Rent is higher than DU's cut-offs

PLACE TO STAY: STUDENTS GO FOR HIGH COST ACCOMMODATION DUE TO LACK OF HOSTELS

Finding a place to live could get as difficult as meeting the cut-off criteria at Delhi University colleges,” Karan Mahanta, a second-year student of Satyawati College says.

Every year, the scramble for modest dwellings corresponds with Delhi University's admission season. The house owners use pamphlets, posters and sometimes hoardings to solicit new paying guests (PGs) at the university campus, since they are the main drivers of the thriving business of PG accommodations. 

According to a conservative estimate in many a student party's poll manifesto, only two per cent of the university students get on-campus hostel accommodation.

Mahanta says he began by paying Rs 9,000 for an ill-serviced shared occupancy room in a Mukherjee Nagar PG. For better serviced rooms in the area with AC, television, free WiFi and three times meals, the rents are sometimes as high as Rs 20,000.

The regular inflow of students ensures that tenants are never in short supply. That's possibly why rents have increased more than two-fold in the last four years, say students who have lived in areas surrounding DU's North Campus for little longer than Mahanta.

Students complain that owners increase the rent at whim. Convenor of student group 'Right to Accommodation', Praveen Singh, talks about a brewing nexus between property owners and brokers. 

“Property dealers who charge 50 per cent as brokerage connive with the landlords and create problems for the students. Every time a new tenant comes in, rent gets hiked by 10 per cent,” he says.

The leaky faucet in his flat has not been fixed for the last week despite repeated complaints, rues Raj Aryan, a student of DU’s Law Faculty, who lives in Patel Chest area. He says he had a lot of “unnecessary” conversation over this simple plumbing work. 

“They are oblivious to their moral duty of providing at least the basic services. Whenever you approach them with such problems, they would say that it is none of their concerns. They want you not to stay longer,” he says. 

“Every year, students come here for two-three years. When they approach house owners, the first question they get asked is ‘how long are you going to stay’. They expect all their tenants to stay no longer than a year or two. For satisfying themselves, they ask you for your college ID. They also ask you for your proof of residence, parents’ phone number for due police verification,” Aryan says.

Another student Vivek Sharma says that tenants are expected to follow a set of dos and don’ts. Sometimes even cooking non-vegetarian food is good enough for inviting eviction orders from the home owners. 

The lure and comfort of living near the varsity campus has resulted in mushrooming of PGs in localities surrounding North Campus – Kamla Nagar, Vijay Nagar, Outram Line, GTB Nagar and Mukherjee Nagar. In DU’s South Campus, localities such Satya Niketan and Anand Niketan are popular among students. 

Few hostels
The DU at present has 15 off-campus hostels and nine colleges with boarding facilities on their premises. Out of the nine, only five have accommodation for women. 

For an estimated 1.8 lakh students enrolled with the varsity, there are about 9,000 seats available in its hostels for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. The university admits over 54,000 students every year for its undergraduate courses, a big chunk of them from other states. 

University hostels admit students on basis of merit and the competition for the limited seats is way tougher than getting admission in any of the DU colleges.  
Due to this huge crunch, many students are forced to go for alternative accommodation, which means shelling out more money. 

As per the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1995, house owners can increase rent by maximum of 10 per cent every 11 months. But since no agreements are signed generally, rent is increased frequently. 

Praveen Singh, a former DU student who is sitting on a dharna for the last 10 days demanding rationalisation of rent, says the upcoming DU Students’ Union polls should be fought on the issue of soaring rents. 

“I have been organising protests for the last three years, but nothing has been done to implement the Rent Control Act. Also, there is no new proposal for building hostels,” he says.  

Singh claims that Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad-led DUSU has not done enough on these issues. Slamming the BJP-backed student outfit, he says, “They have their government at the Centre. So whose job is it to deliver? Barack Obama’s or Narendra Modi’s?”

He says he will also implore the debutant Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti, the Aam Aadmi Party’s student wing, to ask the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government to for rationalisation of rent in the localities with high student density.

“Every year these issues turn out to be mere poll planks. I will write to all the student parties – belonging to left, right and centre – not to be nonchalant about these issues,” he adds. 

Saket Bahuguna, ABVP’s Delhi State Secretary, claims that Delhi University has failed to prioritise building of new hostels despite getting adequate funds from the Union government. 

He espouses introduction of a new law for regulating PG accomodation. “There are no norms for PG owners. Often the food they provide students is of poor quality,” he says.
 
When asked about what his student party has done for rationalising rent in the localities near the DU campus, he tells Deccan Herald. “Ever since ABVP came to power, DUSU’s say in varsity affairs has increased. If voted to power, we will be more confident of making the change happen.” 

Delhi CYSS vice-president Anmol Panwar charged that the varsity administration has shown no interest in pursuing the issue. “DU has not built any new hostel in the last several years. Whenever we register our protest, the university administration tells us that they are awaiting clearance from the horticulture department,” he says. 

He added that rationalisation of rent will feature prominently on their manifesto for the DUSU polls on September 11. 

The DU administration says it had taken up the issue of soaring rents with the Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. 

Last year, the varsity in its letter to Jung demanded implementation of the Delhi Rent Control Act, urging him to save the students from harassment by “unscrupulous landlords”. 

Rent control
However, in response to DU’s letter, the Directorate of Higher Education said that regulating rent is beyond its ambit. 

A committee set up by the DU vice chancellor had earlier recommended implementation of the Act as one of the measures to deal with the shortage of hostel accommodation. 

Singh accuses the university of making insincere attempts. He cites the Delhi University Act 1922, which seems to almost guarantee hostel accommodation for every university student.

“We are in 2015 now, but DU is still far from ensuring hostel accommodation for all its students. How come we end up comparing ourselves with Cambridge and Harvard University?” the convenor of ‘Right to Accommodation’ says. 

“Middle class students are under huge pressure. Education is becoming costlier by the day and students are feeling the heat,” he adds. 

On Friday, Singh started a signature campaign in support of rationalisation and rent and he claims that 1,000 students have already joined it.  

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