The Ambedkar Ganguly Students’ House for Women is quite a visitor on news platforms owing to its orthodox attitude towards its residents. However, it is now, that the hostel authorities are seen misusing their power over their workers as well. This DU hostel is now reportedly ignoring its residents, thereby, making the already stressful pandemic even worse.
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To begin with, as soon as the pandemic was announced, the residents of the hostel were asked to either leave or were barred from entering the premises. The occupants were asked to go ‘anywhere, thereby, turning a blind eye to the order issued by MHRD. Even pleas made by parents went unheard. Citing safety concerns, no student was allowed despite numerous protests. Consequently, now that lockdown situation is easing out, students are now asked to come all the way back and vacate their rooms.
Furthermore, this inconsiderate behaviour of the authorities is not only limited to the students but underprivileged and poverty-ridden workers as well, whose sole earnings depends upon their employment in the hostel. Taking advantage of their condition, the authorities did not grant women workers maternity relief, a day off even when their relatives died, asking them to wash their cars or their utensils while the workers succumbed to their orders. Consequently, in March 2020, the UGHG authorities had already laid off a few workers stating reasons like ‘safety concerns and lack of funds’.
Another aspect that has come to light proving the lack of transparency that resides in DU concerns the annual hostel fees of students. Due to COVID-19, the students did not avail hostel facilities for about 3 months, however, there is no sign of refund whatsoever. Contrarily, the hostel authorities demanded extra fees from students. It should further be noted that when the students were forced to leave, the Warden and other authorities who stay in the staff quarters, remained peacefully in their flats allotted by the university. Isn’t this hypocrisy? If the facilities were not availed, how was there a lack of funding? Meanwhile, the hostel authorities invested in hostel’s whitewashing even though there was an apparent lack of funding.
The above issues were questioned by the students. The women residents protested outside, demanding basic human rights for 23 days, sleeping out at night during which they faced harassment, sexual assault from Police as well. However, no amicable solutions came out of this. The managing committee continued with uncertain replies and vindictive decisions. Yet again, all the requests of the hostel residents went unheard. The authorities further passed classiest and misogynistic comments towards the protesting residents.
Rita Kakkar, Provost, UGHG says “Girls call the boys outside during protest for “fun, activities like protest is not meant for women. I’ll make sure that those protesting right now are rusticated.”
Sharmishtha Atrija, The Resident Tutor, UGHG says “Being a PWD student, you’re raising your voice against the authorities. How shameful!” (To a woman protestor)
In a country where the question of woman safety is raised every now and then, DU Hostel authorities very conveniently neglect their residents and workers. However, we have before us a generation that doesn’t give up! The residents have demanded the resignation of such ruthless authorities who’ve been a source of constant distress not only for the residents but also for the workers. Secondly, the onus of fund management must not be brought on workers and students. Workers should not be laid off in an unjust manner (as stated in provisions of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (Sec 22 and Sec 22A).