By Sanjana Ahuja:
(This article was written after interviewing a diverse group of students from across universities in Delhi and keeps all their viewpoints in mind.)
After participating in one of the most talked about and largest national elections in the world, the time has now come for the students of the nation’s capital to decide upon the fate of their upcoming state government. Though Delhi boasts of many top-class educational institutions, Delhi-ites and our outstation cousins alike are disillusioned when they actually set foot in these renowned colleges. As the chief ministerial candidates talk about the rapid rate of growth and development that they expect to achieve, they often neglect the needs of the youth; who form a large part of the electorate. As the capital swoons over images of shining lights, towering skyscrapers, fancy malls and whatnot, the many students whom I had the chance to interview had somewhat of a more ‘reasonable and basic’ expectation from the next government, which would aptly fit into the first two tiers of Maslow’s Pyramid.
Let us begin with the first and most vital demand- better security and instilling a sense of safety among all students, particularly the females. Banning Uber Cabs or installing 15000 CCTV cameras for foreign dignitaries temporarily during their visits is not the solution. The need of the hour is a strengthened and foolproof administrative setup capable of prevention and not just cure. Besides the obvious solution of increasing police patrol, especially around the universities, every college needs to have in place active and efficient anti-sexual harassment committees and anti-bullying helplines. Dedicated buses should be arranged for female students, particularly for those attending evening colleges, so that they can reach home safely.
Delhi needs to have in place stringent legal measures to deal with racial and ethnic discrimination, which create a sense of alienation for members of our diverse student population. With students coming in from all parts of India and the rest of the world, sensitizing students to different cultures and customs is also necessary. Failure to protect any one student is a failure to protect all in totality and shouldn’t be considered any less than a failure of the state machinery.
Safety and security is not merely confined to protection from physical harm but should also extend to financial security, health and well-being. An overall improvement in infrastructure is quintessential to the improvement in and access to quality education. There must be an increase in the budget allocation for education and also, proper implementation of these funds to actually benefit the students. Merit-based scholarships and need-based financial aid will help deserving students avail higher learning opportunities and equip them for a better life. Delhi University, in particular, is crumbling under the swarms of students that exceed the institution’s capacity. To counter this issue, there needs to be an overall increase in the number of colleges, followed by a subsequent improvement in the quality and quantity of professors and administrative staff employed. Educational institutions must also have provisions for nutritious and affordable meal options, filtered drinking water and hygienic sanitation facilities.
To facilitate the improvement of academic life, especially for out of station students, the provision of hostel facilities must be expanded. PG accommodation fees and room rents should be regulated under the Delhi Rent Control Act 1995.
Metro stations should be located strategically, connecting all colleges by also creating a metro-college feeder bus service with subsidized tickets. The planned bus routes should include a stop within 500m of every college and students commuting on them on daily basis should be offered a bus pass with special discounts.
The changes demanded by the youth are not simply limited to infrastructural developments. The courses being taught in colleges are dated and non-stimulating. A switch from a bookish form of learning to a more hands on holistic education for students will help students from Delhi compete with their counterparts from across the globe, and help them get better jobs. Speaking of jobs, a strong placement cell in each college is a necessity as it will not only help students secure work, but give them information about the different kinds of positions they can apply for.
As per the Directorate of Economics and Statistics of the Delhi Government’s report on the employment and unemployment scenario in Delhi, the rate of unemployment in the urban area of the city is 40 per thousand persons, lagging behind the national average. An official also disclosed that over 90 per cent of the unemployed are mostly youngsters. Out of the total of 2.66 lakh unemployed persons, about 2.50 lakh (approximately 93.84 per cent) fall in the category of 15 to 29 years. Along with creating new jobs, the new CM must look into the aspects of job security, enforced minimum wage, and strict labour laws to ensure that the common man is not exploited.
We are the youth of Delhi. We dream of a Delhi where we don’t need to constantly keep checking the time and answer worried calls from our families whenever we go out at night, we dream of a Delhi where it does not take an hour to travel every 20 odd kilometres, a Delhi where we don’t have to think twice before going to a crowded mall or marketplace fearing another bomb scare. We demand a CM who respects our needs and helps us to achieve our full potential.
It is rightly said that opportunity is always present in the midst of crises; the future CM of Delhi should make the best possible use of this opportunity and bring about some tangible changes.