When students visit campus on August 26 to elect a fresh student council, they shall be voting on another issue of growing importance - the proposal to make Panjab University (PU) a four-wheeler-free zone. The matter, in fact, is emerging as a major poll issue on the campus. The shrinking of the green belt at the cost of creating parking spaces, pollution and increase in sexual harassment incidents are some of the reasons behind the proposed ban.
Dean, students welfare, Navdeep Goyal confirmed that a referendum shall take place wherein students shall be questioned about banning four-wheelers in the academic block.
Students' For Society (SFS) president Arishdeep Singh says that his party's focus is on the ban on four-wheelers and not the elections, which it is not contesting. "Large parking lots can be created near the university entry gates. More shuttle buses and transportation options such as e-rickshaws can be introduced. It's only the will that is lacking. We are seeking to change that."
PUSU FOR BAN, NSUI SAYS CURBS FOR OUTSIDERS
Sumit Goklaney, a senior Panjab University Students' Union (PUSU) leader, says that the alliance with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is in favour of disallowing entry to vehicles of outsiders. "Outsiders, as well as their vehicles, should not be allowed on the campus with immediate effect as they are responsible for the deterioration of the campus environment. As far as PU students are concerned, a proper system should be in place viz-a-viz their vehicles instead of a blanket ban."
Puneet Sharma, who is running for the post of president from the National Students Union of India (NSUI) panel, supports the ban on outsiders' vehicles but thinks an-all encompassing one would not be practical yet. "The issue is important but it shouldn't be rushed. We need to streamline the process and start with creating vehicle-free zones first. An absolute ban on four-wheelers will also affect PhD scholars who need to work in their labs at odd hours,"he says.
The Students' Organisation of India (SOI) does not have a clear stand on this issue. "We have received a mixed response from students on this. We will support whatever students decide. If four-wheelers are banned, then the ban should include the car of the vice-chancellor also,"says Simranjeet Dhillon, SOI poll co-ordinator.
PUTA PRESIDENT WANTS BAN TOO
Panjab University Teachers' Association (PUTA) president Akshaya Kumar believes that a referendum would not be able to address the issue, which needs to be handled in a detailed manner. "There is a deluge of cars on the campus and the parking space is inadequate. The green belt is shrinking. Time has come for all stakeholders - students, teachers and non-teaching staff - to come together, take a decisive step and say four-wheelers should be banned. If the university continues to take populist measures and does not ban four-wheelers, PU will soon turn into a car gallery! First off, four-wheelers, especially those belonging to students and staff who stay on the campus, should be phased out,"he said
Students, however, are divided on the impact of banning four-wheelers on the campus. Monica Sabharwal, 28, a PhD scholar of the English department, is in favour of the ban. "All sexual harassment cases have involved boys in four-wheelers. Also, all beautiful PU lawns are being converted to parking lots. Four-wheelers also increase the nuisance quotient and are used to display power during elections."
Hameeta Kaur Malhotra, 23, a School of Communication Studies student, believes that a ban on four-wheelers will not amount to a decrease in sexual harassment cases.
"Instead of a ban, speed limits and traffic rules should be strictly imposed. Cops should be deployed near both the girls' and boys' hostels to ensure security."