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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Fight for a just cause


Students vs varsity authorities on workers'' wages
Issue Dated: July 15, 2007
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Fight  for a just cause It’s been close to 24 hours since Tyler William sat on hunger-strike at the administrative building of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Tyler, an American-born, is a student of Hindi Literature. Nevertheless, when needed, he doubles up as the Vice-President of Student Union. Many of his comrades, who are either facing suspension or are expelled, are on hunger-strike since 25th of June. They are under constant medical-surveillance. Strikes like these, ostensibly to put pressure on the authority, are common in this so called laboratory of communism. This time around, the struggle has been waged about the minimum wages of construction labourers working in the campus. The union claims that these workers are ill-paid and they were merely demanding right wage. But the issue is not as simple as it looks. There must be a reason why the administration went for punitive measures. Actually, it all started on 19th February when some of these students gheraoed registrar Awais Ahmed forcing him to sit inside his car for more than six hours. Enraged by the incident, the varsity administration slapped suspension orders on eight students and fined another three. One of them named Venesa Chisti has been declared persona non grata in the campus.

Vice-Chancellor B.B. Bhattacharya told TSI: “The students have become so indisciplined that they create hindrance to each and every developmental work in the campus. Positive talks are the only way out and not such reactionary actions. We had to take some action.”

However, his claims are refuted by Dhananjaya, who heads the JNUSU. Talking to TSI, he said: “In the past, we had approached the administration for talks but they kept on turning down our request on the pretext that the issue had nothing to do with students.” He is supported by another student leader Rajiv Ranjan. “We are only trying to put in practice all those theories of struggle that we mug-up from the text-books,” Ranjan said. Fight  for a just cause On the other hand, the administration maintains that they are not accountable for the workers as they are employed on a contract basis by CPWD. They also claim that the issues have already been addressed by the concerned authorities.

There is yet another angle to this incident as well. The administration had earlier revoked the suspension orders when students had apologised for their actions. Students claim that it was a calculated move as the administration did not want any disruption during the up-coming examinations. But ironocially, as soon as the summer vacation started the suspension orders were reinvoked once again. Tyler adds: “The intensions of the V-C were malafide. He waited for the vacations to take his revenge.” The struggle will only intensify once classes commence. Meanwhile, the administration maintains that all this 'drama' is politically motivated. The V-C adds: “When these reactionary groups did not have anything to protest they raised the issue of labourers. Many of these students have confided in me that I have dispensed my duties well and there are political compulsions behind their protests.”

Both the administration as well as the student body justify their cause. However, the question arises: why did the administration take punitive actions in spite of written apology from the students? While the union is fighting for its survival, the administration has decided to teach them a lesson. In this tussle the name of a reputed institute is getting sullied.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017