Nandini Sharma is a 22-year-old studying Pashto at JNU. She comes from a small town near Patna, Bihar where her father, who works as a farmer, earns barely enough to support his three children.
Nandini manages to meet her daily expenses with what she gets from home, aided by what she earns working after classes. For Nandini, and many others like her, the recent fee hike could mean the end of their education at the university.
"Those who say that we all have too much money lying around and stay here for free and start hashtags like #JNUFreebies. I want to tell them that we don't have that much money. If we had that we would not be in JNU. My father is a farmer and we manage the expenses based on the annual harvest. I give tuition in order to survive," said the 22-year-old from Danapur.
Since she can't depend on her father's monthly income of Rs 7,000, she works a part-time job, making Rs 3,000 that cover her expenses.
"My siblings also study and their expenses need to be met. At this age I can't ask my parents for money, so have to manage on my own. If the fee increases then I won't be able to handle things," Nandini said.
Hundreds of students protested against the fee hike on Monday. The sharp fee hike has increased the monthly expenses on students by three-fold. The room rent has gone from Rs 20 per month to Rs 300 per month. Service charges of Rs 1700 per month have been introduced. Students say their total monthly expenses will go from about Rs 2500 per month to Rs 7000 per month.
Another student, whose education at JNU depends on the subsidised fee, is 26-year-old Syam Kumar. A PhD student at JNU's School of International Studies, he belongs to Kerala. Syam was brought up by a single mother who worked as a domestic help to raise her three children. Things were never easy for him, Syam says, but the fee hike will ruin those who have a household income of less than Rs 10,000 each month.
"We have our mother only. She has been earning. In the past she used to work as a domestic worker at different homes. From that earning, she ensured I come to JNU so I'm grateful to her. I used to work at a bakery. Then from class 10th I started to teach tuitions. This fees hike is affecting students like me," Syam said.
20-year-old Ripunath from Odisha is a second year student, enrolled in BA Russian.
His father works as a government school teacher in Odisha's Barpali -- about 300 km from Bhubaneshwar. His family income is about Rs 20,000 per month. Studies are not a priority in his conservative family yet, Ripunath went against them to come to JNU.
"The kind of place I come from, getting to study especially in a place like JNU is very rare. JNU is the place where people like me from backward classes can come to make a career. For those like me, it will be very difficult. It will be a big thing if I manage to complete graduation. With the fees hike I don't think I will be able to get a degree from JNU," he said.
The JNU administration, however, has justified the hike saying that room rent has not been revised in 30 years and they are incurring an expenditure of Rs 10 crore per year for payment towards electricity, water and service charges.
The JNU Students Union on the other hand has countered that statement by saying that nearly Rs 13-16 crore of the university's internal revenue had been mismanaged or wasted in anti-student programmes by the administration.
The JNU Students Union has declared a strike from 9 am on November 13 in protest of the fees hike. On November 15, the Education Ministry will hold a meeting with the Hostel President and the administration of JNU on this issue.