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December 8, 2021

Hostel situation campus situation:

After what felt like a million lifetimes, students were finally allowed back on campus after the harrowing pandemic. However, the return of students to the campus after so long provided a much needed reality check. The pandemic took its toll on the campus. The remnants of our favourite hangout places were painful to look at, let alone feel nostalgic about. While the students were away, the administration focused on the repairing and renovation of the hostels, and adequate attention was not paid to the bigger problem, the shortage of rooms. Students, especially UG females, residing on campus are facing hostel infrastructure issues that are in dire need of being addressed.

Hostel Affairs: What and Why

In the pre-pandemic era, UG students were accommodated in Bhawans in the following manner:

  1. UG I boys in double occupancy, Rajendra
  2. UG I girls in double occupancy, Sarojini
  3. UG II girls in double occupancy, Kasturba
  4. UG II, III, IV, V boys in single occupancy in Rajiv, Radhakrishnan, Govind, Jawahar, Ravindra
  5. UG III, IV, V girls in single occupancy, Kasturba

The current situation

The last few years have seen an increasing trend in seats filled by the means of JEE Advanced examination, rising from 970 in 2017 to 1353 in 2021. The supernumerary seats for female students have seen a special positive trend, with reservations rising from 14% in 2018 to 20% from last year. With the rise in no. of seats, there is an increased demand for hostel rooms for students. Sadly, due to the pandemic, the progress on the construction of said accommodations was delayed. With all UG students (except the freshers) being allowed on campus, there are growing concerns regarding the accommodation facilities provided by the institute. Currently, the male students, from UG IV, V are residing in previously allotted hostel residences, as was the situation pre-pandemic, and UG III have been allotted rooms on a single sitting basis. UG II boys have been put in single occupancies except for those in JB, which have been converted to double occupancy rooms, and are spacious enough to accommodate two. However, since there is just one LAN slot and one almirah, arrangements need to be made, which have been promised by the warden.

The UG IV year girls were supposed to get single occupancy rooms. Post pandemic, PG students who were returning from home/had returned to the campus before the arrival of UG students (but were residing elsewhere) were allotted the single occupancy rooms in KB which were usually occupied by UG Final year students. The latter was served a notice to either vacate their current double occupancy rooms in KB and shift to Sarojini Bhawan single occupancy rooms or be pushed into triple occupancy at KB.

UG III year girls were supposed to get single occupancy rooms, but on arrival were assigned double occupancy rooms. Not only that an extra cot was also added after the arrival of the students, suggesting that the rooms will be converted to triple sharing.

UG II year girls were supposed to have double occupancy rooms in Kasturba Bhawan.. However, with the addition of an extra cot, they have currently been converted to makeshift triple occupancy rooms. Almirahs are being shared and the space is considerably limited for the use of three people.

The Problems

On the 9th of November, the UG III year female students were informed by the chief warden of KB, Prof. Anumita Mishra, that there were plans for their double occupancy rooms to be converted to triple sharing rooms, without any prior notice. A meeting was then held immediately between the Chief Warden and the affected UG III students wherein the following points were discussed:

  1. Supernumerary seats have been introduced for 3 years now, Thus giving enough time to brainstorm possible solutions to the issue of accommodation. The administration had plenty of time to brainstorm the living situation for female students but they fell short. The distribution of rooms has been really mismanaged. The number of girls on campus is increasing as we speak and the living situation looks dire for incoming female students. There has been resentment among the UG girls having to triple share their double occupancy rooms. There are only two hostels for females, and this is nowhere near enough to currently accommodate them all.
  2. As confirmed by the Dean Infrastructure, the construction of two new hostels, one with 800 seats in Vigyan Kunj, and another with 572 seats under the EWS category, was delayed due to the pandemic. Had it not affected the construction, the hostels could be completed sooner, resolving the current crisis. However, they are now scheduled to be completed by the end of Nov 2022 and mid 2023 respectively. With an expected increase in the campus population post ETEs and the inflow of freshers, we can expect a heavy rise in the demand for hostel rooms, further worsening the crisis.
  3. As UG 2nd year females are all being forced into triple occupancy, they face a number of problems. All rooms have been designed with double occupancy in mind: two cupboards, two LAN ports, two desks. Forcing a third resident in these rooms is not feasible- there is barely any room to walk and there isn’t any breathing space. It is especially dangerous during the ongoing pandemic because everyone is at risk of catching an infection that will easily spread like wildfire.
  4. If UG 3rd year females are forced into triple occupancy, they may face a unique set of problems. They are involved in a multitude of activities, most of which affect their careers. They are involved in research projects, the ongoing internship season and off-campus internship drives. Not having their due space and expected privacy would inevitably disrupt them in these activities.

Solutions proposed

The Chief Warden of KB was amiable and understood the problems discussed. She invited suggestions from the students to tackle the lack of hostel infrastructure. Predominantly, the following solutions were put forward:

Rooms in other hostels could be cleared out for female students to occupy. This could be implemented in the following way:

  1. Convert JB, RB UG II year rooms to double occupancy: Some of the boys’ hostels like RB have single rooms that are spacious enough to accommodate two people. The rooms have strictly been allocated to a single person, despite two students being willing to share a room.
  2. Shift VK male students to JB - Vigyan Kunj currently houses PhD students of all genders. If male students are shifted to the remaining rooms in Jawahar Bawan, Vigyan Kunj will now be able to accommodate more female PhD students.
  3. Shift PhD students from KB to VK - Now, the PhD students occupying the rooms previously allotted to UG III years in Kasturba Bhawan can shift to the empty rooms in Vigyan Kunj thereby freeing up the rooms in Kasturba Bhawan for UG III years to move into.

Female students are being especially impacted by the lack of hostel infrastructure. The root cause of this is the lack of representation of girls at the hostel committee. Due to this, decisions are being made for girls without any discussion. In order to ensure that every grievance is taken into account and timely action is taken, this issue needs to be addressed. The introduction of a new post, by the name of General Secretary: Women Affairs, could probably solve the issue of the lack of representation in the SAC Executive Body. The same student can be the nominated member of the Women’s Cell, with more members selected from the students through nominations and selections done on the basis of their interest in working for this committee. The elected representatives of the Kasturba Bhawan and the Sarojini Bhawan, too, can be made a part of this committee to make it as inclusive as possible. Pre pandemic the Bhawan secretaries of Kasturba Bhawan used to hold regular meetings of the Bhawan council where they addressed the grievances of the students. This stopped during the lockdown and hasn’t been continued since, a system like this in place will help make the process more transparent and a better feedback mechanism will be instituted.