CU mess needs immediate corrective measures

Vice-Chancellor Ashok Aima’s dynamic decision to shift the campus of Central University, Jammu from Sainik Colony to Rahya Suchaini, Samba needed to be backed several logistics before the implementation of the plan. The goal of shedding off extra-cost incurred by running a university in rented premises was accomplished but at the cost of students’ convenience.
With the campus under construction, the university life of students was bifurcated – studying in make-shift departments with a library worthy of a higher secondary and living in hostels that still had not been shifted out of Sainik Colony. For the students who did not require hostel service, studying at Central University meant a travel-time of about one-hour from Jammu city to Rahya Suchaini, Samba in University bus.
Though the bus service was termed as “free” in casual conversations, an amount of Rs 1000 was added into admission fees by the University administration. The Hostel fees and mess charges remained Rs 5000 per month and Rs 2500 per month wherein hostelers had to manage their lunch on their own since Hostel Mess was in Sainik Colony and students could not reach back there from Samba just for having food. The charges included only Breakfast and Dinner on weekdays and all three meals during weekends, yet the students accepted it because there seemed to be no other choice. Another cause for the hostellers’ compliance was an assurance that the Hostels in University Campus, Samba would be constructed in record time so students could openly take part in Campus life.
The cause for all the commotion in University followed by protests by Student organisations and a march of Hostellers from Sainik Colony to Rahya Suchaini was a sudden hike in bus fees. All of a sudden, students were told to pay bus fees, despite their having paid the amount included in admission fees and worst of all, the fees were the same for every student.
How fair is it that a student travelling from Vijaypur would have to pay the same amount as someone travelling from Jammu city? And the Hostellers who were already adjusting with the make-shift hostel off-campus and the high Mess charges despite no lunches would also have to shell out the same amount. It calls to question the logic of such fees. Providing hostel service to students is the job of University administration and generally, Hostels are within the University campus or nearby. To no fault of their own, students were being forced to pay bus fees because the University campus was shifted elsewhere.
The University administration justified the fees saying that it was already subsidized with University undertaking half of the cost and since students were the ones availing bus service, they would have to pay transportation charges. Following massive protests by Central university students in the session 2018-2019, the matter of bus fees was put to rest. A committee was to be formed for solving the matter through discussions. Yet, at the beginning of a new session, a new notification demanding students to pay Rs 9900 per semester for bus fees came out stirring up the entire matter all over again.
Before the students had a chance to debate it, the existing bus service was shut down until everyone paid the fees. This amounted to sheer harassment of the students who had no other means of reaching the university and had to board an overloaded bus just for the sake of arriving at the University and finding out the actual matter.
Later on, the University administration started a free shuttle bus service from Rahya Morh to University campus to make it easier for the students living nearby to avail private transportation. This was a small relief for the students. Yet, the question remains if it is right to introduce such costs for students in the middle of a course. Some students have rightly been complaining that if they knew about such extra costs beforehand, they would not have taken up the course in Central university since paying Rs 9900 per semester will not be possible for them. The Hostellers have become a victim too since even in the two months of summer vacation, the Hostel in university Campus was not constructed. Moreover, the road leading up to the University Campus has also not been macadamized and is a hazard to travel upon during monsoons. While Central University Jammu gets grants from UGC, funds from the Central Govt. and has course fees higher than the Central universities in other states, it has also saved a lot of money by shifting the campus to Samba. Yet, where is that money being utilized is yet to be seen. Since the students are not the ones reaping the benefits of it. The amount saved in rent could easily pay for transportation charges of students. The students who come to study at Central University do not all come from rich families and paying the amount of bus fees, that too upfront for the entire semester may not be entirely possible for them. That is especially true for the Hostellers who are already incurring the cost of Rs 7500 for Hostel and Mess.
Shifting of the campus was done hurriedly, so the construction work should also be rushed so the University can start functioning as a University and not as a mediocre institute with barely any facilities, academic or otherwise. The bus fees need to be subsidized for the benefit of students and be taken on per month basis keeping in mind the diversity of background of the students studying in Central University Jammu. A clear picture should be drawn on the prospectus for all students who aspire to study in Central University Jammu, so the students, before leaving their home states are aware of the existing situation of Hostel, Bus service etc.
Central University is not meant only for the students from Jammu and a huge chunk of students come from different states in India. The troubles they face in their academic session will become part of their image of institutions in Jammu and Kashmir. Central University, being a University of higher status than a state-university must also be better in academia, infrastructure and in providing overall growth of a student. Given that the University is still in its initial stages having been established only about eight years ago, there are still many aspects that cannot be controlled. But efforts need to be made for resolving issues in a logical and mutually beneficial manner wherein studies do not suffer.