Peak-hour train travel should be allowed for Mumbai colleges to reopen
Students say they are midway into term, would like to carry on online; profs point to travel, work pressure
Days after the University of Mumbai (MU) released a circular with various guidelines for affiliated colleges to follow once colleges reopen from February 15, teachers and students have said resuming on-campus lectures is not feasible if they are not allowed to travel by train during peak hours.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines shared by MU states that first preference must be given to PhD and research candidates from science and technology departments as well as final-year students to attend lectures on campus. Online lectures will continue for the rest of the batches. Last week, state minister for higher and technical education Uday Samant announced that 50% of the total staff and students would be allowed on campus at any given time, but teachers and students have pointed out that they need to be able to travel by local trains during peak hours in order to reopen campuses.
An MU spokesperson said the decision to reopen colleges was taken based on assurance from the state government that train travel for staff and students will be considered. A spokesperson for Samant on Monday told HT the state is currently working on the issue and will have an answer soon.
At present, the general public is allowed to avail suburban train services in the city during fixed time slots — first train service of the day till 7am; 12pm to 4pm; 9pm till last train service of the day — which do not cover peak hours in order to prevent overcrowding in trains. Teachers and students have said the train timings for the general public are inconvenient. “Our class timings vary between 1pm and 6pm, and if that continues, I might be able to take the train to reach college, but then would loiter in college till 9pm to take the train back home. It makes no sense,” said Pooja Mali, a resident of Dahisar and a Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) student at UPG College, Vile Parle.
Some students said that since they are almost midway into the current semester, they would prefer to return to campus later. “I think the focus should be on keeping people safe at home, at least till the vaccination drive is over,” said Vishwa Shah, 21, a resident of Kandivli who is pursuing her Masters in clinical psychology from RD National College, Bandra. “My parents are not very keen on sending me back to college for physical classes, which I believe is the case with most parents at present,” she said.
Teachers pointed out that commuting will be challenging if they are unable to avail local trains during peak hours.
“Reopening of colleges and a combination of offline and online classes means teachers will be over-worked. And to make matters worse, without the permission to travel by train, many of us will spend hours in buses and autos every day,” said a Virar-based professor who teaches at a college in Andheri.
The professor added it would be “impossible” to do the 62-km commute without availing local trains. His college timings are between 10am and 4.30pm.
Shruti Warrier, who lives in Dombivli and teaches at St Andrew’s College in Bandra, said “If given no choice, I might have to leave home at 5.30am and reach my college by 7am for a class that begins only at 10am. The government should think this through.”
While several teachers and students have taken to social media to voice their concerns, the Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (BUCTU) on Monday has written to MU vice-chancellor Suhas Pednekar. “The university does not understand the ground reality and takes decisions without the consent of the academic council and senate, resulting in such absurd ideas,” said a statement released by BUCTU.