Five Semesters Into College, Ram Lal Anand College Students Still Fighting for Basic Facilities

For the past two years, ensuring accessibility of education has been a fight for students with disabilities of DU’s Ram Lal Anand College.

In October 2018, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NACC) visited Ram Lal Anand College. The visit was a part of their bi-annual review of colleges, in which colleges are inspected on teaching and research quality, infrastructure, student support, practices, etc. On the day of the visit, the campus looked brand new, almost unrecognizable. It was ensured that all facilities as mandated by the Government, the UGC, and University administration were present.

Before the arrival of the inspection team for the accessibility audit, the principal approached a few students who had been seated in the room for persons with disabilities and asked them to tell the NAAC officials that the college had always supported and looked out for the- facilities like laptops had always been available. In return, they were promised that the requirements they had been putting forward for some time will be made available. The students believed this and obliged- the incentive of finally getting the bare minimum was far too good to ignore.

However, that could not have been far from the truth. In a meeting held by the convener of the Equal Opportunity Cell on 24th January 2019, the students were reassured that their demands will be met. The students ranged from having a sensitization drive, clean and accessible washrooms, ramps to ensuring motorized wheelchairs for orthopedically handicapped students, all perfectly within the ambit of the guidelines issued by the University and Central Law.

Between January and June 2019, the students wrote at least twelve applications to the principal and the convener to ask them to ensure accessibility within the college campus. As per the complainants, all applications went unanswered, and even when the authorities were approached personally, no progress was made.

In July 2019, Jayant Singh Raghav, a student with a disability approached the principal once again to highlight the plight of the students.

When I approached the principal, not only did he not cooperate, he also behaved with us in an extremely rude manner. Over the past six months, we had tried all ways- speaking in person, writing applications, nothing had worked. In fact, he even called my parents and tried to pressurize me mentally. Thankfully, my parents knew what had been happening and asked him for a written complaint- which he said he could not provide.

Jayant Singh Raghav told DU Beat.
RLAC show cause notice.

Finally, after more than 10 months of pleading and negotiating with the college authorities, the student approached the Vice-Chancellor of the University on 22nd July 2019, where they were asked to submit a written application as well as an email. Even at that level, their pleas went unanswered, despite sending in a reminder on 5th August.

Finally, after no recourse was left, the aggrieved students on 3rd September 2019 approached the Delhi State Commissioner for Persons With Disabilities, who issued a show-cause notice to the Principal of Ram Lal Anand College and the Vice-Chancellor.

The issuance of the show cause notice led to the college machinery suddenly swinging into action- a motorized wheelchair, angel players, and lex scanners- three devices incredibly important to ensure accessibility was ordered. It also came to light that the work on the lift, which was important to ensure safe travel for the students between floors, was supposed to end before July 2016. The payment was made March 2016 and was not completed at the time (it still has not been completed to date), with the college citing communication issues with the Central Public Works Department. The commissioner took notice of all these problems and the fact that the required things had only been ordered once the show cause noticed was issued and asked the college to get the students’ requirements fulfilled at the earliest and mandated an accessibility audit within one month which had to have representation from a student or staff member with disabilities.

However, the problems for the students did not end here. Despite being asked by the court to do so, the college failed to provide the railings, braille markings, completion of the work on the lift, and tactile paths. In fact, even the audit mandated by the court did not take place properly. In January 2020, responding to an email sent by Jayant, the principal informed that the audit had taken place three weeks before. However, the court’s order had clearly said that there needed to be a staff or student representative. This representation was not ensured by the college.

Once again, the students wrote to the principal, asking the administration to comply with the court’s orders. Despite multiple reminders, the administration did not reply to any emails nor were additional facilities provided. As a result, on 24th February 2020, the students approached the Chief Commissioner for Persons With Disabilities. The complaint mentioned the lack of transparency in the accessibility audit, the failure of the administration to have the lift and other facilities installed despite the state commissioner’s reminder, and the request for a new audit.

The college administration failed to revert to the Chief Commissioner, and on being issued a reminder, finally responded in July 2020. In the meantime, the students had also filed an RTI Application asking about the Accessibility Audit report and the composition of the team. The RTI too went unanswered. In their response, the college failed to acknowledge its failure to ensure the provision of facilities to the students. Since then, the students have fulfilled a comprehensive rejoinder detailing all the issues, with no revert from either the commissioner or the college.

RTI for Accessiblity Audit.

Additionally, the students have consistently been facing issues with online classes as well. The issue has been highlighted multiple times to the administration but to no avail- the college has failed to comply with even basic requirements such as the availability of recorded lectures.

The concerned students joined in 2018 and will graduate next semester, having struggled their entire college lives. It is a complete failure of the public education system that the very people who it is supposed to benefit the most have to struggle not only to access it but also to seek sufficient redressal to the issues that have been highlighted.

Feature Image Credits: Shiksha

Khush Dembla
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