If you thought that skyrocketing cut-offs were the only cause of worry for thousands of DU aspirants, you may be wrong. With just 9,000 seats for both undergraduate and post-graduate students, getting a hostel seat is tougher than making it to a DU college. For more than 70 colleges affiliated to DU, the university has only 15 off-campus hostels and just nine colleges with boarding facilities on their premises.
Section 33 of the Delhi University Act clearly mandates the university to provide accommodation for every student. However, in reality, outstation students are forced to depend on private accommodations around colleges in a city that has one of the most exorbitant land-rates in the country. The situation is worse for female students as most of the co-ed colleges with boarding facilities don’t provide accommodation to women. This becomes a major hindrance for outstation students to study in Delhi University as those belonging to the lower middle income group families can hardly afford rent charged by the local PG owners.
Students’ Right to Accommodation Movement
Angered by the lack of hostel seats and affordable accommodations for students in the absence of standardized renting system in Delhi, a group of students has started a ‘Right to Accommodation’ movement demanding implementation of Delhi Rent Control Act, 1995, which asks that it include centralized hostel admissions and 24*7 reading halls.
The ‘Right to Accommodation’ students’ movement gained attention last year in September when seven of its members sat on an indefinite hunger strike to demand new hostels, better facilities at the central library, and a stipend for students belonging to economically weaker sections who could not be given hostels. “Even though the DU administration had assured the demands will be considered to call off the strike, a year later, nothing has been said or done on the issue”, said Praveen Kumar, convener of the movement. Naleen Mishra, another student who has been part of the struggle since the beginning, stressed on the fact that landlords in Delhi charge high rent from students without paying any receipt for the payment. “This unaccounted cash often contributes to black money, helping landlords evade taxes”, he said. Since May, the group has organized Padyatras and demonstrations in areas predominantly inhabited by students – Nehru Vihar, Christian Colony, Munirka, Gandhi Vihar, Mukherjee Nagar and Christian Colony.
Moving ahead, this movement plans to organize street plays and flash mobs to reach out to more students and underline the indifference of the University towards the accommodation needs of the students. Different student groups and teacher unions, including DUTA have expressed their support to the movement. “While the University administration and management in an attempt to emulate western universities has been imposing ideas like credit and grading system, free laptops, semester system et cetera, it fails to address the much needed infrastructure and other basic necessities of students”, says Nandita Narain, DUTA President and assistant professor at St. Stephens College. Apart from hostels and boarding facilities on campus, Delhi University should take the responsibility of making arrangements for accommodation in the vicinity of college campuses – something that almost all western universities do.
While more than forty countries have updated laws and regulations on Rent Control, Delhi continues to have an obsolete law (the 1995 amendment to the Delhi Control Act made houses with more than Rs 3500 rent fall outside the purview of Rent Control) that is not even implemented properly in the city. As lakhs of students come to Delhi in search of better education and opportunities – from Gandhi Vihar in east Delhi to Christian Colony and Mukherjee Nagar in the North, students from economically weaker sections continue to pay high rents for cramped rooms. Both the Delhi Government and Delhi University need to address this with strict implementation of the Rent Control Act and newer boarding facilities at affordable rates.