IISc students protest lack of safety measures

For the last three days, students at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have been conducting a sit-in protest over what they describe as administrative apathy over safety at the 110-year-old institute. 

The protests, which many students claimed received unanimous support from the 1,000-strong body of PhD students, were triggered by the death of 23-year-old Gowtham Biswal, a security guard crushed by a newly installed 1,500-kg gate on June 30. 

The incident, according to several students that DH spoke to, is reflective of the senior faculty’s apathy over student safety, evinced by what they describe as a spate of substandard infrastructural projects being carried out by the Centre of Campus Management and Development (CCMD), under the aegis of Colonel Arun Sharma, the campus’ estate officer and the engineer who signed off on the gate days before its collapse. 

According to students, Colonel Sharma had approved the gate for use on June 1, but many questioned why the original gate had been replaced in the first place. 

“The old gate was absolutely fine. There was no need to replace it. We believe that the new gate was built in order to enrich certain parties,” a group of representative for the student body claimed. 

Many of the students this newspaper spoke to were unwilling to give their names for fear of retribution. Several senior women students alleged that the chairman of the students’ affairs committee had threatened to have FIRs filed against them if they do not abandon the protest. Other students claimed members of the administration had threatened to harm their careers. 

The IISc’s security office filed an FIR against Colonel Sharma and the contractor, Nagaraj, who were arrested earlier in the week. Both individuals were released on bail by the morning of July 2. 

The protesters had three demands — the suspension of Colonel Sharma; the investigative committee set up by the Director of the Institute, Anurag Kumar, have at least one student representative and that members of the student’s council be preferably excluded from the council. 

According to the protesters, the director acceded to take disciplinary action against Colonel Sharma but rejected the second condition. 

The director could not be reached while his office refused to comment on the matter.

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