I&B ministry team visits FTII; hopes for a solution are afloat after talkshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/ib-ministry-team-holds-fruitful-talks-with-striking-ftii-students/

I&B ministry team visits FTII; hopes for a solution are afloat after talks

The three-member delegation holds talks with faculty, staff and students, to submit report on Monday.

Members of the I&B ministry team, along with FTII director Prashant Pathrabe (extreme left), interact with the press after the talks with stakeholders. (Arul Horizon)
Members of the I&B ministry team, along with FTII director Prashant Pathrabe (extreme left), interact with the press after the talks with stakeholders. (Arul Horizon)

For the first time since the students of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) began their strike 71 days ago, a three-member team of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry finally visited the campus on Friday and held meetings with faculty members, staff and the students of the premier film institute in an effort to defuse the situation that recently flared up leading to arrest to five students on a police complaint by the institute’s director.

Earlier, the students had shot off numerous letters to the I&B Ministry inviting a team to visit the campus to take stock of the situation. The students have been protesting the appointment of TV actor and BJP leader Gajendra Chauhan as the FTII society president and others as its members.

The I&B ministry delegation, which arrived at the FTII around 10 am on Friday, comprised S M Khan (Registrar of Newspapers of India), S Naganathan (Joint Secretary in the ministry) and Anshu Shukla (director, films).

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In back-to-back closed-door meetings that lasted till nearly 5 pm, the delegation separately met the staff association, faculty members, student representatives and later the FTII alumni association.

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Addressing the media in the evening, Khan said, “We had a very fruitful discussion with the faculty members, students, alumni and the staff. We could understand the issues of all the stakeholders. Everything was discussed in a detailed manner. We got useful suggestions from everyone. They were also satisfied with the discussion, but I can’t disclose details of points discussed. We will submit our report to I&B ministry very soon, most likely on Monday. Not just the students and faculty members, the ministry too is concerned about the strike. We feel it should end soon.” On additional security deployed at the campus, Khan said he felt it was not needed. “I have discussed the same with the director. He will consider it. In my opinion, it is not required,” he said.

Indranil Bhattacharya, one of the faculty members who attended the meeting, said it was a warm and cordial and that apart from the current impasse, all aspects of the institute’s functioning were discussed.

Faculty members reportedly assured the delegation of their cooperation and suggested that the Union Cabinet approve the proposed Central University status for FTII on a priority basis. “It can actually break the current deadlock, bring in more accountability in the system and automatically bring FTII under academic rules and regulations as mandated by UGC, NAAC and other bodies. The committee appreciated our views and promised to share them with the government,” said Bhattacharya.

The visit of the I&B ministry delegation to the campus is a gesture the students had been expecting for the last 71 days, said Vikas Urs, one of the students who attended the meeting. The delegation, he said, spoke at length with all stakeholders to understand what FTII is all about. “The meeting with the students was in essence to try to understand what FTII is from the students’ perspective, what our issues are, our concerns in the past that have been raised at different points,” said Urs. He said the delegation heard them out for nearly two hours.

Referring to the recent midnight arrest of a few of the students of FTII, Harishankar Nachimuthu, president, FTII Students’ Body, said it was conveyed to the delegation that things should be dealt with in a conducive manner in future.

According to Nachimuthu, the students shared their core concerns of creating a transparent system of constituting the FTII Society and its reconstitution. “The committee members told us that the government did not see us as opponents. We told them neither do we,” said Nachimuthu.

A six-members group of the FTII Alumni Association also met the I&B ministry delegation and conveyed to them the need to create a conducive environment at the campus and postpone the assessment process of diploma projects of 2008 batch by three to five months. “We informed the committee that the way in which the assessment was being carried out was unjust and requested them to recommend that the students of the 2008 batch be given at least three-five months to finish their projects,” said Rupak Das, who attended the meeting.

Media entry restricted
In the morning, director of the institute Prashant Patharbe allegedly instructed the security guards to not let in mediapersons. The security officer, however, failed to present any written document on any such instructions. After mediapersons created a ruckus, they were allowed inside the campus around 11am, but not up to the administrative building where the meetings took place. Last Monday, the director had issued a similar diktat and had said, “We allowed the media inside the campus for two months, but not anymore.”