Why You Need To Know About JNU’s Admission Process To Understand The Protest

Created by Mahak Sharma

What is the best use of public fund?

In the last few weeks, I have seen a dirty and grotesque spectacle of how media can be lethal to the mind and welfare of a country’s citizens. I saw how a fundamental right like education, an essential need of ‘young India’ can also be moulded by the media to become undesirable and a burden on the taxpayer’s money.

Today, I am writing about the #feehike at JNU, and many such universities in the last few years; and how JNU has taken the baton for taking what is rightfully theirs. I do not want to get ahead of myself and will explain the admission process of the university so that we can understand the issue at hand.

JNU Has A Comprehensive And Elaborate ‘Reservation-Point’ System

This is a system that gives ‘additional or extra’ points to the following individuals :

  • A student who hails from a remote district of the country
  • A student who hails from towns or villages that fall under the Naxalite belt area or are considered highly vulnerable due to their poverty level
  • A student who is the first generation member of their family attaining higher education
  • A student whose parents work as class four employees in any organisation
  • A student who hails from the North East

What does this do? These and a few other criteria ensure that people who have faced undue disadvantage to attain education, are put at the same level, as someone who hails from a wealthy family, studying in Delhi or Mumbai or some metro city. The ‘points’ allow a better and more just system, that understands and acknowledges the inequalities prevalent in our country and the world. So, what else does this do? This also ensures that the daughter of a waste picker attains education at one of the foremost universities, along with the daughter of an IAS officer. The university truly has one of the best and most admirable admission processes; and out of the 1 lakh students that apply for the courses, only 2000-3000 are selected after the written exam.

JNU Has A Large Number Of  Students Coming From Disadvantaged Backgrounds 

A social science university becomes one of the few options for people who hail from a disadvantaged background. They are not in a position to pay for the hefty fees of MBA’s or IIT’s or even other professional institutions, and the vulnerability does not often allow them to take coaching or be able to afford the education loan as well. This leaves a large number of hardworking and talented students in the social sciences, and JNU has indeed become a haven for such hardworking students. There are students in the university who stay throughout their 2-5 years in the hostel and never go back because their parents do not have sufficient resources to pay for them. The hostel and mess seem like a better and more appropriate option for them in such cases.

JNU Is Truly A Haven For Brilliant Minds

I am not saying this because I want to glorify the university, neither am I saying that the students never enjoy or are just studying. You have to go to JNU to understand that you would find people studying in the library for hours together, a few canteens are open till late to enable students to study. There are reading rooms all over the university, in separate schools, in hostels, in all possible places; and yet they are all mostly occupied. There is a culture of reading, sitting in a reading room and studying several books, because it is one of the few research-oriented universities, which is known for its PhD and M.Phil degrees, apart from its wonderful faculty.

JNU Is A World Away From Delhi Or Any Other University; It Is A Tiny Democracy Of Its Own

When I was part of the university, there were things I did not like but I loved the culture of the university. It is not only about studying, but it is also about practising democracy, the implementation of various policies has taken place by keeping all stakeholders in the loop – Teachers, Students, Workers etc. Lately, the core fabric is being torn down as the Vice-Chancellor is passing amendments, proposals and approving rules without even taking into account the needs and demands of the teachers and students alike. This cannot be acceptable to the students, as they have breathed in the erstwhile free, liberal and democratic atmosphere of the university.

Here Are Few Of The Prominent Personalities That Are From The University 

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (Foreign Secretary of India), Arvind Gupta (Indian Deputy National Security Advisor), Harun Rashid Khan (Deputy Governor of RBI), Venu Rajamony (Press Secretary to President of India), Abhijit Banerjee (Economist, Nobel Prize winner), Nirmala Sitharaman (Minister of Finance), Amitabh Kant (CEO of NITI Aayog), Yogendra Yadav (Indian activist and psephologist) and many other people. This is what the university has and can create, and yet you have a problem with this.

I won’t and will never say that the university is perfect, in fact, I have a lot of feedback but there are plenty of things that are great about the university. What the media is doing to the university, to the students and to their legitimate demands just breaks my heart.

The fees of JNU is not increasing from Rs 10 to Rs 300 per month, it was always Rs 2, 500 per month for mess facilities and is being increased to Rs 6, 000. Honestly, that is not even the issue, the bigger issue is – why should higher education be expensive in public-funded universities? These are the only few places where students from across the country, irrespective of their economic background can come and study – why increase their fee? Isn’t the most effective and useful way in which the taxpayer’s money can be used in – Education?

India spends a minuscule 2.7% of its GDP on education, while most developing and developed countries tend to spend anything between 4-7% on education. I am a taxpayer and I am more than happy to contribute to education and health, these are the two most essential backbones of our country. If we tend to increase the fee of our government institutions then the inequality in the country will increase further. Education remains the only way through which the trap that poverty has, over people and families, can be broken; if education is inaccessible, then poverty and inequality will become the norm.

The increasing inequality in the country is already taking its toll, and if this ratio becomes bigger then there is no turning back for the country. The dream of Gandhi, of Tagore, of Nehru and of B.R Ambedkar would never become a reality. If you want to live in such a country, then criticise the protests and the university, if not, then understand what is at stake and #StandwithJNU.

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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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