‘Any violent act is unwelcome’: JNU vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar
The vice-chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), M Jagadesh Kumar, says when anybody commits an act which violates the law, the law will take its own course.Updated: Nov 20, 2019 09:30 IST
In the eye of a storm over the agitation in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) over a fee hike, Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar spoke to HT’s Amandeep Shukla. Edited excerpts:
JNU is in turmoil after the decisions of the administration on hostel fees and other issues. How do you see the situation?
Whatever decisions were taken started from the hostel committees. A draft was put on JNU website for feedback, which was presented in the inter-hall administration committee meeting on October 28. That was the first time for a debate and discussion on the hostel manual where all hostel presidents were present along with the senior wardens, the five provosts, associate deans, and deans. They were supposed to prepare a final draft. But when the meeting was in progress, some students barged in and disrupted the meeting. When the meeting was held at a different venue, some hostel presidents attended. The matter was discussed and they unanimously approved the hostel manual which included the proposed charges. The executive committee was scheduled to be held on November 13 - during these two weeks also students could have given suggestions. But instead they started indulging in gheraoing, and when the provosts went for discussion, they were only given a choice – reject the manual or resign.
Is a 20-fold hike in hostel charges fair?
If you look at the numbers, it appears there is a sudden increase. But the base value, 10 rupees, that was fixed 40 years ago, was too low. If it was 10 paise then and you make it one rupee now, people would have said it’s a huge jump. Times have changed, and if you want to provide better facilities for students, they have to pay for the services. That is why we increased it nominally from Rs 10 to Rs 300 for a seat for a double occupancy. You go anywhere around JNU, it would be impossible to get a room for Rs 300.
Regarding electricity and water, we are asking students to pay for what they consume.
Our tuition fee is around Rs 300 per annum. If you look at the tuition fee of some other central varsities, it is over Rs 10,000. Nobody talks about this. We don’t want to raise tuition fee.
People from humble backgrounds are able to make it to JNU. Will this hike not affect them?
That is why we have given 50% concession for economically weaker sections. As a varsity, we need to provide them opportunity to come here and study.
A situation has now arisen where students have FIRs registered against them. How do feel about this?
Any violent act or unlawful acts are unwelcome in a varsity like JNU. But if people break doors, deface walls… when anybody commits an act which violates the law, the law will take its own course.
JNU has a rich history – it has produced people such as Nobel winner Abhijit Mukherjee and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Dissent also is a part of its culture.
All of us were students at one time. At that age, it is natural for a young person to feel agitated and angry. But there are ways through which we can have a dialogue. When we search and find solutions, we become calm…. As a teacher I always wish the best for my students. We have to be broad-minded, which is what we do in the varsity also… our deans, teachers are all open for a peaceful dialogue, but not coercion.
Some people feel there is an attempt to vilify the students.
I always defend my university. It is one of the best in the country and should remain like that. We should do everything possible to ensure JNU grows in future also.
The HRD ministry has set up a panel. You have not yet attended a meeting of that committee. How do you plan to interact with them?
Whatever information they need, we are providing it. Our deans went and met them.
Are you planning any outreach towards students? How do you plan to resolve this?
Our deans are already reaching out to groups of students in their respective schools. We hope the students will understand the rationale behind hostel charges. I also sent a video message. Consultation with students is a continuous process, it is happening.