Whenever students of TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) feel that injustice has been meted out to them, #InjusTISS trends on social media. Popularised in February this year when TISS student protests were all over the news, the hashtag has found little reasons of fading out since then.
In the latest development, of the 27 students against whom an ‘independent committee’ carried out an inquiry, 18 students have been asked to pay a fine of ₹1000 each. The punishment comes for blocking the administrative wing and obstructing the daily business of the institution during the protest in March. On the 24th of that month, the students had ‘forcefully’ trespassed and occupied the registrar’s office and thereafter blocked the building for three days. Four of the remaining nine students have already graduated, while four others have been let off with a warning and one has been let off because his ‘offence’ was not proven.
At that time, the registrar of the institute had issued a notice asking the students to vacate the main gate failing to which “the institute shall be compelled to take recourse to action.” In a video posted on Facebook, the General Secretary of the Students Union had condemned the ‘threatening tone’ of the administration at a time when the administration and the SU body was trying to reach a consensus.
For now, TISS administration has stated that the money raised by the fines will be diverted to student aid fund.
Established in 1936, TISS is a deemed university funded by the University Grants Commission, Government of India. At a time when government is willing to spend less and less amount of money on education, TISS holds a tight spot. As early as 2015, TISS and seven other deemed universities of India were facing a financial crunch as the funds from GoI had stopped coming in. Since TISS is not a central university, UGC has been unclear in its approach when it comes to funding. In fact, TISS is referred to as a ‘fully funded public institution’ and a ‘private institution heavily funded by the government.’
On the face of it, GoI wants universities and institutions of higher learning to raise their own funds, especially those institutions over which it does not have a direct control. Added to this is the fact that TISS as an institution specializes in research in social sciences. As India limps towards what many have been calling a ‘neo-liberal’ order, social sciences and humanities are being seen as non-utilitarian fields.
The three month long protests that all four campuses of TISS saw earlier this year started because the government decreased the amount paid towards the maintenance cost of the institution by 5 percent, following which TISS withdrew the fee exemption that it used to provide to students belonging to SC/ST/OBC communities. Coupled with that, the disbursal of post-matric scholarship had also become erratic.