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In Case You Missed It: 17 Important Developments Across Indian Campuses In August

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The second half of August witnessed a lot of developments in the higher education scenario in the country – mostly introductions (and amendments) of numerous regulations by the HRD ministry to inception of new universities and schemes to students realising and demanding their rights to showing solidarity with the victimised, and dissenting against the many wrongs to courts rendering judgments that vouch for better academic jurisprudence.

Here’s the fortnightly round-up of everything that happened and you haven’t already read on Campus Watch.

1) SC Students Demand Rights In Assam

The demonstration organised by the All Assam Scheduled Caste Students’ Union to raise demands for the betterment of the members saw participation from over 500 young people. A memorandum was also addressed to the Chief Minister which stated all their demands.

Some demands include: setting up of a Scheduled Caste (SC) State Commission to deliberate on the social, economic and other rights of the SCs in the state similar to the ones set up in other states, regularisation of scholarships to SC students and doubling the amount of such scholarships; granting of land to the SC people who are rendered landless by floods and erosion; filling of all vacant posts reserved for SCs and promotion of state government employees based on the reservation system; to strictly follow the SC and Scheduled Tribe (ST) reservation policy and implement the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the like. Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader Akhil Gogoi voiced his support for the same.

2) Delhi HC Orders DU Law Faculty To Release Results

In a recent order by the Delhi High Court, the court directed the Law Faculty at Delhi University to declare the impending results of the students who had been allowed to sit for the semester exams on court orders and, also, asked the faculty to conduct supplementary examinations for the students who failed the exam. The court, in its judgment, had asked DU to conduct extra hours of teaching to make up for lost attendance and had directed DU to let students (who had a shortage of attendance) sit for the exams.

3) Studying Biology In +2 Not Necessary to Pursue MBBS, Rajasthan HC Rules

In its recent judgment, the Rajasthan HC eliminated the necessity of studying Biology for pursuing MBBS. The case was filed by two students who were refused admission on account of them not studying Biology at the higher secondary level. The court dismissed this contention stating that their passing the NEET exam was enough to make them eligible for admission as they had studied Biology while attempting NEET.

4) Thousands Of Graduates and PhD Holders Apply For Low-Tier Police Job

Soaring unemployment in the country has been highlighted by yet another instance. About 50,000 graduates, 28,000 post-graduates and 3,700 PhD holders have applied for the post of messengers, which ranks low in the hierarchy in the UP Police Department. Only 7,400, out of the 93000, have studied between Classes V to XII in this post for which the minimum eligibility criterion is passing the fifth standard. Originally, the requirement for this post was a self-declaration by the applicant of the ability to ride a bicycle, but due to a lot of candidates being overqualified for this post, the government is trying to come out with tougher ways to test their competence.

5) JNU Teachers Write To Javadekar Asking For The VC’s Removal

The teachers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) recently wrote an open letter to the HRD Minister, Prakash Javdekar, to remove the Vice Chancellor from office. They sought his removal on account of him violating the rules, his “mindless regimentation and bureaucratisation of the University’s academic life”, among others. This letter came after the referendum conducted in-house by the Teachers’ Association of JNU. The referendum that was conducted on 7th August resulted in an overwhelming number of teachers voting to remove the VC. The JNUTA, in its public enquiry conducted in October 2017, had also found him guilty of seven charges.

6) NLU-D Shows Solidarity With Sudha Bharadwaj; Condemns Her Arrest

Over 700 members of staff, students and administration of the National Law University, Delhi, issued a joint statement to condemn the arrest of the activist, Sudha Bharadwaj, who is a visiting faculty at the college. Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested by the Maharashtra police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence. The letter mentions Bharadwaj’s commendable contribution to the legal fraternity and academia and extends solidarity. They end the letter by condemning the state’s suppression of dissent and demanding recognition of the value of dissent in a democracy.

7) MH Education Minister Wants To Distribute The Gita In Colleges

Maharashtra’s Education minister Vinod Tawde spoke about distributing The ‘Gita’ in colleges, calling it a “non-religious” text and a “way of life”. He blamed the media for branding this distribution of Gita as ‘communal’. Criticizing the opposition’s attempt to call it ‘saffronisation of the education system’, he said that Gita is “philosophical and scientific in nature”. In July this year, the office of the Joint Director, Higher Education for Mumbai region had issued a letter asking NAAC ‘A’ and ‘A+’ ranked colleges in the city to collect the copies of the Gita from its office. Though, the letter was silent about the organization that provided these copies.

8) Govt. Introduces Free Coaching Facility for JEE, NEET, UGC-NET Aspirants

The government, from the next year, has made free coaching facility available at government teaching centres for JEE entrance test for IITs, NEET for medical studies, and UGC – NET aspirants and pharma entrances. The government has plans of converting 3000 test practice centres into teaching centres that will provide free coaching to students. The coaching is to begin from May next year. This comes as a relief for students from low socio-economic backgrounds for whom coaching is beyond reach due to financial constraints.

9) RMLNLU Student Represents Senior Citizen At Consumer Forum for  1

Chanakya Sharma, a student of Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, set a befitting example of legal aid and represented a senior citizen in a case for two years for a fee of  1 in a consumer forum in Rajasthan. Chanakya, who is a UP State Legal Services Authority certified volunteer of Legal Aid Clinic at his varsity, also got the client compensated.

Being a student, he represented the client through the ‘Consumer Protection (Procedure for regulation of allowing the appearance of Agents or representatives or Non-Advocates or Voluntary Organisations before the Consumer Forum), Regulations, 2014’ which allows non-advocates to appear before the consumer forum.

10) Govt. Introduces Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements

The government has introduced the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARRIA) to promote a culture of research and innovation in higher education. The announcement was made by Union HRD Minister, Prakash Javadekar, at the inauguration of an innovation cell at AICTE. Educational institutions will be ranked for innovation output based on all major indicators and parameters used globally.

11) MH Govt. Directs Colleges To Construct PWD Friendly Toilets

In a PIL filed by Akanksha Kale, a college student in Pune, on account of her inability to attend colleges due to her being wheelchair-bound, the Maharashtra government has directed all the educational institutions to make their building disabled-friendly and provide for a barrier-free environment. The government had recently passed a resolution which directed all the government aided colleges to reserve five per cent seats for disabled students. The order also said that all the required infrastructural facilities should be provided in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Kale had originally filed the petition in 2016, where the court had ordered the college to have the necessary facilities. But, Kale moved the court again this in July, saying that certain other institutes had not complied with the order.

12) FIR Registered Against NIILM for Submitting Fraudulent Records to Obtain Scholarships for SC Students

The management of Northern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (NIILM) University, Kaithal, has been booked for allegedly obtaining scholarships worth  17.42 lakh under the central government scheme of Post-Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Caste Students by furnishing the false records of students in 2016-17. An FIR was registered at the Vigilance police station in Ambala on August 18. The scholarship money was deposited in the bank accounts of 12 SC students and, later, transferred into the account of NIILM. On interrogation and investigation, the SC students were found to be not genuine and they also denied knowledge of any bank account in Vijaya Bank, Kaithal. This is the second instance of an institute obtaining fake scholarships by forging documents and feigning identities. Rohitash Institute of Management, Mahendergarh, was also booked for claiming Rs 28 lakh scholarship under the scheme by allegedly submitting fake documents of 53 MBA students, claiming to be from marginalised backgrounds.

13) Differences between Finance Ministry and HRD Ministry Over IoE Tag to Jio Institute

The upcoming Jio institute had recently been awarded the Institute of Eminence (IoE) tag, and this had sparked a lot of controversies. Recently, an RTI filed by the Indian Express added to the list of controversies as it showed the disagreement between two key ministeries – Finance and HRD – on choosing an IoE merely on the “basis of intentions and a plan”.

As per the records, the Finance ministry cited their disagreement with this move saying that “granting of the status of Institutions of Eminence based on future plans is beyond rationale and is not supported”. Not only between Finance and HRD, there were differences between the PMO and HRD as well – while HRD wanted rigidity in accountability and expertise, PMO wanted a more liberalised structure. They differed on the parameters of quality and expertise, the number of years to achieve the necessary student-teacher ratio, flexibility of course structure, finances and the like. While most of the contentions of the PMO prevailed, the ministry won some debates including that of non-removal of the restriction of appointment of foreign faculty up to 25%.

14) Foundation Of The First Institute For Minorities To Be Laid In Sep

The foundation for the first out of the five proposed “world class” educational institutes for minorities will be laid in September, according to the Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. The institute will be spread over 16 acres of land in the Mewat district of Haryana. The institute that is open for all communities would provide education from primary up to the diploma and degree levels besides also opening various centres for skill development. Apart from that, it will also have a coaching centre for competitive exams, and hostels with modern amenities. There have been proposals from a few foreign and Indian organizations to run the institute on the PPP (public-private-partnership) mode.

15) HRD Reverses Earlier Decision To Conduct NEET Twice A Year

The earlier decision of conducting NEET twice a year was withdrawn by the HRD ministry recently. NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) will now be conducted only once a year and the newly incorporated NTA would conduct the national-level entrance examination. The earlier decision to hold it twice a year was reconsidered after the Health Ministry sent a letter to the HRD Ministry stating that the decision was made “without formal consultation”.

16) Teacher Can’t Be Employed In A Full-Time Course In The Same University Without Prior Approval

The Madras High Court in a recent judgment deprecated the practice of taking up a teaching job in the same university where the candidate is pursuing a full-time course. The court said that no faculty can do a full-time course without obtaining the prior permission of the University. This gives rise to the possibility of the university projecting the student as a teacher, to match up to the minimum strength standards and get AICTE approval, and also simultaneously allow them to pursue the course. This question arose in a petition filed by a candidate of the Anna University who was doing a two-year Mechanical Engineering course and who got employed as a lecturer in the same college. She was later relieved from her post and issued a show-cause notice for breach of rules of the university and all the examinations she had attempted had been nullified by order of the Controller of the Examination. She had, thereafter, moved the HC challenging the nullification and the court dismissed her petition.

17) Students Move To HC Seeking Transfer To Other Medical Colleges Since Their College Might Shut

Students of Ponnaiyah Ramajayam Institute of Medical Sciences (PRIMS) have moved the Madras HC to ask the court to direct their transfer from PRIMS, which was subsequently debarred by the Health Ministry from admitting students, to another medical college. After obtaining approval from the State and Central governments and the Medical Council of India (MCI) in 2016, students were admitted in the first year under management and government quota. But, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare debarred the college from making admissions as it failed to correct the “deficiencies” as told by the MCI. The bank which the college owed money was taking steps to auction the property which led to severe financial restraints for the college, and, hence, disability to pay salaries of staff. This led to the staff leaving the college and the future of the students was left at stake.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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.

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