Pune varsity gears up for tight security measures

The sprawling campus of the prestigious varsity, with houses a number of key research institutions, may soon have closed-circuit television (CCTV) system and armed guards to stave off any possible threat, sources said.

This cultural capital of Maharashtra, which has emerged as a major education hub, boasts of about 14,000 foreign students, the largest number in an Indian city.

In a communication to the university officials within days of the German Bakery blast, in which two foreigners, one of them a student, were killed, police identified sites on the campus for stepping up security with specific norms.

Noting that the 62-year-old institution has students coming from as many as 104 countries to do a variety of short and long-term diploma and degree courses, police have asked the varsity administration to furnish the list of foreign students as they could be viewed as vulnerable soft targets.

Law enforcing agencies have sought installation of baggage X-ray scanner in front of the foreign students hostel and deployment of armed guards there and at other landmarks like the historical Jaykar Library and research centres such as C-DAC and IUCCA, the sources said.

"We have held meetings with our coordinators among the foreign students population, appealing them to be vigilant in their sphere of activities and associations," Pune University International Students Centre Director Vasudha Gadre told reporters.

Gadre said in order to reassure the foreign students in the wake of the February 13 terror attack, the centre had also started regular counselling sessions to deal with any possible difficulties and problems being faced by them in their stay in the city, on and outside the campus.

"While Pune University has foreign students from over 100 countries, the maximum number is drawn from Iran, Africa and the Middle East. At a given point of time the number of foreign students averages about 14,000 with a male- female ratio of 50/50 per cent. They pursue, among other courses, post graduation and PhD in various disciplines," she noted.

The verification of the visa status of foreign students, its validity and expiry period was being done rigorously by police who have been monitoring all their activities from various angles with a view to ensure security.

According to Ravindra Sengaonkar, DCP (Crime), the foreign students coming here were required to register their names with police within 14 days. "For those coming from Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the period for getting themselves registered is seven days." 

As police authorities have directed the university administration to put in place its own security system on the suggested guidelines post explosion, the varsity officials are now engaged in estimating the cost involved in the exercise as they have also been furnished with specific details as to from which agencies the security equipment could be procured.

The mood on the campus, so far as the foreign students are concerned, remains largely unaffected by the February 13 nightmare at Koregaon Park that left 17 dead and injured 50 others, including foreigners.

Sayeed, an Iranian student who stays in post Koregaon Park area, said "except for cumbersome police procedures in respect of visa renewals, we have no hassles, and Pune continues to be one of the most sought after educational destinations."

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