Continuing their protest against the recent fee hike, students of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay began a relay hunger-strike on Saturday. While the students complained about threats by the administration to discourage them from protesting, the administration said the protest is unnecessary as a dialogue has been initiated with the students and fee-hike is justified.
The venue for hunger strike was changed twice owing to the reunion convocation ceremony on campus for batches which graduated during the pandemic and had missed out on the traditional convocation ceremony. Initially, all the students were sent an emailed notice by the administration warning of strict action, including removal of hostel privileges, if the protest caused any disruption to the event.
“This was classic discouragement by the administration to ensure participation of a smaller number of students. This was followed by the change in venue for the hunger strike. But we have continued the hunger strike at a new location on campus,” said a member of IIT Bombay Students Against Fee Hike, a students’ collective which is raising its voice against fee-hike implemented by the administration for the new academic year.
A statement issued by the collective on Saturday evening read, “The students have made it clear that the relay hunger strike will keep going until the compounded fee hike by the administration is reconsidered. A new batch of five students will replace the students, who are on hunger strike, from tomorrow morning at the original venue decided for the strike.”
The administration, however, ruled out a complete rollback of the new fee hike. An official from the institute’s administration, requesting anonymity, said, “The fee hike was actually approved in 2020 but was not implemented considering the pandemic curbs. The hike implemented now adheres to the Fee Committee’s recommendations and approvals by the Board of Governors. The institute cannot run without funds. A few students are being unreasonable while most have accepted the fee hike.”
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The officer added that the government subsidy was not the same anymore as, with the increase in the number of IITs, it was becoming difficult for it to support all students financially. “Most IITs are on their own when it comes to the expenditure required for their development plans. However, IIT Bombay is managing on its own. The fee-hike is here to stay,” added the official, also suggesting that the administration has decided to support deserving students in terms of scholarships.