By Mrinal Pathak
KASHMIRI students of Chandigarh Group of Colleges (CGC), Mohali have alleged that they’re asked to pay the hostel fees for the semester which has not been even commenced yet!
A majority of the students left for their homes in mid-March, in the view COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, most of their belongings remain in their hostel rooms.
Tehleel Manzoor, president of Global Students Union, Chandigarh, told Kashmir Observer that Punjab-based private colleges are forcing the students to pay fees for the current semester when they are yet to conduct exams for the previous semester.
“While tuition fee is being asked to be paid in installments, hostel fee is being asked to pay in one go,” Manzoor said.
According to him, the authorities at CGC have told the students—‘either pay, or vacate the hostel’.
“The college administration is telling the students that they are not forcing anyone to leave, rather they are starting new bookings,” Manzoor said. “But if this is not forcing one to leave, then what is?”
When contacted, Anup Singh, senior CGC official concerned with hostel management told Kashmir Observer that the college hasn’t demanded any fees from students.
“We’re not forcing our students to pay the hostel fees. We just want to get a little confirmation from the students whether they want to continue with the hostel for the coming session or not,” Singh said.
On the allegation that the hostel authorities have put students’ belongings in the common room, Singh said, “There is nothing of that sort.”
But the Kashmir students studying in the college aren’t buying this official statement.
During the current lockdown phase when economic activities have nosedived, they said, a majority of parents are finding it hard to pay the fees for the new semester.
“The minimum tuition fee is Rs. 48000,” Manzoor said. “And if the hostel fee is included, it will be a huge amount.”
Demanding a complete fee waiver, he said the Kashmiri students are just requesting the administration to abide by the guidelines prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
According to the UGC guidelines, students are not bound to pay either the hostel fees or the tuition fees until the smooth functioning of college resumes.
“Initially,” Manzoor said, “students from many colleges were facing similar problems, but through our efforts, the matter was amicably sorted.”
It is only the CGC, he said, that is not entertaining the ‘legitimate’ demands of the students.
Notably, a large number of students coming from outside prefer hostels in Punjab over rented apartments ‘due to safety reasons’.
“It’s unfair on the part of college authorities to resort to such practices in these challenging times,” Manzoor, who evacuated many students from Kashmir during the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, said. “Among the outside students in the campus, 80 percent are from Kashmir.”
Manzoor asserted that some ‘hostile campus’ actions are creating fear-psychosis in the minds of both parents and students regarding future admissions.
Kashmiri students of CGC, which is affiliated to Punjab Technical University (PTU), further claimed that a few days ago, the college authorities even issued a fee notification.
“They are demanding Rs. 23000 as hostel fees for us,” a student of CGC told Kashmir Observer on the condition of anonymity.
He alleged that the college administration is forcing the students to send a mail as confirmation of leaving the hostel, “in case they’re not ready to pay the fees”.
A majority of the students are worried because the college administration has set a deadline of July 7 for fee submission.
“I talked to many senior officials of the college administration regarding this and informed them that this is a wrong step, but they said that they had already received orders from the government,” the student said.
The move, interestingly, has come at a time when Kashmiri students are already suffering from slow internet back home.
Further, Kashmiri students at CGC alleged that they’ve been asked to pay for mess.
“If we’ve not eaten any food in the hostel for the last three months, how are we supposed to pay for it?” asked a student from the department of civil engineering.
Many students are also alleging that the campus authorities have broken the locks of their hostel rooms without their knowledge and permission.
“This is unfair and breach of privacy,” the engineering student said.
“The administration told us that they broke the locks for renovation purposes, but then why would they break the locks of our cupboards? There could be so many valuable things like phone or cash in the cupboards. They have put everything in the common room. And when asked, the college authorities are threatening us for highlighting the matter.”
Many female students are also bearing the brunt of the current situation.
Hiba Wani (not her real name) from Srinagar said that fearing the spread of the virus, the college authorities asked the students to head home before the lockdown started.
“They said that they were sending us back for only 15 days,” Hiba said. “Now they are breaking into our rooms where we have kept our important documents.”
A few days ago, a video went viral where the hostel authorities were seen breaking the locks and entering the rooms.
“I along with my friends tried to contact our warden,” Hiba said, “but she never responded to our calls and messages.”