Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) vice chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar has maintained for months that the fee hike at the university, which has been vehemently opposed by students, is “well thought out” and was for the betterment of the university, but a new report casts a cloud over his own conduct.
The Telegraph reported on Monday that Kumar has been holding on to the accommodation provided to him when he was a professor in IIT Delhi for four years even though he has a house in JNU which he was allotted in 2016 when he became VC.
The report said that Kumar, who is on lien from IIT Delhi, has been paying a meagre Rs 1,200 for the house, the market rent for which would be Rs 90,000.
Earlier IIT professors were allowed to retain their quarters for five years if they were deputed elsewhere as vice-chancellors. But the rules were changed in 2017 so that now a professor appointed elsewhere as administrative head can only keep the accommodation for one year.
The report said that Kumar was allowed to hold on to his IIT Delhi quarters because it was allotted to him before the rules were changed.
But this is even as IIT Delhi has quarters for only 300 of 500 teachers, and pays lakhs in rent for about 10 private houses in Hauz Khas, said the report.
Kumar still teaches classes at IIT Delhi, but one of the biggest complaints JNU students, who have been fighting for access to education for all, have been facing is that they are wasting “taxpayers’ money”.
The university administration has been under a cloud over the past week after a mob of masked attackers entered campus and assaulted students
Kumar said on Sunday, “There is a concern that there could be outsiders in the hostels. The Dean of the students has requested all the wardens to identify any such outsider so that appropriate action is taken.”
A report in The Indian Express said that according to documents compiled by a JNU faculty member, right after Kumar took over as VC, the fees were hiked by 41% in 2018 and the current fee hike proposal would increase it by 85% — which means the fees would have been hiked by 162% since he joined.
According to the report, after the MHRD decision of a partial rollback, the students will end up paying Rs 59,000 a year, much less than what Kumar pays for his second IIT Delhi home which comes up to a yearly rent of Rs 14,400.
Huffpost India has reached out to the JNU VC and PRO for comments.
Students from JNU have argued that people from all kinds of backgrounds who study in the university, and such a steep fee hike would mean that many would not be able to continue their studies.
In November 2019, when the protests against fee hike had just begun, several students had told The Times of India that they would have to discontinue their studies if the fee was hiked.
Kumari Chaitra, a student from Rajgir, Bihar — who gave students tuition to earn money money to send to her brother in Agartala — had told TOI, “I have no idea how I will be able to pay the extra charges. I may have to leave my education unfinished.”
The JNU Students’ Union has accused the VC of apathy and demanded that he step down.
After the attack by ABVP goons on the JNU campus on 5 January, the JNUSU had alleged that all was done with Kumar’s knowledge.
“The chronology of events that unfolded today is a shameful episode for the Delhi Police who gave a safe passage to ABVP goons imported from outside. For days now the administration has been unable to break our protest. Since January 4, ABVP people were directed as henchmen of the VC to come and beat up students. They used lathis and pipes on that day,” the JNUSU had said in a statement.
The administration and the Delhi Police, on the other hand, have been more concerned with an alleged vandalising of the server room and an incident of violence on January 5 afternoon.