Twenty-seven students with disabilities and teachers from Delhi University observed a one-day hunger strike outside the vice chancellor’s office on Friday.
Since they were not allowed to put up tents, they were drenched in heavy rain in morning.
Sambhavana, a forum of DU teachers and students working for disability issues, had organised the strike. DUTA members too joined the protest to show solidarity with their cause.
“We had protested earlier in the month, following which DU officials intimidated students who participated in the protest. On Friday, the chief of security threatened an escort of a visually challenged teacher,” said Nikhil Jain, a Sambhavana member.
“We have to file an FIR against him. Apart from harassing and intimidating us, we have not got any constructive response on our genuine demands,” he said.
Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) president in a letter requested for providing an alternate accommodation to a disabled teacher with 90 per cent orthopaedic disability, who was recently given an eviction notice from DU hostel.
“G N Saibaba’s appeal against eviction is still pending in the court of the chief commissioner on persons with disability. The university had no legal right to insist on eviction. This is illustrative of the extremely insensitive manner in which the university has continued to deal with its disabled employees,” said DUTA president Amar Deo Sharma.
The protesters demand that an empowered committee be formed to prepare a time-bound action plan to address the grievances of differently abled students, teachers and non-teaching staff in the varsity. They also want that the date for a disability summit be announced where they can voice their grievances.
“The higher authorities are unwilling to meet and give concrete assurance on anything,” said Jain.
Students with disabilities have been complaining about not having even basic facilities for a long time now. They condemned the recent press statement by the Equal Opportunity
Cell (EOC) officer on the facilities provided by the university.
“It is a hogwash. They claim that they have waived off full tuition fee, which was quietly followed by another circular regarding no fee waiver for students with fellowships, employed or getting any other financial assistance,” said Kapil, a visually challenged postgraduate student.
“We don’t get fellowships of thousands of rupees a month. It is of a few hundred rupees. And disabled students usually are from financially weaker sections,” he said, adding that the circular applies to the “tall claims” of 50 per cent hostel fee and mess waiver also.
“And the hostel fee waiver is only for university hostels and not college hostels, where the bulk of students with disability live,” he added.
Students said the university has turned a blind eye to their real issues.
“Maybe overhauling the graduation system is more important for them as the rich and powerful have demanded it. Why would they bother about our issues, our future or how we are coping with our everyday struggle and still trying to study? This shows how much they care, so they might as well end the hypocrisy,” said a student.
They plan to march to the Union human resource development ministry’s office on February 18 to voice their concerns.