By Abhishek Jha:
Some four months ago, the Villupuram Collectorate had witnessed protests and a suicide attempt by former students of the SVS Naturopathy and Yoga Science College, who alleged torture and discrimination by the college administration. The New Indian Express had reported in October last year that the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) had inspected the college, found the college wanting in amenities, and sent a report to the DM. Despite this apparent action, there seems to have been no progress in the case, forcing three students to commit suicide on January 23.
The college is an affiliated private institution of the Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University, a state university governed by a 1987 Act of the Tamil Nadu government. A former registrar of the University is reported to have said that she conducted a probe and found nothing wrong, while reports suggest that the college not only does not have basic amenities for its students or teachers but also forces students to cook their own food , build laboratories, charging them in lakhs all the while.
Even quitting the college, where students are referred after tests and counselling by the state government, is not an easy option, as students allege that they are charged in lakhs again for obtaining a transfer certificate. The three students- Monisha, Priyanka, and Saranya- who committed suicide have in fact written in their suicide note that they are “committing suicide so that action can be taken on this college”. The Indian Express has reported that there were complaints of atrocities against SC/ST students too, an offence punishable under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Since the University too had failed or, as it appears, deliberately ignored the students’ complaints, it is only natural for the district administration to have paid heed to the complaints and protest by students. That both the University and the administration did not pay any attention to these protests and suicide attempts show the apathy with which the matter was dealt.
This case should also be a wake-up call not only for the state authorities but also the University Grants Commission which has the duty and the powers to safeguard the interests of students, even if it requires shutting down colleges. That a college in shams wrecking its students was being referred to by the state government either implies that the government has failed to discharge its duties or, worse, is in collusion with private entities furthering their pecuniary interests. However, when the UGC itself seems to be headed further away from the interests of the students, it should worry the country’s citizens.
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