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The Maharashtra Government,has directed college students across the state to take permission from respective head of the institution like the college principal before rushing to media or any other outside agency with their grievance. The directives,which have taken effect from July 1,have drawn fire from college students,principals and education experts.

The circular,on the University of Pune website reads,“It is hereby notified for information of all concerned that the amended ordinance 157 as regards maintenance of discipline and good conduct by students has come into force with effect from July 1.”

Under the title “Obligations of students (clause 3),” the circular says,“Every student shall at all times not lodge any complaint or make any representation regarding any matter connected with the institution to the press or other outside institution/agency etc. without forwarding the same through the head of the concerned institution.’

The maximum fine on “errant” students has been increased from Rs 300 to Rs 5000.

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The circular says,“Any act of a student contrary to provisions of clause 3 shall constitute misconduct and/ or indiscipline…’ The competent authority,as per the circular,can fine a student upto Rs 5000,suspend him or even rusticate him taking into account the gravity of the offence.

“The circular came from the Mantralaya. This circular is not of our making. This was sent to us by the state government. I think this only means that if there is some complaint against the college,the college should be informed first. After all they are the ones who will take action against wrongdoers,” said W N Gade,Vice Chancellor,UoP,apparently justifying the circular. “I think there is a need to re-interpret the clause. We will discuss it with the state government authorities,” he said.

The V-C said the circular orignated from the state government. “I have confirmed from my registrar…he has told me that the circular is from the Maharashtra Government,” he said. Asked whether the university will circulate it to the colleges,Gade said since it has been put on the website,there is no need to circulate it. “The colleges will follow it…,” he said.

The gag order has not gone down well with students organisations. “This gag order is against our constitutional right of free speech. How can University censor our speech? This order is ridiculous and an attempt by university to stop students from telling wrongdoings to media. The teachers do not speak out and it is always students who speak out against the authorities to NGOs and media,” said Sidharth Sharma,founder-president,Bharatiya Krantikari Sanghatna (BKS).

The fine too has not found favour. “There are many students who are from economically weaker sections. What if colleges affiliated to university take this as a cue to extort money from students even if they commit small mistakes. Rs 5,000 is too much,” said a student,who did not wish to be named.

“The decision is absolutely wrong. More than half the colleges are owned by politicians. What if a student is ragged? What if a girl student is sexually harassed or raped? Does she still approach the college which will try hard not to make it public? What if someone from the politician’s family is the culprit. Won’t the college management try to suppress everything in its power to gag students,” said Bala Shedge,city president,Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. “How can a circular even say that the students have to forward complaints through the principal? They should have the right to approach police or media and that is the only way to get justice. We will write to the government seeking to amend the order. If they do not comply,we will take to the streets.” Despite repeated attempts,Higher Technical Education Minister Rajesh Tope was unavailable for comment.

(With inputs from Manoj More)

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