On November 25, over 200 students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) held a protest march to the Deputy director (Research) Surinder Jaswal’s Office. The march was to protest against the recent fee hike, the scrapping of OBC (Other backward class) scholarships, and increasing surveillance on the campus.
Though the director tried to calm down the protestors, the students’ union didn’t budge and submitted a list of eight demands to the Deputy Director (Research) that included scrapping of the biometric attendance and to roll back the fee hike.
On Monday, the members of the administration agreed to meet the protesting students but only inside the convention center. Though this constant CCTV surveillance inside the centre was one of the issues that the student’s union was protesting against, they had no option but to enter the closed facility.
Acting Director Shalini Bharat, Registrar Mohan Kumar, and Gaurishankar Kamblewho is in-charge of students’ affair office,were the representatives present from the administration’s side. The OBC scholarship and subsistence allowance were the first things on the student’s agenda.The latter also mentioned the insensitive behaviour which they received from the SPO while trying to get the paperwork done for the GoI scholarship or any work in general.
Vijay Raghavan, the dean, agreed that there are some problems due to the lack of working space and manpower in the Social Protection Office.Thus a system to monitor the behaviour of the employees would be put in place so that students find the SPO more accessible. No decisions taken were taken on whether the SPO will include a student representative
The students expressed their discontent over fee hike and said that students in other campuses too share similar sentiments.Fee for the current MA final year batches were hiked by Rs 7000, for the MA first year batch it had increased by Rs 9000, and for the M.Phil/ Ph.D scholars it had gone up by Rs 12000.
However, the administration had their own explanations for the fee hike and discontinuation of scholarships. According to Dr. Bharat, UGC has cut down the funds by Rs 30 crore in past two years. He also suggested ways of generating funds from third parties to minimise the pressure on the students. But the students were not convinced with this temporary solution.
The students also pointed out that instead of installing the CCTV cameras all over the campus, they could divert those funds to continue giving the subsistence allowance to the M.Phil/Ph.D scholars. The cameras invaded on the privacy of the students and though the administration tried to point out that they are being installed for security reasons and monitoring the existence of illegal occupiers. They said that all the the cameras are very strategically pointed towards the visitors area of every hostel, where students usually sit and have discussions amongst themselves.
Another issue was the current attendance policy that required students to be present for the 75 per cent of the total classes held throughout the year. Even with evidence of severe medical conditions the attendance has to be at least 33 per cent. This was the reason for the biometric system. This policy was seen as restrictive and not beneficial for the students.
Following a meeting with the students held yesterday, the administration agreed to completely roll back the fees hike for all batches of 2015-17 students. It was also decided that the OBC, non creamy layer and open category of students will not have to pay their fees upfront and student aid will be made available for these students within the first semester itself.
It was also decided that a new interim programme officer would be elected with student representatives in the SPO. The question around the CCTV cameras reached a stalemate with neither side willing to budge. The Student’s Union plans to approach the authorities next week to seek a solution to this.