Presidency University's Convocation Venue Shifted Amid Students' Protests

Students have been agitating at the university since August 3 demanding accommodation in the adjacent Hindu Hostel, the students this morning blocked the main gate of the institute.

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Around 50 students had been observing a sit-in on the university campus since August 3

Kolkata: 

The vice-chancellor and registrar of Presidency University were stopped from entering the campus Monday by agitating students, forcing the authorities to shift the venue of Tuesday's convocation.

After agitating at the university since August 3 demanding accommodation in the adjacent Hindu Hostel, the students this morning blocked the main gate of the institute.

Ujan, a member of students' organisation Independent Consolidation (IC) and one of the 50 agitating students, said he inspected the Hindu Hostel Sunday along with others and found two blocks ready for use.

"The authorities have been claiming that the hostel is undergoing renovation work, but we found out that two of the six blocks are suitable for use. With no solution in sight, we bolted the main gate in the morning, demanding we be allowed to put up in those two blocks," he said.

VC Anuradha Lohia, who had to return from the gate along with Registrar Debajyoti Konar, expressed concern that the agitation might affect tomorrow's convocation ceremony.

"Only a section of students are involved in such activities (protest). I don't want tomorrow's (Tuesday) convocation ceremony to get affected in any way," she said.

Ms Lohia, however, clarified that she would not seek police help to sort out the matter under any circumstances.

The authorities later decided to shift the venue of the 6th convocation of the university to the state-run culture complex Nandan, a few kilometre away from the institute.

Registrar Debojyoti Konar told reporters that the decision to shift the venue from varsity campus to one of the three auditoria of Nandan because of "some developments" at the campus.

In the convocation, eminent scientist and Bharat Ratna recipient C N R Rao would be conferred with honorary DSc and legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee with honorary DLitt for their contributions to their respective fields, Konar said.

Ujan said, "We are not against the convocation ceremony as it involves the prestige of Presidency. But the authorities must take a note of the fact that 14 of our batch mates had fallen ill since August 3 and one of them is still in hospital."

He said the authorities were insensitive to their plight.

The vice chancellor had on several occasions in the past urged the students to wait for another six months for the completion of the repair work.

Asked about reports of three to four agitating students suffering from malaria and viral fever, Lohia had said, "I have been requesting the students to take care of their health, not to lie on campus veranda, and return to their present rented accommodation at New Town."

The Hindu Hostel, adjoining the College Street institute, was shut down for repairs on July 29, 2015, and 150 boarders were shifted to a rented accommodation at New Town, about 18 km away from the university campus.

The Presidency authorities had last year assured the students that all six blocks of the hostel would be opened for the boarders after completion of renovation work by the first week of August this year.

However, work was delayed due to various reasons.

Protesting this, around 50 students had been observing a sit-in on the university campus since August 3, demanding room allotment in Hindu Hostel.

They claimed that their present accommodation in New Town was far from the institute and travelling over 18 km to reach the campus incurred additional costs and time.

Denying the claim that two of six blocks at Hindu Hotel were ready for accommodation, the university authorities said the repair work would take some time and not much can be done about it.

Reacting to Monday morning's incident, Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said, "These agitators have inherited the legacy of raising slogans and campaigning at factory gates from 34 years of Left rule. But the Presidency University is an educational institution, not a factory."

The minister, however, stressed that the university authorities should deal with the students compassionately.

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