There is something surreal about the anti-tuition and other fees agitation of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) which has let loose mayhem and rioting on the streets of Delhi. It’s instructive to learn that for most study programmes of this 50-year-old postgrad varsity, its 8,500 students pay tuition fees of Rs.200-300 per year, unchanged for 14 years. Moreover, students residing on the sylvan 1,101-acre campus of the university in the heart of Delhi are paying a mere Rs.10 per month (Rs.0.30 per night) for a double room and Rs.20 (Rs.0.60) for a single by way of rent. Unsurprisingly, student fees contribute 0.5 percent (cf. the global norm of 20 percent) to this show-piece postgrad university’s annual budget of Rs.200 crore. Despite this massive subsidisation, civil war has been declared by JNUSU because the management has raised the monthly rent for a double room to Rs.300 and single to Rs.600.
It’s astonishing that these aspiring leaders of a country in which the per capita income is Rs.351 per day are demanding such gross over-subsidisation without a trace of embarrassment. JNUSU spokespersons make a big deal of the varsity’s inclusive character, shouting from the rooftops that 40 percent of enrolled students are from bottom-of-pyramid households across the country. Yet none of them has suggested cross subsidisation of poor students through the other 60 percent paying the actual cost of education provision. Nor do they seem to have heard of student loans or payback schemes from future earnings.
In an era when impoverished farmers are committing suicide by the thousands because of poor allocations for rural infrastructure, and government primary schools are in deplorable condition, it’s shocking that the intellectuals (including faculty) of JNU have no compunction about siphoning away an estimated Rs.353 crore per year by way of outrageous grants and subsidies. Something very self-serving about the commitment of this pampered lot to Nehruvian socialism which everyone but them, knows has ruined the Indian economy.