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Students have locked down NUSRL Ranchi campus for 24h now over perennial cash crunch, mismanagement

Law school has long been facing a vicious spiral of low funds, coupled with what students allege is a lack of vision from the administration. The only way out seems to be for the state government to get involved...

More than 24 hours after this ultimatum, the locks on NUSRL main gate stay, VC and faculty wait outside
More than 24 hours after this ultimatum, the locks on NUSRL main gate stay, VC and faculty wait outside

NUSRL Ranchi’s student body is out in full force before its campus gates since yesterday, having locked out the administration and faculty members until NUSRL vice chancellor Prof BC Nirmal, and registrar in charge Dr PP Mitra, resign or are removed from their posts and the students’ other demands are met.

565 students started their day yesterday before the university gates, and ended it sleeping in tents next to the gates that they had locked down from inside. The students had vowed to only open the gates after a joint dialogue between the Ranchi high court, the state government and the NUSRL administration and student body.

Students at the gates, in well-organised protests
Students at the gates, in well-organised protests

One student told us today that Nirmal and other faculty members, the police and media were locked-out, standing outside campus gates, but users of the campus’ Bank of India branch as well as faculty members with their residences inside campus were allowed passage through the gates.

The students’ five-point agenda for the dialogue, according to the Facebook page of the protests, which have been self-funded by students:

  1. The resignation or removal of Nirmal and Mitra
  2. An independent audit of NUSRL’s financial accounts
  3. The publication of NUSRL’s financial accounts at the beginning of every financial year. NUSRL has violated the law under its constitutional statute by omitting to publish these for the last four years
  4. Release of funds by the state government for the completion of campus construction work by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD)
  5. The constitution of a review commission for NUSRL, which is statutorily already two years overdue

VC in a tight spot, but ‘his best is simply not enough’, say students

Funds have always been a source of pain at the seven-year old Ranchi NLU; in 2012, as we had reported at the time, it had been short by close to Rs 43 crore.

Nirmal told us today that the law school has ended up defaulting on the Central Public Works Department (CPWD)’s payment by around Rs 35 crore, as the state government had only assisted the law school with a one-time grant of Rs 50 crore, whereas the campus construction costs ran up to Rs 85 crore.

Not only has the CPWD stopped work because of the default in payment, Nirmal said that NUSRL came to know from independent sources that the CPWD intended to take the law school to arbitration to recover its dues.

“We are approaching the state government for funds and now we will also approach other agencies,” said Nirmal on the administration’s plans to petition even the state bar council and various corporates for funds, as it had done once before in 2014 (even though that fundraising campaign had seen little interest from its potential donors).

A student on campus we spoke to today commented: “There have been multiple comments by the vice chancellor in various media outlets that he has done his best but despite doing his best he is unable to procure funds for the university and this is the best he can manage.”

“But his best is simply not enough. Not every problem we face is due to lack of funds. Our campus is infested with stray dogs and rodents, there are issues with the hostel timings, library timings, cleanliness and hygiene level in the mess,” added the student.

He said: “The library doesn’t have books. Per semester we pay Rs 5000 as library fee, Rs 5000 as internet fee and Rs 6000 as support charges. This grosses to a cumulative of Rs 1.5 crores for the university.

But there are barely 5-7 cupboards of books in the library. There are two [university] buses, which the students use twice a week but the faculty uses every day. The support charges are to be used for the law school’s back up [electricity] and conveyance. But the generators are not enough to support [the requirement]. During power cuts two floors remain lit, the remaining three are dark.”

Mess hygiene
Mess hygiene

“So not everything is related to funds, its actually gross mismanagement. The administration lacks vision. You just need to make an application to the municipality for removing stray dogs, and they will come and take them away without any significant charges. Our campus is overgrown with weeds. There is no vision, no plan for the university. If you happen to ask the vice chancellor where does he see the university in 5 years he will just build bridges in the air,” remarked the student.

Campus hygiene
Campus hygiene

Nirmal commented: “Students have closed the main door of the university and not given us minimum regard. We do not know the reason why they have gone on this path, we have tried to convince them to stop the protest but in vain. All faculty members and I myself have been present outside the gates trying to persuade them to resume normal activities.”

“I am trying that the matter be resolved peacefully in the best interests of the university. We are a new institution and we are our own problem but we have tried our best to make the stay of students comfortable on campus. We have provided all facilities,” he added.

On the Telegraph report about the alleged violation of the rights of disabled students on campus, Nirmal commented that immediate disable-friendly construction in the law school’s buildings was not possible, despite construction materials lying around on campus, because the CPWD had halted work after the payment dispute.

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