JNU elections: Voters seek better infrastructure, facilities

- March 22, 2024
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union elections are being held after a gap of four years; the lack of amenities is an issue that several voters have raised with the candidates

The administrative block of the Jawaharlal Nehru University

The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) elections, which are being conducted after a gap of four years, will be held on March 22 with the results of the polls to be declared on March 24.

The united front of the Left-leaning organisations had swept the previous elections, held in 2019, with Aishe Ghosh elected as president.

Over 7,000 students will cast their vote in the upcoming elections with an eye on various problems in the campus including lack of facilities for disabled students, women’s safety and quality of food.

Saurabh Sauhta, a visually impaired student of the Centre for Historical Studies (CHS), drew attention to problems faced by blind students.

“The main problem for the visually impaired is the lack of ‘tactile path’ inside the campus. You can’t find it anywhere, even on the main road of the library. PwD (People with Disability) students mainly stay in three hostels — Godavari, Periyar and Kaveri, but there is no tactile path and people are inconvenienced without it,” he told Patriot during a chat at the School of International Studies (SIS) building.

INTERACTION: Candidates and students interact outside the School of Social Sciences at the JNU

“We face a lot of problems without it. When new students join the university, we have to take them around for two months to help them get accustomed to the campus.”

Saurabh, a Masters’ student, complained that the faculties are not cooperative.

“We, the visually impaired, need an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) file in accessible form because PDF is not accessible on many sites, but some professors don’t provide it to us.

“Also the tab and laptop, which were provided to students, are old and in miserable condition. Some don’t even get it, even though the Supreme Court guidelines state that these should be provided to all,” said Saurabh, who hails from Himachal Pradesh.

Preparation for the elections were in full swing, when Patriot visited the campus, with posters of all the parties displayed. Candidates were seen approaching students and appealing for votes.

Sanskruti, who hails from the neighboring state of Haryana, was of the view that women are safe in the campus before she joined the university. However, her belief was shattered once she entered the university.

“Recently, we saw some cases of flashing and public nudity at the Sabarmati Dhaba and Ring Road. This is very concerning, especially since these incidents happened during the day,” said Sanskruti, a PG student, to Patriot.

“Earlier, there was a perception in JNU that if you were returning from the library, there was usually no need for friends and you could come alone to the hostel. But these types of incidents happening openly and regularly are a growing concern now.”

Sanskruti, who is a student of MA in Politics with specialisation in International Relations (IR), said further, “JNUSU political parties have condemned it and argued to increase the security, but if these types of incidents are repeated, they will remain a concern for me. Women’s safety is important because if you are unsafe, how will you study?

“You can’t always be accompanied by friends. We need to be alert after dark and even during day-time since it is probably not that safe. Also, we are facing a problem of unhygienic water in the hostels. The girls have protested over it but there has been no solution as yet,” added Sanskruti.

UNHELPFUL: Saurabh Sauhta, a visually impaired student, has drawn attention to the lack of tactile paths

On March 11, the administration appealed to the parties to maintain peace.

The written appeal read, “In view of the ongoing students’ election process on campus and various events being organised by the students’ bodies, all campus stakeholders are appealed to remain vigilant and contribute to maintaining peace and harmony on the campus. Your cooperation in upholding a peaceful and disciplined campus is crucial”.

It stated further, “The administration firmly reiterates its commitment to zero tolerance towards any form of violence or indiscipline on campus and appeals to all stakeholders of the campus to desist from all such activities.”

Jasveer, a research scholar in IR, also expressed his worries.

“The quality of food should improve in the hostels. Also, there is no proper transport system within the university. The reading rooms are not sufficient and can’t accommodate all the students,” he said.

A few students, having their meal in the canteen, talked about women’s safety and other problems within the campus on the condition of anonymity.

“Safety is a very big concern. The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) does not work well. They pardoned the offenders only with a warning. The ICC should be replaced with the old GSCASHE (General Sensitisation Committee on Sexual Harassment),” they said.

“Nobody listens to us properly. We need a body that can take genuine action on women’s concerns. Recently, violence erupted but the administration did not take any action.”

Women’s Hostels

There are also complaints that contacts and affiliations to students’ political parties play a key role in the allotment of hostels.

Said one of the students, “Hostel allotment is also not fair. If you have affiliation to any party then there is a chance that you will get a good hostel early. The condition of washrooms in the hostel is also very bad.

“Short circuit due to faulty wiring inside the Shipra and Tapti hostels is a big threat currently. This is very dangerous but no one is ready to listen.”

Outside the School of Social Sciences (SSS) building, pamphlets of all the parties were pasted and students were busy making strategies about the election.

Priyam, a student of Spanish, drew attention to the budget cut of the university in recent years.

“Due to fund cuts, the quality of education has gone down. The recruitment of faculty is also not fair,” he told Patriot.

“The condition of hostels is miserable. A hostel, named Barak, was completed last year but has not been allotted to students until now. This hostel was established with the help of the governments of the Northeast states and is a priority for students from the region.”

Nitish Kumar, a PhD student of Centre for Political Science who is associated with the Left parties, told Patriot, “We will go into elections with several issues in the campus such as unfair recruitment of faculty, National Education Policy (NEP), ICC among others. There is no building and placement for newly-inducted B.Tech students. We oppose NEP because it talks about financial autonomy – but the burden ultimately piles on to the students. JNU is world famous for its affordable education.”

Another student, associated with another party, proposed the establishment of a cell that can sort out matters for students who face discrimination on the basis of region, caste among others.

CANVASSING: The campus is inundated with pamphlets of various political parties ahead of the elections

The parties in fray are: United Left alliance that consists of the All India Students’ Association (AISA), Democratic Students’ Federation (DSF), Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and the All India Students’ Federation (AISF); the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

The United Left has fielded PhD scholar Dhananjay of the School of Arts and Aesthetics for president, whereas ABVP has named Umesh Chandra Ajmeera for the same.