By Bhanvi Satija:
When you enter a college under Delhi University, one of the many things that one looks forward to (or at least I did!) are the elections. From the small scale department elections, to the regal college union/DUSU elections, these are often the first elections that a student gets to vote in.
Different colleges under DU, have opted for different systems with the majority of them divided into two categories – one, the colleges which come under DUSU (most north campus colleges, like Miranda, Daulat Ram, Kirori Mal) and two, those which have a separate college union (LSR, Stephens). Every year, with the DUSU elections right around the corner, the age old debate gains momentum – which is better – having a separate union or being under DUSU? While there isn’t a definitive yes or no which can answer this question, there are both advantages and disadvantages, of each system.
Students from St. Stephens and LSR, who have their separate college unions, seem to be quite satisfied with the system of college union in place. One recurring argument in favour of a separate college union is the familiarity of the candidates with the problems that the college actually faces. Students believe that if they were under DUSU, college specific issues would hardly be focused on. “(There is) more focus on substantial issues and sound electoral tactics such as society pitches, class pitches and so on. No election freebies (movie tickets, cigarettes, free food et al) are ever doled out and the election is never a show of strength (where the side with more guns, Fortuners or Scorpios triumphs usually)”, said Anish Sahni, a third year student at St. Stephens. With a college union in place, they are not only more approachable but are also directly held accountable to the students, as and when their problems are not dealt with. There is direct control of management of events by students, and there is also, transparency in the accounts maintained by the college union. Most importantly though, students at these colleges are content with the peaceful environment. A separate union, they believe, keeps them away from the disruptions in class and the extremely politicised atmosphere, which often divides students. This also ensures a ‘more fair’ process, and an informed decision on the part of the voters – as the students are well aware of the credentials and capabilities of their candidates.
However, not all arguments in place are entirely advantageous- at the cost of a peaceful environment and avoiding chaos, these colleges often remain aloof of the issues bothering other students and/or colleges. Some students, are also of the opinion that whether they vote or not in DUSU elections, the union and its decisions inevitably have an influence over the college and its functions, making the ‘not voting’ exercise extremely futile. Some also believe that being under DUSU gives one a chance to face and participate in the real world politics, as the atmosphere DUSU elections create is much like the one created by state-level elections, for the student community. At times, the case for ‘more fair’ elections or ‘informed choice’ also gets defeated when the students do not get to vote, like in this year’s elections at Stephens’.
Some students also believe that the college union is unable to express a certain opinion to the student community, just because it fears losing its position. For this dilemma, there are other systems in place: SRCC, has both a separate union and DUSU in place. It therefore enjoys the pros of both the systems, where one system can overcome the flaws of the other. There are also colleges like Keshav Mahavidyalaya, which function solely on the basis of department unions and their collaborations. There is no college union in place and the students don’t vote for DUSU either.
But here’s the interesting bit. Despite having problems with separate college unions, a major chunk of the student community would prefer having a separate college union over DUSU. There is also an increasing demand for NOTA in DUSU elections. Such a preference raises several questions about the functioning of DUSU in Delhi University. It is also reflective of the many expectations that the student community has, which DUSU hasn’t been able to fulfill. It’s high time that the people contesting for DUSU elections understand their responsibilities and stop making hollow promises to the student community. Deeply engrossed in the party-politics, will DUSU ever be able to satisfy the student community? Let’s see what this year’s elections have store in for all of us.
(This article is based on an online survey conducted by the author. Share your opinion about the issue by commenting below or tweet to me @BhanviSatija)