Students of NUSRL Ranchi, have hammered out a compromise agreement with a new acting vice chancellor, winning a series of concessions to improve the administration and management at the law school.
According to minutes of a marathon meeting between students, the new administration has agreed to:
- an “administrative overhaul” with a new acting vice chancellor, Jharkhand Judicial Academy director Gautam Chaudhary, who vowed that no “regressive measures” would be taken towards NUSRL students
- financial records of the law school and audit reports would be published shortly, with a financial officer to be hired,
- Chaudhary would “put his best efforts to set up a Review Commission with regards to the affairs of the University”, particularly with respect to appointing competent permanent faculty and visiting faculty.
The students, meanwhile, agreed to “maintain discipline and allow the authorities to resume their respective offices”, though students have reserved their right to protest again if “the system is not mobilised” within 15 days of today.
The minutes of the meeting were signed by Chaudhary, seven other witnesses, and hundreds of students.
NUSRL vice chancellor Prof BC Nirmal was sent on leave since yesterday and Jharkhand Judicial Academy director Gautam Chaudhary was appointed as the acting vice chancellor, said one of the protesting students.
Nirmal leave is one-month long and is for “personal reasons”, reported The Telegraph today.
Nirmal said when contacted by phone earlier today about his leave: “I have no comment to make now.”
Things were not so promising earlier today
Our campus sources had told us in the morning that students were poised at the locked main gates with camera phones at the ready, to record every move of the police force, which had been deployed outside.
Some students were fearful earlier in the day that the police might take heavy-handed measures to disperse the student protests and restore access to campus. “We were indirectly told last night that our uncompromising attitude may create problems for us. The new VC is free to enter, but we won’t stop protesting. But there is no ground for the police to enter,” our student had said earlier today.
Chaudhary along with three judges of the Jharkhand high court had visited campus yesterday to discuss the students’ demands, such as the immediate resignation of Nirmal and the registrar in charge, independent audit and then annual publication of NUSRL’s financial accounts, setting up of an overdue review commission and dispatching of state-funds.
The students, who have been out in full force before the campus main gate day and night since Monday, allege issues with campus and mess hygiene, deficient library, transportation and electricity facilities and other administrative mismanagement at the seven-year old law school.
The student body representatives of NUJS have come out in support of NUSRL’s peaceful protest.
Not all demands met
That said, the students’ victory was not absolute.
The university continues to be burdened by debt and arbitration over a pending bill by the public works department, and few permanent changes have been guaranteed right now, and students did not win the permanent removal of their VC, as they had wanted.
And if promises to improve things do not materialise, motivating the student body into another protest may be more difficult: 4 days of continuous protest are not a cakewalk and are likely to take their toll on even the hardiest students.
However, perhaps this is as much as could realistically be expected under the circumstances. While the VC is technically just on temporary leave, for the sake of fairness it may make sense that an inquiry is held first, before permanent changes are made at the top.
Ultimately, though, for lasting change to happen, this will need serious buy-in from the Jharkhand state government, which must provide support and finances to its national law school, as it had implicitly promised when first setting up the institution.