A hunger strike took place on 1st August 2018 in the Arts Faculty of Delhi University. The protest was against the modifications in the M.Phil and PhD admission procedure, demands against the enforcement of the University Grants Commission’s Ordinance VI by DU has been put forth.
On 1st August 2018, a 12-hour long hunger strike was held at the Faculty of Arts, New Delhi. The strike emerged as a result of the implementation of the 2016 Union Grants Commission (UGC) Gazette notification regarding M.Phil/PhD admissions.
Those who contributed to the protest are against the minimum qualification criterion which requires all the students to have secured 50% marks or more in the entrance test.
The participants of the protest released a public statement before 1st August, where it was revealed that the University of Delhi (DU), as a central university, is not bound to follow the notification. There is a separate selection process, under which the various departments released an Initial Interview List after the results of the entrance test were declared.
This list, however, went on a backburner when an arbitrary notification was released overnight, stating:
“According to the amendments to ordinance VI, VI-A and VI-B regarding MPHIL and PHD, the qualifying marks in the entrance examination for all the candidates (RESERVED and UNRESERVED) is 50%.”
Student movements, thus, stemmed from a collective feeling that the aforementioned notification led to an unjustified hike in the cut-off that brought out a Revised Interview List.
Ordinance VI had been announced in theory in the month of May, and yet there was a lack of information about its implementation in the subsequent forms that were released.
A PhD aspirant, under the condition of anonymity, revealed that some of the Heads of Departments (HOD) were asked to clarify the implications of the ordinance while the students were filling their forms. The HODs assured the students at that time about the maintenance of the previous year’s procedure. When confronted about the happenings, the Heads confessed that there had been no debate, discussion, or revelation regarding the arbitrary enforcement.
The students remain appalled at this lack of transparency.
As per the DU website, the new list had 11 courses where no aspirant could qualify for the interview round. This raised a poignant question for the condition of Higher Education in India, where the new methodology blatantly ignored the gradations and flexibilities based on reservation policies across categories, and put every individual under a single umbrella of 50% marks.
Furthermore, the protestors are of the view that the new DU notification did not take into consideration the papers negative marking, which was absent in 2016.
When the uproar gained momentum, the concerned authorities responded by postponing and cancelling the interviews for PhD and MPhil courses, respectively. The Indian Express reported that the said decision was a consequence of the orders given by the Union Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD), and a meeting was conducted for senior officials. Yet the meeting failed to provide a thorough guideline concerning the next steps.
In the hunger strike, 15 students voiced their disagreement with the way DU was treating the higher educational system in India, and many protestors shared the fear that their futures were being jeopardised for no reason at all.
Those who protested through the hunger strike for more stringent modifications have put forth a list of demands, which are as follows:
1. Complete scrapping of Ordinance VI which states the qualifying marks in the entrance
examination for all the candidates (reserved and unreserved) is 50%.
2. Reinstatement of previous interview lists for all candidates from all categories.
3. Weightage given to written exam to be 80% and for the interview to be 20%.
Aakriti, a PhD aspirant, also participated in the strike and told DU Beat that their group was addressed by the Dean of Students’ Welfare, and a few teachers, but all of them only discouraged their protests, requesting them to wait for further notifications.
According to the collaborative account of the protesting students, the Vice-Chancellor has refused to acknowledge the letters and mails addressed to him, asking for justice in the matter.
Another student, wishing to remain anonymous, said over a telephonic discussion “They redirect us to different places. Sometimes, they ridicule us, they laugh at us, and sometimes they try to reassure us by telling us to contact UGC, MHRD, and others. They have no answers. This shows that there is no transparency in the entire process.”
As of now, the matter has reached the Delhi High Court, and the protesters are hopeful of the decisions that may change after the hearing on 28th August, 2018.
Feature Image Credits: DU Beat.