Deshbandhu College students took place in a hunger strike, demanding better facilities and more resources.
A group of protesters, led by the Central Councillor of Deshbandhu College, staged a strike from the 19th of May 2018 within the college premises. The strike, which took place intermittently from the 19th, witnessed the Central Councillor of the college Students’ Union Saurabh Kumar holding a hunger strike for 2 days, only ending it at 1 pm on the 22nd.
The protesters put forth a chain of demands which included construction of a new computer science lab in the college, the appointment of a nurse, the release of funds for the cultural societies, and equipping the college chemistry lab with student safety gears including eyeglasses and gloves.
Explaining the reasons underlying his demands, Kumar told DU Beat, “Last October, in the college Chemistry Lab, a student had to be rushed to the hospital after a chemical reaction had gone wrong. Acid fumes had gone into the student’s eyes due to the lack of glasses in the lab.” Speaking on the demand for the release of funds for the societies, he commented, “It is common knowledge that the college has adequate resources to provide the required funds to our societies. But there has been withheld despite repeated requests from our side.”
Kumar, who was taken to the hospital after the strike had elaborated on their demand for a nurse by saying, “We have a medical room and yet we neither have a doctor nor a nurse. Toh Kya Faida Medical Room Ka? (What is the use of a medical room then?)”.
The President of Deshbandhu College Union Devesh Tiwary told a DU Beat correspondent, “First of all, our college doesn’t have a Principal at the moment. In the absence of an overarching authority, the financial transactions find difficulties in implementation. The interviews for the Principal’s post have been carried out. We are awaiting the results now.” He further assured, “Once the exams are over, we will conduct a meeting with the newly appointed Principal, and subsequently take stock of the demands.”
Tiwary alleged that the protesters had not given prior intimation of either their demands or the protest. Pehle Apni Maange Toh Rakho Humare Aage (at least apprise us about your demands first)”. He expressed concern and said, “I received calls from the police. But this wasn’t a matter to actuate a hunger strike upon.”
In contrast to Tiwary’s remarks, student councillor Saurabh Kumar asserted, “We had given prior notification to the college administration about the protest.” Notably, a copy of this aforementioned notification was sent to DU Beat in the evening of the 22nd. In the letter dated 18th May 2018, Kumar had put forth an ultimatum to the college administration by stating that he would sit on the hunger strike till his “last breath”. Kumar had further stated in the letter that if something happens to him during the hunger strike, the culpability of the same will lie with the college. Copies of the same were sent to the police station in Kalkaji, the Chairman of Deshbandhu College and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi.
Saurabh Kumar imposed serious charges against the administration and said, “The protesters sat on strike day-and-night for two days. And yet, the administration had locked the washrooms at night. They not only prevented us from bringing in mattresses, they didn’t allow us to bring even mosquito repellents during the course of our strike.”
In a letter of assurance that was received by Kumar from the college administration, the latter had promised the commencement of construction for the computer science lab within 10 days and appointment of a nurse by the month of July. As for their other two demands, a member of the college administration told the DU Beat correspondent on conditions of anonymity, “The issue of the provision of safety gears in the Chemistry Lab will be discussed in the department and the college will hold a meeting with the Convener of the Cultural Committee on 23rd of May.”
Feature Image Credits – Saurabh Kumar
Vaibhavi Sharma Pathak