The JNUSU on Wednesday appealed to the UGC and the Ministry of Education (MoE) to set up an enquiry committee in order to fix accountability for the destruction of students’ soil samples kept in a laboratory allegedly due to termite infestation.
Research scholars of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Centre for Study of Regional Development (CSRD) have claimed that when they returned to the campus after a months-long closure due to lockdown, they found that soil samples which they had collected over a period of time and kept in the laboratory had been completely destroyed.
“Due to seepage in the building, their samples got infested with fungus and termites. The scholars are stressed a lot as the date of submission is approaching fast,” JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Aishe Ghosh said.
“Irreplaceable samples collected by the students along with equipment worth crores of rupees have been destroyed due to the inaction and mismanagement of the JNU administration,” she said.
Ghosh said, “We demand that the JNU administration immediately acknowledge its mismanagement and take immediate steps to provide all necessary assistance to the affected students.”
“We also appeal to the UGC and the MoE to immediately set up an enquiry committee to investigate the administration’s apathy and deliberate mismanagement,” she said.
“The accountability of the officials of the JNU administration who were intimated of this possibility must be determined and appropriate action must be taken against them,” she added.
The JNUSU president demanded that appropriate academic extension and financial grants be given to the affected students.
“The Thermo-luminescence/Optically Stimulated Luminescence (TL/OSL) Laboratory is one of only 12 such labs in India, and the only one in Delhi which houses soil and rock samples collected by students from CSRD, as well as other universities, from extreme terrains and hard to reach areas in the Himalayas, deserts and deltas,” Ghosh said.
The JNUSU claimed that these samples meant to be processed in the lab have been destroyed by termites in the absence of proper measures.
“It has come to light that the termite infestation was caused by junk materials and leftover,” the students’ union said in a statement.
The JNUSU said, “Given that these samples have taken years to collect, store, and analyse, the completion of these students’ PhDs is in jeopardy.”
“This reflects on the JNU administration’s incompetence in maintaining even the basic infrastructure and facilities required in a university like JNU,” it said.
The students’ body further said the “termite infestation has also destroyed a door separating the said lab from a room housing radioactive wastes including Strontium-90, thus endangering everyone in the vicinity.”
“It has also come to our attention that because of this gross mismanagement, the entire vicinity of the lab has become contaminated with radioactive waste and has become unsafe to visit,” it said.
This “inaction and apathy” on the part of the JNU administration has turned a section of the university into “a hazardous radioactive zone,” it added.
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