Students from universities in Delhi protested outside the University Grants Commission (UGC) on Thursday against the proposed on campus safety guidelines which they described as akin to “moral policing”. Among the several measures proposed by the central panel to enhance safety on university campuses are biometric attendance systems, CCTV cameras, armed guards and police stations.
Students from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, who protesting outside the UGC office at Shahjahan Road carrying placards, said the new measures were a blatant effort to “suffocate and stifle” freedom of movement on campuses. The protesters also submitted to the UGC a memorandum on which they had collected signatures from students across universities in the city.
“The UGC has claimed that the guidelines will transform higher educational institutions into oasis of safety, security and study. However, as anybody can see that these guidelines on safety of students on and off campuses are nothing but a blatant move to stifle and suffocate freedom of mobility and expression in universities and colleges,” said Sucheta De of All India Students Association (AISA) and a student of JNU.
Apart from installing biometric attendance systems, regular parent teacher meetings are another major problem area pointed out by the students from the five-page guidelines. “Most of the students in JNU are masters or research scholar. So are we supposed to call our parents for regular PTMs? Can’t the UGC see that if university authorities ‘report’ students’ personal relationships and political activism to parents, this may result in parents curtailing the education of students, especially women students?” said Ashutosh, a research scholar.
However, the UGC clarified that these were only guidelines and not regulations. “As far the allegation that guidelines are restriction on students’ freedom is concerned, I must reiterate that we value the freedom the most, but then freedom also has an element of duty, responsibility and accountability attached to it,” UGC chairman Ved Prakash said.