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JNU hostel fee hike row: Confusion over varsity’s decision to provide relief for BPL students

The BPL criteria is has also been questioned by Former JNU Vice-Chancellor Y K Alagh, who chaired a Committee set up in 1979 by the Planning Commission, which drew the first poverty line on the basis of nutritional requirements

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Published: November 24, 2019 11:05:01 am
jnu, jnu protests, jnu protests, jnu protests whatsapp unvle, sunday eye, indian express, indian express news Students were protesting over JNU’s decision to hike hostel fees. Image source: File Photo

JNU hostel fee hike row: More than 10 days after the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) said it would give some relief to Below Poverty Line (BPL) students in hostel fee, the confusion over who will be considered BPL and how they will be identified continues to loom large. One thing that both the administration and students, have said, however, is that no BPL certificate is asked from students during the time of admission.

The BPL criteria is has also been questioned by Former JNU Vice-Chancellor Y K Alagh, who chaired a Committee set up in 1979 by the Planning Commission, which drew the first poverty line on the basis of nutritional requirements. He said while the poverty line was updated thereafter, conceptually “it’s 50 years old”.

“I kept saying it should be changed but the following committees did not really change much. They had set up under Arvind Panagariya, a new working group which was supposed to look into poverty, but one doesn’t know what happened to that? (As of now) There is no official poverty line which is to be used across the board,” said Alagh.

“That was a calorie determined poverty line but as a nation develops, it develops other criteria like whether the child goes to a school or not. We need a new poverty line, but it needs to be done through a process,” he added.

IN VIDEO | Students protesting over JNU’s decision to hike hostel fees

After the Alagh Committee, the Tendulkar and Rangarajan committees had revised the BPL criteria.

Speaking specifically in JNU’s context Alagh said “it will be very difficult to implement in JNU”. “I don’t know how they will identify BPL… Unlike the IITs and IIMs, JNU doesn’t cover only technology and management; they cover a very wide range of subjects. What they (administration) are saying is that they are going to run JNU in the IIT and IIM style. That is wrong. JNU covers a huge range of subjects and kids come from all over the country,” he said.

Arindam Banerjee, Associate Professor of Economics at Ambedkar University Delhi, said applying the BPL criteria in JNU was “inappropriate”.

“There is a large section of people, at least 30%, that is bunched just near the poverty line – so they are just above the poverty line or just below the poverty line. The ones just above the poverty line are such that with just a little change in income or expenditure, they can fall below the poverty line. And this is a problem when data doesn’t get updated yearly or frequently. The last point of data is for 2011-12,” he said.

The data of 2011-12 is the SECC (Socio Economic Caste Census data.

Another problem is how BPL students will be identified. While JNU does ask students to declare whether they are BPL or not in the application form, there is no clarity on whether it is done during admission.

Joint Registrar (Admissions) Manoj Kumar Pachouri said the administration does ask students to indicate whether they are from BPL families at the time of administration. However, when asked if they have to produce a BPL certificate, he said, “No we don’t ask for a certificate at that stage.”

An admission form seen by The Indian Express, however, had a column for monthly income but none for BPL. Former JNUSU Vice-President Sarika Chaudhary also said, “At the time of admission they don’t ask for BPL or not. Even though it is asked in the application form, it means administration does not have this data for admitted students,” she said.

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