It’s all about promises and some bond­ing for stu­dents

WIN­NING GAME Stu­dent union polls of DU and JNU are round the cor­ner and lead­ers this time are cam­paign­ing for equal­ity and democ­racy on cam­puses

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Gauri Kohli

Stu­dent union elec­tions give young peo­ple the first taste of democ­racy and ac­tivism in In­dian uni­ver­si­ties. With Delhi Univer­sity and Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity go­ing to polls on Septem­ber 9 for their stu­dent unions, it is time for fierce ri­val­ries, loads of promises, re­call of achieve­ments and sto­ries of friend­ship from the con­tenders.

Plan­ning and pre­par­ing for a mas­sive cam­pus elec­tion such as the Delhi Univer­sity Stu­dents’ Union (DUSU) or Jawa­har­lal Nehru Stu­dents’ Union (JNUSU) is a her­culean task. It in­volves hard work, hec­tic sched­ules, marathon meet­ings and plan­ning ses­sions, cam­paign­ing strate­gies and much more. Says Saket Bahuguna, na­tional con­vener, Akhil Bharatiya Vid­yarthi Par­ishad ( ABVP), “Once we choose that we want to be stu­dent ac­tivists, we have to un­der­stand that there is no ‘me time’ that we should ex­pect. Be­ing a stu­dent ac­tivist is not re­stricted to the elec­tions. We have to work roundthe-clock on is­sues raised by the stu­dents. Uni­ver­si­ties such as DU and JNUarethe­cen­tre of cam­pus ac­tivismwith­anum­berof stu­dent is­sues that need im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion and res­o­lu­tion.” ACHIEVE­MENTS GA­LORE Bahuguna, who is a re­search scholar in lin­guis­tics at Delhi Univer­sity, says, that since ABVP has been do­ing well in the DUSU polls in the last few years, es­pe­cially in 2015 win­ning all four seats, ex­pec­ta­tions have in­creased. “Dur­ing elec­tions, money, mus­cle power and the gov­ern­ment – all come into force. Some of our ma­jor achieve­ments in­clude the four-year un­der­grad­u­ate pro­gramme (FYUP) roll­back, rein­tro­duc­tion of re-eval­u­a­tion and sup­ple­men­tary ex­ams in DU etc. We have to se­lect can­di­dates who can strike a chord with the stu­dents and treat their prob­lems as theirs. Anum­berof is­sues such as FYUP roll­back re­quired tak­ing on the univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion ( UGC) and the HRD min­istry. We cre­ated a lot of pres­sure through sig­na­ture cam­paigns, class-to-class cam­paigns and so­cial me­dia.”

Be­sides DU, ABVP is also gain­ing a stronghold in JNUSU after mak­ing its pres­ence felt in the last few polls. Stu­dents’ Fed­er­a­tion of In­dia (SFI), an­other ma­jor player on the block, was the first stu­dent body that brought out a cri­tique on the Na­tional Pol­icy on Ed­u­ca­tion that was framed in 1986.

“We had a ma­jor role to play in push­ing the UGC to start mer­itcum-means schol­ar­ships for the first time in 2002 in JNU. We have had a legacy of con­tain­ing the demo­cratic cul­ture of cam­puses through our move­ments. We want to fight for equal­ity on cam­puses. Roll­back of the Rashtriya Uc­cha­tar Shik­sha Ab­hiyan in Hi­machal Pradesh Univer­sity and fight for democ­racy on cam­puses such as in the re­cent case of Hy­der­abad Cen­tral Univer­sity are other ex­am­ples. We were the first stu- dent or­gan­i­sa­tion to force im­ple­men­ta­tion of GSCASH (Gen­der Sen­si­ti­sa­tion Com­mit­tee Against Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment) at JNU. SFI was in the fore­front in the 80s when there was a huge fight for hos­tels in JNU,” says Prashant Mukher­jee, gen­eral sec­re­tary, SFI, who is also a re­search scholar at Delhi Univer­sity’s School of So­cial Work.

The Na­tional Stu­dents’ Union of In­dia (NSUI) also boasts of a num­ber of achieve­ments in Delhi Univer­sity. An­gel­lica Aribam, na­tional gen­eral sec­re­tary, NSUI, says, “This in­cludes con­struc­tion of Ra­jiv Gandhi Girls Hos­tel Com­plex which started dur­ing the time of NSUI-led DUSU in 2005 and was com­pleted and made avail­able to stu­dents from 2012 on­wards. In 2010, NSUI took up the is­sue of mak­ing an­swer sheets avail­able to the stu­dents on de­mand through RTI. As a re­sult, the mat­ter was taken up by the Supreme Court and a favourable judg­ment was given. Suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of 27% reser­va­tion for OBC stu­dents in Delhi Univer­sity since 2011 is an­other ex­am­ple.”

With the con­tin­u­ous ef­forts of NSUI-led DUSU, the univer­sity was forced to in­crease the DUSU fund from 3.6 lakh to 20 lakh in 2012 to en­able more ac­tiv­i­ties and en­sure stu­dent wel­fare. NSUI has held sus­tained ag­i­ta­tions and demon­stra­tions for more hos­tels, spe­cial chance to im­prove scores and reval­u­a­tion, she says. POLL FUND­ING Elab­o­rat­ing on the bud­get and ex­pen­di­ture of the can­di­dates dur­ing polls, Aribam says it is borne by the or­gan­i­sa­tion. SFI’S funds, on the other hand, are raised from mass dabba col­lec­tion from stu­dents in and around col­leges and also from teach­ers, says Mukher­jee. “Our can­di­dates don’t spend enough money, it is the or­gan­i­sa­tion which spends. A num­ber of stu­dents do­nate dur­ing elec­tion cam­paigns,” he says. BOND­ING WITH RI­VALS While they may be at log­ger­heads dur­ing the polls, anum­berof ri­val can­di­dates are friends. “We are all friends, po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions aside. In JNU, we all eat to­gether and par­tic­i­pate in ac­tiv­i­ties to­gether but are strong cadres of dif­fer­ent par­ties. I have friends in the na­tional com­mit­tee of ABVP and they are na­tional sec­re­taries. We go out for cof­fee, have long chats etc. Sim­i­larly, I have friends in AISA and SFI too,” says Aribam, who is a fi­nal-year law stu­dent at DU. Ac­cord­ing to Om Prasad, na­tional gen­eral sec­re­tary, AISA, there is good bond­ing among ri­vals. “This year, AISA and SFI are con­test­ing elec­tions to­gether in JNUSU. We see this as a con­tin­u­a­tion of our ‘stand with JNU’ move­ment,” he says. While the Delhi Univer­sity Stu­dents’ Union (DUSU) elec­tions al­low un­der­grad­u­ate and post­grad­u­ate stu­dents to con­test, someof the other polls such as the JNUSU and Hy­der­abad Cen­tral Univer­sity (HCU) al­low stu­dents at the MPhil or doc­toral level to par­tic­i­pate.

It is in­ter­est­ing to know that while in some stu­dent wings, con­tes­tants are mainly from one course, in others the wing mem­bers and con­tes­tants are from a range of dis­ci­plines and cour­ses. HCU stu­dents’ union pres­i­dent Zuhail KP is a re­search scholar in physics. “In NSUI, we have re­search schol­ars, stu­dents pur­su­ing MPhil in biotech­nol­ogy, MBBS stu­dents, MBAs, and as­pir­ing lawyers,” says An­gel­ica Aribam, na­tional gen­eral sec­re­tary, NSUI.

The Akhil Bharatiya Vid­yarthi Par­ishad ( ABVP), which has been do­ing well in the last few edi­tions of the DUSU polls has had a ma­jor­ity of of­fice bear­ers pur­su­ing mas­ter’s and higher level stud­ies in Bud­dhist stud­ies. DUSU’s out­go­ing pres­i­dent Satender Awana is a stu­dent of Bud­dhist stud­ies. ABVP has also had can­di­dates and of­fice bear­ers from dis­ci­plines such as lin­guis­tics, po­lit­i­cal science, arts, and law. Stu­dents’ Fed­er­a­tion of In­dia (SFI), too has had of­fice bear­ers from a di­verse range of sub­jects. Vikram Singh, an of­fice bearer, is a post­doc­toral fel­low in bi­ol­ogy.

All In­dia Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion (AISA) has fielded can­di­dates from var­i­ous dis­ci­plines in the last few years. JNUSU’s out­go­ing vice pres­i­dent Shehla Rashid Shora is pur­su­ing MPhil in law and gov­er­nance. AISA’s DUSU pres­i­dent can­di­date Kan­wal­preet Kaur is a law stu­dent.

HT PHOTO

The Delhi Univer­sity Stu­dents’ Union (DUSU) and Jawa­har­lal Nehru Stu­dents’ Union (JNUSU) elec­tions will be held on Septem­ber 9.

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