The Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections are back after a three-year hiatus and the exit gate of the Vishwavidyalaya metro station, where pamphlets, stickers and posters are scattered and pasted from floor to walls, announces the September 22 poll loudly.
While all the parties are wooing students during the campaigning phase with promises of good hostels, affordable fees, transport, sanitation among other issues, there are many who remain unimpressed by the hubbub.
Aside from having no hope, they say that the elections don’t speak for the entire student community.
Madhuri Singh, who has completed MA in Hindi and is preparing for PhD, said, “There is unlikely to be any benefit for the students. These elections will only benefit the candidates in their future political career.”
Madhuri spoke for thousands of students in School of Open Learning (SOL), Delhi University, who are not part of the elections.
“A large number of students are enrolled in SOL, but they are not eligible to participate in the elections and no party is talking about them. They face the same problems related to security and other matters. These issues should be given priority. There is no internal committee for them.”
In June, a 19-year-old first year student of BA (Hons) Political Science at the SOL, was stabbed to death outside Aryabhatta College in a scuffle with other students.
Security for women
Security of girl students is a major concern. A Masters’ student from Bharti College said, “A few months ago, some boys entered the Miranda House. It is worrying, because it is not the first time.”
A SOL student, who belongs to ABVP, flagged the problem of lack of toilets for women along a stretch.
“There is no pink toilet from the main road (near metro) till inside the college campus. It is a stretch of around 2 km.”
He also pointed to the delay in administrative work.
“The process in the university is very slow. It took them around two months to make identity cards.”
The Bharti College student added that shortage of seats is another serious issue.
“Every year, lakhs of students apply, but there are only 60,000 seats. Those who belong to the marginalised and working class should be prioritised,” she said.
In their manifesto, BJP’s students wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have promised new hostels, metro pass, good food facility, placement cell among others while the Congress-backed National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) have also promised the same in addition to health facilities and a racism-free campus.
A European student, who is in the second year of her undergraduate course in an Indian language, is disappointed with the teaching method in the class.
She was disappointed with her experience in the first year and said that if things don’t improve, she will drop out of the course.
“The teachers did not motivate the students in the class. Many times, they did not appear in the class so we had to walk out. It’s really disappointing,” she complained.
“When they come, they carry no books or notes. They seem to be taking the foreign students lightly, as the students don’t know the local language. If you come to class, you should teach properly. Many foreign and Indian students have left the course and gone back.”
The foreign student, who did not want to be named, concluded, “Hopefully this year will be good. If not, then I will drop out.”
Students also find life difficult in PG accommodations in nearby areas.
Two students from Daulat Ram College, who are studying in the second year, said staying in PG is difficult but there is no other options as hostels are limited and expensive.
“There is no water available in some areas near the campus. We also face hygiene and sanitation problems on the campus. The rent of hostels is also very high. We can live outside on around Rs 10,000-12,000 per month but the hostel fee is Rs 1,70,000 per year, which translates to Rs 14,000-15,000 a month,” both told Patriot.
Students’ grievances and scepticism notwithstanding, it is clear that the candidates are cocking a snook at the administration.
Even as the code of conduct disallows them from pasting walls and roads with posters, banners and hoardings, the candidates are carrying on with it.
The long car roadshow caused traffic jam. Supporters are standing at every gate, wooing students.
“They don’t have any concrete plan for students. When they came asking for vote, I questioned them. They had no answer except saying, ‘Haan Karenge (We will do it)’. Even on the pamphlet, you can’t see a single promise for students,” said a Masters student in the Faculty of Arts.
“The parties should conduct surveys in colleges about the students’ problems first. There is no awareness here.”
He brings to attention the free cycle facility that has now been removed.
“I used it during my graduation but it has shut now. It should be restarted because a lot of students belong to lower economic strata and can’t afford auto fare daily.”
Sitting on a concrete bench with a friend near the gate, he said, “Students from the Northeast face racism here. There is delay in action over complaints, so many don’t raise their voice. A committee should be set up for it.”
Bringing new facilities
However, some candidates seem to have clear plans for the elections.
Mayank, who is contesting for the vice-president’s post as an independent, said his priorities include sanitisation.
“Our priority is free e-library, sanitisation, toilets and placement issues. We will install a dustbin in college. Also, we will remove corruption in infrastructure.”
Mayank belongs to Faculty of Law and he points out several problems in his department.
“The staff in the law college is often irregular. It goes on leave any time. They complete the syllabus in 2-3 months instead of six. And there is no placement facility for freshers. Even the Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, is the alumnus of this university. Many judges are also from our law college, but we are unable to take advantage of the pedigree because of failure of the administration.”
Every party has set up a help-desk where volunteers seek assistance from students.
Despite the indifference of most, there are some who want to take active part in the election.
Sweta Singh, a final year student of law, was busy filing the application form with a friend.
“The students’ union election is important because of several problems faced by them. There is no health facility for students here. Sanitary napkins should be available in the girls’ washroom. Also, a psychologist should be available as we are seeing rise in depression and other mental health issues among students,” she said.
The third-year student said further, “Placement cell was also set up in law college. But even the latest batch couldn’t get placed. There are no debates here. If you can’t express yourself in legal profession, it is very shocking.”
DU’s Campus Law Centre (CLC) is one of the premier legal education centres of the country. It was established a century ago in 1922.