25 years after ban, student elections return to Maharashtra
Twenty-five years after the last election held on college campuses in Pune, students will vote once again this year, as elections return to colleges across Maharashtra, which also goes to the assembly polls in a few months.
The state’s higher education department is currently working on the time-table for student elections under the purview of Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016.
Once elected, student representatives have a greater say in the functioning of higher educational institutions, including issues dealing with the syllabus and fee hikes.
The schedule for the elections, likely to be held in September, will be out this week after officials and representatives from various universities meet in Mumbai on Wednesday.
It was the day-light murder of a first year law student from the Jitendra Chauhan (JC) College of Law, Owen D’souza, in 1989, which led to student elections being banned by the government. The ban was enforced in 1993.
While D’souza was planning to contest elections from the Congress-backed National Students Union of India (NSUI), the rival outfit in the fray was the BJP students’ wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
Taking lessons from the incident and to ensure peaceful elections, the state government has prepared a code of conduct which bars members of outfits backed by political parties from contesting elections.
As per the norms, students below 25 years of age will be able to contest polls, while those contesting will not be able to use the symbol of any political or religious organisation.
To workout the modalities of the election process, officials from higher education department held a meeting at the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) last week, when the issue of dates also came up.
According NS Umrani, pro-vice chancellor, SPPU, higher and technical education departments want to hold elections across universities in Maharashtra on the same day.
Umrani said the date will possibly be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting, as a tentative schedule has already been prepared.
“I will be attending the meeting in Mumbai. Till now we have held workshops with all college principals in three districts – Pune, Ahmednagar and Nashik. They have been briefed about how to hold elections and what measures are to be taken to have a transparent election process,” said Umrani.
Most universities in Maharashtra have already shared copies of the circular from the state government with colleges. All the principals have also been given instructions to be alert and aware about the protocols.
“In today’s meeting, we will discuss holding elections of all the 11 universities in the state at the same time. Right from nomination to results, everything should be completed within 10 days, but the final schedule and decision will be discussed,” said Umrani.