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[UPDATE: VC’s press statement] NLU Shimla VC: Prays for patience to solve issues, state funding meagre • Cops only ‘observing’

VC Prof Nishtha Jaswal appeals for dialogue
VC Prof Nishtha Jaswal appeals for dialogue

Update 20:06: VC Prof Nishtha Jaswal has released a press statement, responding to some of the student demands, and reiterating some of the below points she had made during our interview yesterday.

However, strikes are still ongoing and Jaswal repeated her call for students to call off the strike and engage in dialogue with the administration.

NLU Shimla press tatement (PDF)

As HPNLU Shimla continue into their fourth day of strikes, vice chancellor (VC) Prof Nishtha Jaswal has appealed for students to “call off” their protests and to interact with her to try and find solutions to problems, though she warned that none of these would be solved overnight.

“My pleas and appeal to my students, whom I love a lot: we are trying to go higher. We are in a better situation than we were two months back, we are much better now,” she told us by phone earlier yesterday.

The administrative block, where students are protesting, remained officially closed and police has been called to campus, according to student reports on social media.

However, Jaswal said: “The police is there, but has been expressly instructed not to harm any students. They are there to observe so that no issues should be there, clear instructions are there.”

Jaswal said that washrooms and water purifiers in the academic block had indeed been closed, as had been criticised by students on social media, but that this was because the administrative block had been officially closed (the administration had shut down the university until 25 September in a bid to stop the strikes).

Jaswal noted that washrooms and facilities were still available in the hostels, which are up to 15 minutes walk away from the academic block.

Bus services to the hostel block were currently unavailable due to the shutdown, said one student.

The main demands from students are:

  • Better mess facility,
  • Improved internet access (which is offline most of the time),
  • availability and maintenance of hostel facilities.

VC’s response: Problems won’t be solved overnight

Jaswal she said she was aware there were problems with infrastructure on campus.

However, the problem was not easy to solve. The university had only received a total of Rs 36 crore since its founding, she said, with the last release of funds only having been made in April 2019, and more support from the state did not appear to be forthcoming any time soon (HPNLU had started with Rs 20 crore promised by the state government in 2016).

That said, when she had joined in November 2018 the situation had been much worse than it was now, she said, and the academic block had since become available, as well as hostels for students.

Regarding the quality of mess food, which students had alleged was causing them to fall ill, Jaswal said: “We are managing and doing our best. I did verbally speak to the caterer, and said I should not hear that kind of complaint and to taste the food and not to serve it [if not to standards]”.

However, she added that “all my teachers and non-teaching staff are eating in the same mess and many times I also call for [food from the mess]. There is no such issue as such.”

Regarding wireless internet, she said that “I can’t say tomorrow we will get the [new] WiFi”. Part of that work to wire up the campus had been delayed due to rainy weather in Shimla, for instance.

“I am dependent on the [other] sectors, where the process is already going on. I feel that my students should have this much patience,” she said.

HPNLU Shimla did not have an elected student body at the moment, but Jaswal said that she had talked to students and explained the situation and they had seemed satisfied.

However, one student told us: “We did have a conversation with the vice chancellor on 16th followed by 17th, the result of which, was highly unsatisfactory since she has only considered a few of our suggestions.”

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