The allocation of hostel rooms to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students Umar Khalid and Aparajita Raja, who according to their fellow students participated in the pro-Afzal Guru protests on 9 February, has shed light on how the university administration is relaxing existing guidelines to accommodate local students. Umar Khalid, a PhD student, whose family lives at Zakir Nagar in South Delhi, has been staying at room number 168 of the Tapti hostel, in spite of being a resident of Delhi, at a time when thousands of outstation students have been living outside of the campus for lack of hostel rooms. As per the JNU hostel manual, which is approved by the executive council of the university, students coming from outside of Delhi are to be given preference over local students when it comes to allocating hostel rooms. The local students, as per the rules, are to be considered for accommodation only after non-Delhi students have been accommodated.
Students seeking hostel rooms have been divided into three priorities, P-1, P-2 and P-3. According to the manual, first priority (P-1) is given to students who are enrolled for “full-time programmes and who have passed their qualifying examination from places outside Delhi and are not residents of Delhi. The second priority (P-2) is given to those outstation students who are enrolled for a programme at a level at which the student already has a degree or has pursued studies in JNU (at the same level) with hostel accommodation, and the third (P-3) is for students of V and XI Semester M.A., V Semester M.Phil, IX Semester Ph.D., local students in that order.”
The third category comes into play only when students in the first two categories have been allotted rooms. There are about 5,500 hostel rooms in JNU and many of JNU’s present students come from outside of Delhi and are entitled to hostel rooms. For the lack of accommodation, they stay in PGs and dormitories outside.
Similar to Umar Khalid, Aparajita Raja, who too is pursuing a PhD, has been staying on campus, in room number 261 of the Koyna hostel. Her father, D. Raja, has been a Rajya Sabha member from the Communist Party of India (CPI) since July 2007. D. Raja was re-elected to the Upper House in July 2013. Raja occupies a government accommodation on posh Rafi Marg in Lutyens’ Delhi. It was allotted to him when he became a Rajya Sabha member.
Both Umar Khalid and Aparajita Raja, as per the rules laid down by the hostel manual, are P-3 students. JNU has been facing a shortage of hostel rooms for a long time because of which in January last year, students of the university had gone on an indefinite hunger strike demanding the expansion of hostel-capacity. The shortage of hostel rooms for those who really need these has always been an emotive issue in university elections. The hostel rent for students staying on campus is Rs 240 a year for a room with one bed and Rs 120 a year for a room with two beds. Conversely, the rent of a one-room accommodation in the nearby Katwaria Sarai, Munirka and Bersarai, where most JNU students who do not get hostel accommodation stay, is around Rs 6,000 per month.