This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Simran Pavecha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

BITS Fee Hike: KM Birla Meets Students For Negotiations, Many Not Satisfied With Outcome

More from Simran Pavecha

What had started on May 6, 2018, as a series of protests demanding a rollback of the fee hike in BITS Pilani campuses throughout the country yielded results on July 7, 2018, as the aggrieved students received audience from the Chancellor Kumar Mangalam Birla, and put forth and discussed their problems at length.

These protests had started in May 2018 with a demand for the rollback of the mammoth fee hike of 15%. Students had staged protests in the campus, even during their exams. Students also wrote open letters and took to social media platforms demanding the rollback. When the administration promised to find solutions, the students had halted the protests.

The administration, instead of responding with solutions, sent students show-cause notices. After students realised that the admin wasn’t going to take concrete steps to resolve the issue, they called for nationwide protests demanding the intervention of the Chancellor KM Birla. They had also handed over letters of intent to KM Birla, post which they were invited to speak with him and had the above-mentioned meeting.

Nine student representatives met him in his Worli office on July 7. “The meeting, which was supposed to last only for an hour, went on for more than four hours. We, the student community are grateful for his timely intervention in this issue. The student representatives elaborated upon the fee hike problem in a short presentation and the Chancellor, while making a note of the same, discussed each and every point exhaustively. We were asked to compile the Minutes of the Meeting and take an agreement to the Chancellor’s office, post which we had more negotiations. After the four hours of meeting, we indulged in further deliberations with his advisors for about 15 hours spread over the next few days. It took us so much time because they didn’t want to promise anything that they couldn’t deliver”, said Sidhartha Namburi who was one of the students who had spearheaded the campaign.

The discussions and deliberations bore a few assurances in the form of a more transparent fee structure, better scholarships, medical facilities and the like. The main demand of the students was the rollback of the fee hike. “We’ve agreed that rollback of the fee hike already announced for this year is not possible as the institute finances have already been planned accordingly”, said Namburi.

Another important demand was that of ‘One Batch One Fee’ model; this was also a hashtag the students of BITS Pilani used throughout the protests.

“In the new proposed model, the total fee for a student’s duration of study for the incoming batches would be explicitly mentioned at the time of joining. This amount will be distributed over the duration of the student’s enrolment in such a way, that it will be much easier for the students to pay a lower amount in their first year and gradually, pay the total fees. This will help the student plan their finances and procure loans accordingly,” said Namburi.

The administration plans to release the fee structure to be paid by the 2019 batch by the end of July.

“I believe we compromised on our demands, but going to a negotiation table that has to be the essence of a deal. We had a lot hope from our administration after seeing their apathy, hence this renewed trust on the Chancellor is a welcome change. This was a successful protest and all of us here at BITS are satisfied with the outcome and hope these concrete efforts lead us towards a better future”, added Neil Sarkar who will now begin his second year at BITS and was a part of the negotiations.

While the student representatives called the meeting fruitful in this Facebook post, there has been a mixed response about the same. A section of the students are disappointed at the lack of a concrete response from the Chancellor’s office. They believe things have been left in the open and to time, again.

“We started this protest to roll back the fee hike but if you read the report of the talk, that thing is lost somewhere or has been given some other face like the OBOF model. We were not even ready to leave the auditorium without getting all our answers and, now, apparently, we have compromised a lot. I wanted to see some full proof data and not mere promises by the Chancellor. I think these points may lose their credibility in the long run by my knowledge of how things in India work. However, I have complete faith in Namburi Bhaiya and other representatives when they say that efforts and improvements are concrete words. Let’s hope he is right”, said a student on the request of anonymity.

While a lot of people are happy and have immense faith in their student representatives, they are uncertain about the new OBOF model which assures a pre-determined fee structure, on account of its illogical premise.

“I am quite satisfied with the work that the student leaders have done. It’s commendable. But just like a lot of other BITSians, I am also wondering if we got a good deal. It made quite less sense to inform us beforehand about what we will pay for the four years (at least useless for the batches that have already taken the loan). I am not very satisfied with the logic that parents will have an income increase every year. But, even if they do increase the fees, it’s only valid to increase it by the same percentage as inflation”, said a third-year student.

“The one problem I found with the fee-structure they have proposed is that when you look ahead, you tend to keep risks in mind. So, say, if you have a 10% hike, you’ll always have a 0.5% extra margin in the fee for risks and errors, and this will not bring a reduction in the fee structure. So, rollback is anyway not possible. My problem is that the things they have proposed are not very concrete. They are not really things we can go back and ask the administration to do”, added another final year BITS student who requested anonymity.

While the credibility of the proposed OBOF model received mixed responses, the students were also promised other essential facilities.

“There has been a mixed response about the outcome of the meeting, but there are various other important takeaways from the meeting, which are going to help BITS go a long way in its development. Though there is going to be a fee-hike, we are being provided with more facilities which we were not getting before. The meeting also assured the students of increase in scholarships from the current 21% and the promise that they will try their best to get it to previous levels (they had 50% scholarships back in 2005); if not, there’ll definitely be an increase in the same. They also promised to revamp medical facilities, especially in the BITS Pilani Campus. This was a manifesto point since the last ten years; it never got implemented, Pilani being a rural area. But, Birla Sir promised 24×7 Pharmacy and Emergency Facilities as well as an upgradation to the existing medical facilities provided on campus”, says Namburi.

The students have officially called off the protests, after the meeting.


Image used for representation.
Image source: Ravi Choudhary/HT | Abhijiit Bhatlekar/Mint via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Simran Pavecha

Similar Posts

By Vipashyana Dubey

By Imran Hasib

By Meemansa Narula

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below