HRD Ministry-appointed panel concludes meetings in JNU, to submit recommendations next week

New Delhi, Nov 22 (PTI) A three-member panel appointed by the HRD Ministry to recommend ways to restore normal functioning in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which is facing student agitation, concluded its meetings on Friday and will submit its recommendations next week.

The three-member committee, including former UGC chairman V S Chauhan, AICTE chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe and UGC secretary Rajnish Jain visited JNU campus to meet students' union representatives.

Some students formed a human chain ahead of the meeting at the main gate but the panel members entered the campus through another gate. While the meeting was underway at the administration block, the students gathered outside and raised slogans demanding complete rollback of the hostel fee hike.

'We spoke to the students union representatives and took their suggestions into account. The meeting went on for two hours where we dwelled upon the reasons behind the discord between the varsity administration and students,' a committee member told PTI on the condition of anonymity.

'This was the final meeting and we have heard all perspectives. We will now submit our recommendations within a week's time,' the member added.

According to one of the student councillors present at the meeting, the panel also suggested other ways of a fee structure for JNU and accepting funding from alumni but the students' union rejected the idea.

The panel was constituted on Monday to recommend ways to restore normal functioning of JNU and mediate between the administration and students who are protesting for nearly four weeks over the hostel fee hike.

Friday's meeting was the second round of discussions that the panel members had with the student representatives. The first meeting was held with JNU Students Union (JNUSU) office-bearers, student counsellors and hostel presidents on Wednesday at the HRD Ministry.

The committee had also met Deans of all schools and representatives of JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA).

'We reiterated our demands for complete rollback and even submitted a memorandum to the panel. They spoke about how the universities now have to generate internal receipts according to the new UGC norms which means that students will have to bear some of the expenses if they are taking the services but we were firm on our demands,' JNUSU Vice President Saket Moon said.

The students are now planning a citizen's march from Mandi House to Parliament on Saturday.

Patidar community leader Hardik Patel also extended support to the protest.

In a message posted on his Twitter handle, he said the students are not fighting a battle for themselves but for the coming generations.

Support also poured in from Student Union Society St Stephen's college and AIIMS students association. The agitation over hiked hostel fee escalated on November 11 when thousands of JNU students clashed with police, leaving HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' stranded for over six hours at the venue of the university's convocation.

The varsity's Executive Council (EC) had then announced a partial rollback for students belonging to BPL category and not availing any scholarships but the move was dubbed as an 'eyewash' by the protesters.

A week later, students staged a march from the university campus to HRD Ministry but were stopped at multiple locations and finally outside the Safdarjung tomb.

The protesters alleged that the police had baton charged and manhandled them, including a blind student, which led to a fresh protest by a group of visually challenged students.

The JNU stir against fee hike also had its echo in Rajya Sabha and Bihar Legislative Assembly.

While members of Left parties and the BJP on Friday clashed in Rajya Sabha over the issue, Congress and CPI-ML legislators staged protest in Bihar Assembly against the baton charge on JNU students. They also demanded resignation and an apology from Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi for his remarks against the students of the prestigious university. PTI SLB/GJS ZMN