Educational institutions have always been catalyzers of social change and political upheaval, be it during the time of Chanakya, the British Raj or even today. Our national capital was and still is a politically active city and the Universities in Delhi have always been on the political and social forefront.
After the nationwide rage around Kanhaiya Kumar, Delhi University students have been fighting against unjust hostel fees for female students for the past one year. Hindu College is one of the few colleges under DU that until recently did not have hostel facility for girls.
Owing to the expensive paying guest accommodations in Delhi’s North Campus, the administration finally decided to have a girls’ hostel almost 117 years after the college was founded.
This much needed step was however, caught up in a controversy. Female students along with organizations like Pinjra Tod have been fighting against unjust annual fee for the girls’ hostel.
Girls have to pay an annual hostel fee of Rs 90,000 (as opposed to Rs 60,000 for boys).
The issue came into light around April 2016 after feminist groups, along with the students, started protests against the administration’s decision, calling it a case of gender discrimination.
After the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) sent a notice to the college authorities, asking them to justify the difference between the fees, the authorities responded by saying that the annual fee for the girls’ hostel is higher because the college hasn’t received funding from the Universities Grant Commission(UGC) for the construction and maintenance of the girls’ hostel. According to some male students, the difference in the fees is justified as the girls’ hostel is newly constructed and has many facilities that the boys’ hostel doesn’t have. So it’s simple business logic, more the facilities, more the fees. According to a few residents, the fee is still less as compared to the ridiculously expensive PG accommodations.
While the fee difference seems to be the result of some administrative issues between the college and UGC authorities, the irrational rules the residents of the girls’ hostel are definitely not.
The boys’ hostel at Hindu College is known for being liberal with rules (no curfews, no dress code etc.); the girls’ hostel on the other hand seems to have a strict rule book for its residents.
For example, residents are allowed only one night out and two late nights (till 10 pm) in a month (which by the way means no access even to the library. Talk about fair competition!). They also have to dress according to “the normal societal norms”.
So, what appears on the surface like a protest against just the discrimination in the fees, is actually also a protest against the discriminatory rules. Some have tried to justify the absurd rules and also the fee in the name of safety, but what we need understand that not everything can be justified in the name of safety.
We also need to ask ourselves, is imposing irrational rules really going to ensure safety?
And if so, is it then not necessary to have some rules for the boys’ hostel too?
The difference between the fees, if we are to believe the authorities, is not a gender discrimination case, it is an issue of lack of funding. The absurd rules however, are discriminatory. While charging more fees from female students because of an administrative issue is not fair, protests too are not the definite solution. The authorities should encourage a more democratic dialogue with the protesters instead of threatening them with show cause notices. Protesting and threatening doesn’t solve problems, finding alternatives together does. Because in the process, it is ultimately the students who are suffering and male or female, students don’t deserve to suffer.
Information source: facebook
Title image: youtube