500 students who demanded the right to hostel facilities for everyone on campus. The major demands laid by AISA include the demand for a rent regulation act to monitor exorbitant rent rates at various paying guest accommodation facilities, House Rent Allowance (HRA) for the students and more hostels across the campus. The march formed a symbolic part of the movement that the organisation started to address the issue through multiple means. A post card campaign was also started in the later part of July. The campaign allowed students to convey their grievances regarding inadequate or no accommodation facilities on campus to the Vice Chancellor. AISA succeeded in getting over 10,000 post cards from students across 25 colleges of the varsity but failed to meet the Vice Chancellor who was reluctant to meet the students at the end of the march. Apart from students, professors from various colleges formed a major chunk of the march. Individual experiences in relation to the unregulated brokerage system were also narrated by some students at the event. AISA, in the previous week organised marches of similar nature in Vijay Nagar and Satya Niketan to address the issue. One such protest was where students were seen carrying their luggage as a mark of protest to demand hostel facilities. Image credits: Sidharth Yadav for DU Beat Sidharth Yadav [email protected] ]]>
The members of the Right to Accommodation group were on an indefinite strike for 44 days outside Gate No. 1 of the Arts Faculty building in North Campus protesting against the lack of rent regulation and hostel accommodation for the students staying in and around Delhi University before ending the strike and beginning an indefinite hunger strike from 2nd October to try and change the unhelpful attitude of the concerned authorities. Members of the hunger strike include Praveen Singh (Convener of the Right to Accommodation group), Ajay Singh from Ramjas College, Sangam Kumar from CLC Faculty of Law and Balraj Yadav from Hindu College.
Why rent regulation?
Around 2,00,000 lakh students arrive at Delhi University every year and the university has a mere 6000 hostel seats to accommodate them. Students who do not get into a hostel have to live on rent which is fixed at around Rs. 8000 for rooms with attached bathrooms near the campus grounds with good facilities. For girls the same goes up to Rs. 15000 a month. Moreover they have strict restrictions. Girls cannot go out or stay out late even if they have work and the maximum time limit is 7 or 8 pm. Rent increases every year but the facilities remain the same. ” I am currently staying in a UG hostel. After our exams get over in May they make us vacate our rooms for June and July. There are students who have extra classes and coaching during the holidays. Where are they supposed to go? We cannot keep changing every year ” said one of the female participants in the hartal. The North East students are said to suffer the more in this case. A room rented out at Rs. 4000 to a North Indian will be given at Rs. 7000 to a student from the North East.
Some of the students travel a long distance everyday because the cost of staying within campus is too high. “I stay with my Nani and my aunt and uncle. They have only two rooms. So I try to study as much as possible in the college because it is not possible to do so at home,” said Sonia, a student from Hans Raj College.
ABVP’s take on the matter
ABVP had rent regulation and hostel accommodation on their list of agendas when they were contesting elections for the 2015-16 session. “After winning the elections we did not have a lot of time on our hands. We are currently engaged in three national level debates and all our programs have already been scheduled. However, after our engagements are over we plan to raise the questions again. Any association that would like to join us is welcome to do so,” says Satender Awana, current President of Delhi University Students’ Union when approached.
Praveen Singh has been working on this issue for three years. Although delegations have been sent to ministers like Arvind Kejriwal, Smriti Irani and Manish Sisodia, nobody has raised any concerns on the issue. “We are trying to get the Vice Chancellor’s attention on this because no action is possible without his assent. The issue of rent regulation is not one to be taken lightly and I urge every concerned individual out there to help and support us on the matter, ” the convener told us.
Here are some bytes from the first day of the hunger strike:
A group of Delhi University students under the banner of Right to Accommodation have been on an indefinite strike outside Arts Faculty, North Campus for 42 days now, protesting against the issue of unregularised rent control for the students of the university.
DU Beat had reported the strike last month:
Outstation students sat on the 16th day of an indefinite dharna outside the Arts Faculty yesterday demanding regularisation of accommodation and the implementation of #section33 of the DU Act 1922 which guarantees #hostelaccommodation to every student. These students claim to be fighting for their rights and don’t identify with any political party. #DelhiUniversity Picture Credits: Sidharth Yadav for DU Beat
After having received no due recognition from the University authority or the Delhi Government, the students have now decided to go on a hunger strike from 2nd October. The issues they hope to highlight and some of their demands are-
1. Implementation of Delhi Rent Control Act.
2. To provide accommodation to Delhi University students. To be provided with compensation in the form of scholarship, till they find a hostel/ PG.
3. Availability of a library 24*7
4. A no profit- no loss canteen or mess in Delhi University colleges, departments and faculties.
The press release announcing the hunger strike with effect from Gandhi Jayanti has been signed by Praveen Singh, convener of Right to Accommodation, Ajay Singh from Ramjas College, Bhupendra Yadav, Ambedkar College and Jitendra from Law Faculty.
The issue of rent regulation is not new to DU. It has been a key, and perhaps, a winning agenda for the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections for the past two years. But seeing no actual progress on the matter, the group has decided to take matters into their own hands. Interestingly, Right to Accommodation had held a 7- day hunger strike last year too. Read about it here.
Related reading: What is rent regulation and why it’s a big deal
‘Right to Accommodation’ group organized a seven-day hunger strike for rent regulation at North Campus from 31st October – 6th November 2014. The protest was organised in order to implement the provisions of Rent Control Act, especially receipt for the rent paid and fixation of rent in the private accommodations of Delhi University campus.
Six people including a few students sat on the hunger strike at Christian Colony at Patel Chest, North Campus where over seven days, various tenants of Christian Colony organized themselves to fight for rent regulation. Candle march and torch march was set out in adjoining areas like Mukherjee Nagar and Vijay Nagar where tenants from these areas also joined the protest.
Need for rent regulation
Delhi University’s north campus houses over 2,00,000 students from all over the country but the total number of hostel seats in all the campus colleges are 6000. 1,94,000 students live in private accommodation in the campus, with maximum availing the single room accommodations. Moreover, other students preparing for the competitive exams also reside in the campus.
According to the statistics provided by ‘Right to Accommodation’ team, one single room accommodation with attached bathroom ranges from Rs. 4500/- to Rs. 15000/- in the north campus. However, if the matter of rent regulation goes to the court, the rent will be fixed somewhere around Rs. 1000/-
According to the statement by Right to Accommodation team, students from the North-East form the maximum proportion of the crowd that suffers. The same room will be rented out to a student from the North East for 7000/- which is given to a student from North India for 4000/- only. Reasons like these saw better participation by students from the east to protest.
Demands of the protest
The group on strike demands proper enforcement of Delhi Rent Control Act 1958, which states that the property owner should provide a receipt for the rent received. Praveen Singh, Convenor of Right to Accommodation says, “We want the receipt system to be introduced because that will help us give proofs to the rent controller to fix the rent. Otherwise, all the money is going into owners’ pocket as black money.”
Praveen Singh himself was also on the hunger strike along with Sachin from Manipur, Mukesh, Neil and journalism students from Ambedkar College, Adil and Manish Bhartiya. Adil and Manish were also hospitalised on 4th November as a result of weakness due to hunger strike.
The protest also saw students and leaders of different party factions coming together for the cause of “tenants’ exploitation”. It included Manipur State BJP president, DUTA president Ms. Nandita Narayan and other teachers. Nandita Narayan, expressing her concern over the issue said, “Any central university across the world has proper accommodation facilities arranged for its students. If Delhi University wishes to be called as the central university, it should provide adequate hostel facilities and should have appropriate understanding with the local residents. Landlords prefer students because it is easy to get the property vacated, so in return students deserve the gesture of reasonable rents.”
Results on fixture of rent
The strike ended with an agreement amongst the tenants where the rents have been fixed at Rs. 1500/- for a single room. If the landlord refuses to accept this amount, he/she is liable to issue a receipt.
Kamlesh Kumar Mishra, Advocate and Legal consultant for the matter says, “Fixation of rent at Rs. 1500/- is an interim measure before the judicial processes happen. Meanwhile now, the tenants have organized themselves and they all gather if anyone of them is being harassed by the landlord. Proprietors by now have also tried to negotiate on prices, as they are not keen on giving the receipts.”
Right to Accommodation also plans to file a PIL in the upcoming week requesting the rent controller to look into the matter.
Statistics and figures provided by the team of Right to Accommodation. Iresh Gupta [email protected]]]>
In 1958 was passed a law we know as Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958. In 1995, a revised bill was passed and received presidential assent, but the government, under pressure from traders’ bodies, could never notify it. Later, in the year 1997, an amendment also did not get passed in the Rajya Sabha.
In simple words, properties in Delhi are still governed by a law that was made 56 years ago. While most agree that the 1958 law favours tenants, one section of the tenant community pleads that the defunct state of the law allows landlords to exploit them.
This section is that of outstation students studying at colleges in Delhi. It’s safe to say that these students, miles away from home, are the most defenceless lot of tenants and do not possess any choice but to heed to the demands of their landlords.
There are an estimated 2 lakh students enrolled in Delhi University, including UG and PG students, whereas the number of hostel seats available is a mere 6000. DU, being a central and not a state university (as was recently stressed upon when a 90% quota for Delhiites was demanded), should expect students from all 36 states and union territories. However, to accommodate all these students, the University has no means. Students are also known to have not taken admission in certain colleges solely because of lack of a hostel.
This lack of hostel accommodation more than often leads students to the doors of ‘rent mafias’ who have sprouted around practically every college of DU. These mafias, apart from charging exorbitant rates for rooms, are known for committing felonies. In many rentals, landlords do not provide a formal Rent Agreement which is supposed to act as the student’s address proof. While disclosing rental income to municipal corporations and the Income Tax Department, the rent originally charged is seldom ever disclosed, thereby making the additional money acquired ‘black’. Some landlords also ask for advance payment for the entire semester or year. The 1958 law, however, rules that collecting an advance of more than one month’s stay is a crime.
In recent days, ahead of DUSU elections, political student bodies have taken up the issue of inadequate hostel facilities and rent regulation by means of rallies and signature campaigns. In actuality, a repeal of this archaic law was initiated by the UPA government in 2013 and a new law is expected to take shape in the next 2-3 years. Harsh as it may sound, it is just short of impossible for Delhi University to provide for even nearly all outstation students. Moreover, how much of a say DUSU or student bodies have in these matters is also up for speculation.