Editor’s Note: National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi has been in a perpetual state of mess. While infrastructure and administrative problems have always persisted in the university, the students of the University finally came together on April 10, 2017, and demanded a complete change in the accounting procedures and administrative functioning of the University. The students sat on a 4-day lockdown protest, and even now, they have only been assured that actions to fulfil their demands will be taken within 15 days. These 15 days are extremely crucial for the student body, as their careers and their basic right to education is at stake. The following is an account of the happenings at the University by a student who witnessed it all.
The autocracy, mismanagement and nepotism in the administration at NUSRL has become unendurable. The demands of the students have been suppressed, and they are being provided with little or no facilities to continue with their academics. NUSRL, Ranchi is the highest fee charging and the largest NLU in the country. The official website of the university claims – “NUSRL provides the best infrastructure to its students. The campus has the latest state-of-the-art facilities that help the students learn all the fundamentals in a comfortable and composed manner. A finely crafted Wi-Fi enabled campus allows students to always stay connected, which is appropriate for studies. The professional environment encourages mindsets to evolve. The advanced multimedia senate, with air-conditioned rooms, enhances the quality of academic delivery.”
In the name of ‘best infrastructure,’ the university only has one academic block – where all the classes, administrative works and library functions, two blocks of hostel each for girls and boys and a common mess block. There is no separate auditorium, moot court hall or any sports facilities, for that matter. In the name of ‘finely crafted Wi-Fi’, in the past three years I personally have seen four different means of providing internet access, none satisfactory. The administration has shown such indifference and ignorance towards the very evident problems of the students paying ₹1,90,000 per annum. Time and again it has been reported that resistance has risen in the university in some form or the other. Students have tried conveying their issues in some way or the other to the state authorities as well – every time in vain.
I do not want to comment on now former Hon’ble Vice Chancellor – Prof. (Dr) BC Nirmal who has constantly failed to address the problems of the students. Recently, on the news of a debt of ₹42 Crore + ₹7 Crore [Interest] to the Central Public Works Department, the Hon’ble Vice Chancellor stated the following: “There is no option but to close down the University if the State Government doesn’t help.”
It is not the first time we have had such a careless statement from the head of a prestigious University, and that was perhaps the reason for us to collect for the demonstration. Owing to the continued distress no student of NUSRL perhaps even questioned themselves even once before joining the shutdown once the notification circulated amongst them on Facebook, through the page Voice of NUSRL. This was because each one of us were so tormented on a personal level that we did not need any more reasons to stand against the administration. The students unanimously decided to lock the main gates to the University and resort to peaceful protest by sitting at the gates for as long as their demands were unanswered.
Day 1 and 2 (Monday and Tuesday, April 10 and 11, 2017) of the protest: Uncertain as to what shape the protest will be taking, all the students reached the venue of the protest where the main gates to the campus were locked down. More than 90% of the students had turned up for the protest, and that was exactly what sent across a little wave of joy for finally standing up.
All the students present were briefed about the five charter demands. This was the first time when the demands did not include infrastructure, Wi-Fi, cleanliness or any short term issue because we had realised that there are several major issues in the University that require immediate attention.
The charter demands include:
(i) Complete administrative overhaul including the resignation or removal of Vice Chancellor and Registrar.
(ii) Financial records of the University be audited by the CAG of India or by any other competent and external authority.
(iii) The annual audit records of the Accounts of the University should be put out in the public domain.
(iv) The release of funds as promised by the State Government.
(v) Appointment of a Review Commission for enquiry into financial irregularities.
The protest began at 8’o clock in the morning, and there was no looking back. Persistently, the students kept sitting there in all kinds of adverse circumstances. The temperature reached above 40 degree Celsius. However, the scorching summer afternoons did not hamper the students’ spirits who continued with the hope of meeting the higher authorities. The Vice Chancellor and the administrative authorities were constantly trying to approach the students, but on their arrival, the students simply turned their backs towards them and raised the placards reading – ‘we need action, not assurance’ and ‘education should not be a debt sentence’. The students were adamant that unless their demands were met with equally strong and promising actions, their protest shall continue in full swing.
Day 3: The protest continued for approximately 48 hours, this included sitting day and night at the venue. Finally, three High Court Judges – AK Singh, S Chandrashekhar and Rajesh Shankar nominated by the Chancellor himself along with Gautam Chaudhary, the Director of the Jharkhand Judicial Academy visited the students assuring us that the process of grievance redressal had been initiated.
However, the students decided not to move on mere assurances. Soon after, the news of Hon’ble Vice Chancellor BC Nirmal who went on a ‘long leave’, along with the appointment of an interim, reached the students. The Acting Vice Chancellor in Charge, Shri. Gautam Kumar Chaudhary reached the students. The students still weren’t satisfied and questioned the difference between ‘resignation’ and ‘long leave’. The newly appointed Acting Vice-Chancellor, dissatisfied left the venue of protest. The protest witnessed constant visits by various officials including visits from the Sub-Divisional Magistrate who directly and indirectly hinted that order might be restored by deploying the police and using force on the crowd, however with no certainty. The crowd, even though alarmed stood together as one with the motto – ‘One for all, all for one’. The students held hands and braved the night to continue to maintain the dignity of the peaceful protest.
Day 4: With the expectation that some action will be taken because of the protest, the eager students continued to protest peacefully without taking a break. The consensus of allowing the newly appointed Vice Chancellor In-Charge grew amongst the students, some people though, who thought otherwise, kept the spirit high by standing up as one. Soon cars and vans with about 140 police officers (including women constables) were seen outside the campus.
Further, the Additional District Magistrate, Senior Superintendent of Police, and the Deputy Commissioner along with other authorities reached there. Upon the arrival of the newly appointed Vice Chancellor In-Charge, the gates were opened for their entry. There were deliberations for the next four hours, which was reduced to writing in the minutes of the meeting signed by all the authorities present and the students. The students were assured that the former Vice Chancellor, in all probability, shall not return and work on all demands shall begin within 15 days. Simultaneously, two student representatives succeeded in meeting the Chief Minister of Jharkhand who also assured quick action.
Finally, the gates were opened. The protest has not been halted – it’s just a small pause and the students know that this is just the beginning. The form of the protest has changed, but its objectives remain intact. The fire in the hearts of the students is still burning; it wasn’t easy to continuously keep sitting on the roads for 75 hours. The authorities have been given a period of 15 days for showing visible changes.
We have put our trust in the authorities of the Hon’ble High Court and the Hon’ble Chief Minister with high hopes of facing no further disappointment. Inspired by the collective action taken by the student body at NUSRL, the student bar associations of three other National Law Schools namely NLSIU Bangalore, NALSAR Hyderabad and NUJS Kolkata have issued a joint statement in solidarity with NUSRL. The statement also contains a call for all national law school students to work together towards jointly fixing what they feel is a root cause of many NLUs’ problems: a distinct lack of funding.
NUSRL saw a new dawn of hope on the morning of April 14, 2017. The students were successful in sweeping out the abusers of power from this prestigious institution, remaining peaceful till the very end. All assurances made after deliberations for four hours between the authorities and the students have been written down in the minutes of the meeting which has been signed by all the authorities and hundreds of student sitting in protest. NUSRL shall revert to the standards it deserves to have. The students have been assured of improvements to campus infrastructure, funds from the state government and a financial audit of the University within fifteen days else the students reserve the right to resort to protest again.