While the Jawaharlal Nehru University has mostly been in the news this week due to a clash over non-vegetarian food at a hostel, a ceiling collapse, which left a student injured at another hostel on Thursday, has now raised other questions – about crumbling infrastructure and alleged negligence by the varsity administration.
Fasihul Hasan, a second-year student of BA German from Bihar, who was allotted a room at the Sabarmati hostel just over a month ago, received a head injury as a portion of the ceiling collapsed in the restroom on Thursday morning. He was taken to the health centre on campus and later admitted to Safdarjung Hospital.
“I got five stitches on the left side of my head. If it had happened in the room and not the bathroom, I would have been dead. Doctors advised me to take rest for a week,” Hasan told Newslaundry. “The condition of hostels is pathetic across the university.”
JNU V-C Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit, who visited the hostel late afternoon, said the administration will bear the cost of Hasan’s treatment.
“This is a clear case of criminal negligence on part of the hostel wardens and the dean of students. We have time and again brought the issue of dilapidated hostel infrastructure and falling ceilings to the concerned authorities, but the JNU administration has been trying to digress the issue in the name of lack of funds,” the Left students’ outfit AISA said in a statement after the incident.
Students are also irked that the college administration is taking up beautification works when immediate repairs in hostels remain incomplete despite several complaints. Newslaundry saw copies of multiple complaints addressed to the varsity authorities.
“In the past five years, hundreds of complaints were submitted to the warden. We have even taken up the issue with the dean’s office, who assured that the hostel would be renovated at the earliest. All these were false assurances,” said Udita Halder, a PhD scholar in economics who has been residing at the hostel since 2014. This is the first time a student was injured by a dilapidated ceiling in the hostel, she said. “It didn’t hit a person but the roof and walls in the hostel collapsed multiple times.”
Rama Naga, a PhD student who resides in Sabarmati, said that during monsoon, “water leaks from the walls and the roof”, “gets stagnant” and “the mess looks like a swimming pool”. “Many times, it is the students who pooled money to install new lights in the common area and the corridor,” he claimed.
Infrastructure has been a concern at Sabarmati since the last five years with dilapidated walls, broken doors and lack of lighting in several spots, said a PhD Sanskrit student. A door that was broken during the January 2020 is yet to be fixed. “It is very difficult to work during winters. Forget heaters, the entrance door is not replaced yet; lets all the cold air inside,” said a security guard.
Prakash Sahoo, the hostel’s senior warden, was unwilling to talk to the media, but when students confronted him, he admitted that the “poor infrastructure is of grave concern” and that he will follow up the matter with the administration.
As nearly 20 students gathered at the hostel in the afternoon to demand a permanent solution to infrastructure-related problems, the acting dean, Dr Anamika, summoned the engineering department to look into all related grievances at the facility – which has 120 residents in boys’ and girls’ wings. “JNU administration has sent a proposal to the education ministry seeking around Rs 56 crore to renovate all the 17 hostels in the campus. As and when we receive the funds, we would be renovating them. Renovation works are already underway in Brahmaputra hostel,” she told Newslaundry.
Later, the university’s Twitter account wrote, “JNU receives a grant of 56.34 crores towards hostel repairs and maintenance. VC Prof. Santishree D. Pandit, in keeping with her mission of a student centric and friendly administration, thanks the UGC & MoE for the release of the grant.”
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