union elections will make a comeback in universities and their affiliated colleges in the state. Tentatively setting the next academic year for return of student politics on campuses, he said the move is aimed at developing “social and political” leadership among the youth.
Students union elections in Maharashtra were banned following violent incidents and law and order problems, way back in 1991.
Although Tawde assured undesirable issues associated with elections on educational campuses would be taken care of, the education minister’s plans have made several college heads wary. They raised apprehensions about campus safety.
“Students organisations have been demanding that college elections be reintroduced. Both the Lyngdoh Committee and the University Grants Commission (UGC) pitched for the same. Very often apprehensions are raised about malpractices and other untoward incidents associated with student union elections. Those concerns need to be addressed. The elections could reintroduced from next academic year,” he said.
Tawde, speaking with media persons after a series of meetings with stakeholders from education field, said amendments would be made to the Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994 the regulatory framework for functioning of public universities in the state.
“The students elections give rise to social and political leadership among youth. The previous students generation was deprived of this opportunity. We will make this opportunity available to the student community again,” he said. Students elections has cropped up in July last year also when several major political parties, including NCP, BJP and Congress supported the demand.
Reacting to Tawde’s plan, R S Zunjarrao, principal of Modern College of Arts, Science and Commerce, said the government should first revisit and reconsider the reasons for scrapping students union elections. “Incidents of violence and dilution of campus atmosphere were among reasons behind shunning college elections. Such elections could serve as an opportunity for entry of vested political interests on campuses. There are serious and genuine apprehensions associated with reintroducing college elections,” he said.
Shubhada Gholap, principal of Yashwantrao Chavan Law College, said students’ elections could disturb peace and disrupt study. “Students elections could become a prestige issue among established political parties, who would possibly try to win using money and muscle power. No doubt some leadership would emerge, but surely at the cost of studies and careers of students,” she said.
Section 40 of the Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994 governs students council elections, which focuses on appointment of students based on merit in curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Each affiliated college / institute has to elect a representative on merit and his/her name is communicated to the Board of Students’ Welfare of the university.
Every educational institute has to form Students’ Council and inform the university. As per section 40 (2) (a) of the Act, there has to be University Departments’ Student Council who elects its representative. After the above processes, 15 members are nominated to the Students Council by the Vice-Chancellor, and the president and secretary of the University Students Council is elected.