The 20-30 Class 12 students sitting in a 30x20ft reading room of the Dayanand College of Science, Commerce and Arts, one of the prestigious educational institutions in Latur city, are tense. They are not worried about their upcoming common entrance test (CET), but the possibility of closure of their college or coaching class owing to water scarcity, which will affect their dreams of pursuing higher education.
With the ongoing drinking water crisis set to worsen over the next two months, the district collector last month asked the authorities to consider closure of hostels. The college administration has, so far, been unrelenting, as a shutdown would not only spoil its reputation, but also put careers of thousands of students at stake.
Not just Dayanand college, the water crisis looms large over the future of 50,000 students from across Maharashtra, who have enrolled in various junior colleges and coaching classes in Latur, known as the education hub of the state, to prepare for CET. Around 10,000 meritorious students get a seat in reputable institutions such as Dayanand college, Sahu college or Sonawane college (where the cut-off marks in open category are as high as 90 per cent) after the SSC exams. The rest take admission in junior colleges elsewhere in the state, but enroll in coaching classes in Latur for the CET. A few of them get seats in hostels, while the others live in rented accommodations, accompanied by their parents or guardians.
The news about the possible closure of the hostel has left students like Nikita Gude devastated. “The examinations are just around the corner. We have been preparing for the past two years. The closure of the hostel will not only ruin my career, but also disappoint my parents, who have high hopes from me,” says Gude, youngest of the six children of a farmer from Pangaon in Beed district. She scored 92 per cent in the SSC exams, a record in her taluka, and wants to become a doctor.
Her friends Shivani Kankal from Yedshi, Osmanabad, and Hirk Pranil from Parbhani, who stays at the boy’s hostel in the vicinity, feel the same. “Studying in a hostel is a must. The daily practice tests are crucial to evaluate our performance before we take the tests. This is not possible at home,” says Pranil, son of a police constable.
Dr Jayprakash Dargad, principal of the college, says the government’s lopsided decision does not hold ground. “Only 30% of our 3,700 Class 12 students are outsiders. Also, our institution is 100% self-sufficient in water, so we don’t depend on the supply from the civic body. And most importantly, we can’t compromise on the future of our students, come what may!”
Owners of private coaching classes such as the Birajdar classes or Motegaonkar classes at Sitaram Nagar, the coaching class hub with 80 of the 100-odd institutes in the city, claim the crisis will damage the reputation of the famed ‘Latur Model’, which is synonymous with success in CET exams. “From rental agencies, landlords, grocery shops, laundries, stationery/book stores, hotels to coaching classes, thousands of people depend on the students. The contribution of migrant students to the economy is Rs100 crore, which will certainly take a hit if hostels are shut,” says Dillip Govindrao Birajdar, proprietor of Birajdar classes, where around 500 students are enrolled.
Narayan Ubale, resident district collector of Latur, says the administration is not enforcing its decision on coaching clases or colleges. “We are not insensitive towards students. But in the coming days, the water problem is going to be chronic. We hope students cope with the situation like the rest of the city,” he adds.