By Abhilash Anand:
Lalji Singh, the previous Vice-Chancellor of BHU is said to have once come across a group of students studying under a street light inside the campus. When he enquired the reason behind it, students told him that they were compelled to do so as they lived outside the campus where continuous power cuts hampered their studies. The end result of this interaction was the inception of a 24×7 Cyber Library on March 3, 2013 with 250 computers. The same spirit made the administration incorporate more computers and facilities and on July 3, 2014 the library got the tag of being possibly Asia’s biggest Cyber Library within a university, with 455 computers.
The library was shut down after the violent protest by students in November 2014 , demanding a students’ union. The new V-C, prof. G.C.Tripathi, after assuming charge, ordered to keep the library open for 12 hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The closing time was later changed to 11 p.m. after a few protests and continues till date.
This is not the first time that students are protesting against the reduced hours. Protests took place last year in the months of October and November as well. The only difference is that this time, students are marking their protest by studying under the street lights of the library campus after the fastening of Cyber Library’s doors or taking up peaceful activities such as signature campaigns. Today is the 16th day of the protest. It has not been easy convincing the security personnel to let the protest continue and verbally confronting the proctor almost every day. The protest and the demands of these students seem more genuine after the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, emphasised on the need to spend more on research-based activities and allow the development of innovative ideas in his centennial address on 12th of this month in BHU .
The administration is fielding the proctor and other officials to convince students to drop their strike. Video evidence of students being manhandled are available with the protesters. They also sent show-cause notices to two students actively participating in the protest, accusing them of disturbing the atmosphere of the University, “by sitting and studying and taking up activities such as signature campaigns.”
A university that gets a funding of Rs. 760 crores annually, as a student who filed an RTI in this regard learnt, must not act in a manner which reflects digression from the ideals of pious Mahamana Madan Mohan Malviya who established it and worked day in and day out to ensure that no student was deprived of the best possible facilities. (Incidentally, the student who filed the RTI is one of two protesters who were served show-cause notices).
Today, after 100 years, the situation with regard to the welfare of the students is not something the administration can boast about. The students are correct to demand that the library must be open even if it is only for a single student.
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