Students of TISS Hyderabad are protesting the college’s new fee structure and hostel facilities, as it is driving socio-economically disadvantaged students to drop out. The protest has been going on for three days since Monday with no satisfactory response from the administration.

“They’re threatening us with police action if we don’t remove the blockade,” a student participating in the protest told #KhabarLive. The protesting students are demanding that the administration take responsibility for students with Government of India – Post Matric Scholarship (GoI PMS) and those relying on other financial aid.

The college, which has not had its own hostel and campus since the time of its inception, was earlier operating from the Telangana State Institute of Panchayat Raj and Rural Development (TSIPARD) Campus in Rajendranagar. This year, the college and hostel have been shifted to the KB School campus in Turkayamjal, further away from the city.

Previously, a service provider was selected to run the hostels through a tender. The administration would mediate between the students and the service provider. This year, students claim that the service provider, CN Reddy, was chosen in a non-transparent manner, without consulting the students.

“The new service provider wants us to pay the hostel and mess charges for the entire semester upfront. Earlier, we used to pay in affordable instalments. The administration has refused to share a copy of the contract signed with CN Reddy, and the tender documents from other participants. It looks like there was no tender at all this year,” another student said.

They feel that Reddy, who owns the entire school campus, hostel and mess facilities, is very powerful and the college administration is helpless while dealing with him. Protesters have even taken to holding placards calling the new campus ‘Reddy land’.

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What the students are protesting
The protests are mainly organised by the Students Action Committee (SAC), a student body formed during campus protests in December 2018 against some of the administration’s decisions, including making the campus non-residential.

According to the SAC, the administration’s denial of responsibility for the change in fee amount and payment structure is causing SC, ST and OBC students to drop out as they are unable to arrange the fee amount.

“[The administration] has pushed the students into the mouths of the ruthless market … Such a privatisation of the campus space will inadvertently make sure that only those with enough class, caste and gender insurance can step into the Tata Institute of Social Sciences – the apparent propagator of social justice and social inclusion,” an SAC statement reads.

A second year MA student said, “Until last year, we (GoI PMS students) had to pay only Rs 15,000 as hostel fees per semester, that too in three instalments of Rs 5,000. We were allowed to pay the mess fees in monthly instalments, or whenever students received their scholarship from their respective state governments or university student aid. Now, they are asking us to pay a total amount of Rs 54,000 at the beginning of the semester.”

The student says that on arriving at the campus in July, she was not allotted a hostel room. After staying with her friends for a couple of days, she was asked to leave the hostel as she hadn’t paid the entire fee amount, forcing her to go home. She decided to return to the campus after fellow students persuaded her to join the protest. The student says she was told by the administration on Monday that she could stay in the hostel after paying an instalment of Rs 16,000 of the total Rs 54,000, but the hostel accountant refused to allow it, saying he was yet to receive such instructions from the authorities.

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Another student expressed concerns over safety in the new hostels. “The girls’ hostel is a few hundred metres away from the campus. Many women students have faced some form of sexual harassment since we were moved here. The administration denies responsibility, saying it is a non-residential campus from this academic year. Yet, they’re collecting hostel fees, and the new hostels have banners that say ‘TISS Boys’/Girls’ Hostel’. Why is the college collecting payment on behalf of a private service provider?” she asks, adding that the college seems to be favouring the service provider, CN Reddy.

Administration’s response
Students say that they have not received a positive response from the administration, which claims that the college is suffering from a shortage of funds.

The SAC says that the administration is going back on the assurances made to students earlier. According to the SAC, “In a letter written by TISS director, Dr Shalini Bharat, to students of the Hyderabad campus dated December 20, it was promised that ‘the institute will continue to play the existing role in arranging accommodation for current batches of students with their active participation. For future batches too, similar arrangements through service providers will be made till such time the institute is able to secure its own campus’.”

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In response to the student agitation, the administration has claimed that they are making efforts to provide accommodation and dining facilities for the GoI PMS students. The SAC has rejected their claims, citing the reduced number of GoI PMS students in the incoming batch, many not taking admission because of the requirement of upfront fee payment.

The administration has also claimed that the hostel and mess fees of Telangana Ashram school senior BA students was arranged through Social Welfare department secretary, Dr Praveen Kumar, but the SAC says three such students have moved to the nearest government hostel as their sponsors were unable to pay the new hostel fees. The SAC also rejected the claim of a slight drop in monthly tariffs, since the new campus is in a remote location far from Hyderabad city where rents are much lower.

While the administration has announced that it would allow GoI PMS students from the 2018-20 batch to continue to pay the fees according to last year’s structure, the SAC claims that the instalments to be paid by the 2019-21 batch of students are much higher. Students demand that the earlier fee structure be implemented for all existing and future GoI PMS students.

“We hope to get an assurance in a signed document from TISS Mumbai promising to give guarantee of payment on behalf of GoI PMS students to the service provider, so that even if the service provider changes next year the promises made to GoI PMS students stand,” a protesting student said. #KhabarLive

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A senior journalist having 25 years of experience in national and international publications and media houses across the globe in various positions. A multi-lingual personality with desk multi-tasking skills. He belongs to Hyderabad in India. Ahssanuddin's work is driven by his desire to create clarity, connection, and a shared sense of purpose through the power of the written word. His background as an writer informs his approach to writing. Years of analyzing text and building news means that adapting to a reporting voice, tone, and unique needs comes as second nature.