Students taking their exams in laboratories, tutorial rooms and corridors is not something you'd expect to see in one of the country's foremost central varsities, but that's what happened at Delhi University's colleges in the last semester examinations.
The space crunch at DU's colleges is so severe that 80 students are expected to fit into a room meant for 50, and 26 of them are forced to do practicals in laboratories that are meant for six.
"More than twice a week, we spend almost a whole period trying to look for a vacant room for a class. The problem has become more severe now as teachers are taking extra classes to complete the syllabus," said Poorva Mehra, a student of economics at a south Delhi college.
A majority of classrooms in DU colleges were built more than three decades ago for 30-40 students. But with the enforcement of the other backward classes quota, the number of seats in each course has risen by 27%.
DU colleges have also been hiking cut-off marks in order to limit the number of students that they have to admit each year. Even then, the colleges end up admitting more students than they can accommodate.
"There is a hue and cry every time we raise cut-offs. Even then, we are forced to over-admit between five and 10 students in almost all courses each year," said Pradyumn Kumar, principal, Hindu College.
But college managements are now coming up with plans to improve the situation.
Hindu College's expansion plans have been ready for the past 5-6 years but the institution is awaiting nod from various governmental agencies to start construction.
Sri Venkateswara College, too, is awaiting similar approval. "Civic authorities are yet to approve our plan," CVS Rao, the media coordinator of the college, said. The college has built eight bamboo rooms to accommodate more students.
The expansion plans of most other colleges are similarly stuck. Funds given by the University Grants Commission and DU after the OBC quota was put in place have remained unused because the colleges were unable to get permissions.
"We have set up a committee that will work with the principals. Proper infrastructure is vital to every college and we will help the colleges get the permissions they need," said DU vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh.
'The software is outdated, so we like working at home'
Doing BSc in computer science at Ram Lal Anand College
A class of 70 students packed into classrooms meant for barely 40. This is what Panwar and his friends have to endure in college each day.
"The infrastructure in our college is crumbling and is much worse than most other colleges. The laboratories for science courses are tiny as are the classrooms. We all cannot fit in the computer lab at one time. Some students who have computers at home let others work in labs," said Panwar.
The operating system the students use is also outdated.
"Most of the computers are still using Windows 98. Only eight of the 40 computers in the lab have Windows XP. We prefer doing our work at home where we have better systems and software," he added.
There are 70 students in the second year of the course as opposed to a sanctioned strength of 45.
'Old equipment render labs in college 'inadequate'
Doing BSc (Hons) in chemistry at Sri Venkateswara College Gaur and his friends consider themselves lucky. They have a classroom that is big enough to seat all 80 students.
"Our classes take place in the seminar room. There are many others, however, who have to fit into cramped rooms," he said.
But all is not hunky-dory for Gaur, a third-year student.
"The chemistry lab is inadequate. We can manage in the space we have been allotted but the equipment is just not adequate. The college desperately needs better labs," he added.
Science students in Delhi University worry about old equipment in their labs. The other matter of concern for the students is, of course, the lack of space.
"I know my college is better than most others in the university, but as a student I would certainly want more," Gaur said.