Since day one Spark has been following the struggle of the students of TISS against the discontinuation of Government of India – Post Matric Scholarship (GOI- PMS) for the SC-ST students.
In May 2017, TISS authorities announced that financial aid to SC/ST/OBC students under the GOI-PMS will be stopped. In November 2017, it announced that students availing GOI-PMS from outside of Maharashtra, with annual family income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh, will have to pay basic fees as well as hostel and dining hall charges.
TISS students are rightly agitated and asking how they would continue their study as their parents are in no position to bear these charges. Some of them are saying they would not have taken the admission if they knew they would have to bear these costs. Students are very upset with the Central government which is reducing the maintenance grant to various Institutes. Government policies will force hundreds of students from deprived background to give up their plans to pursue studies at institutes like TISS.
After talks with the TISS administration failed, the TISS students union (TSU) gave a call for TISS BANDH. On Tuesday, 20 Feb 2018 students gathered in the Mumbai campus at 9 pm and the TSU General Secretary and President explained the issues in their speeches and gave the call for strike on 21 Feb 2018. They urged students to boycott classes, presentations and exams and also assured the students that the TSU will be responsible to reschedule the exams and presentations which students boycott on 21 Feb. The inspiring slogans and shayaris added more colour and energy to the gathering. After the meeting, students went to the hostels and distributed the pamphlets and the charter of demands among all hostelites.
On 21 Feb morning a large group students went around the campus shouting slogans and urged the TISS faculty to also come out in support of their just struggle. In the afternoon students gathered around the main gate and blocked the main gate and sat on a dharna. At around 8.30 pm the Deputy Director came and tried to go through the gate but students did not permit her to go through. She asked some representatives to come and negotiate. To that students responded that all gathered here are the representatives and she can talk directly to them. The Deputy Director then went back. After sometime the ex-Director came and tried to disperse students and also go through the gate, but students again did not allow the ex-Director, after which he also left.
After some time a message was received from the TISS Administration that they need 24 hours to present a solution and request the students to disperse. To this the students replied that they want a statement in writing from the Authorities or their dharna will continue through the night till the 24 hours are over. One by one students addressed the gathering. One student angrily asked whether the Institute Authorities were sleeping when the Student Union representatives met them. Another student said that we cannot believe just words and false promises; the Admin must provide concrete solution to our problems. Another student said that we draw strength from this gate. When we came together and blocked the gate the Authorities woke up from sleep and came to listen, but their attitude is still not convincing. They are not doing any favour to us. At any cost we cannot leave this gate. The resolve to continue the blockade of the gate throughout the night of 21 Feb received enthusiastic support of all.
The Spark Team will continue to bring regular updates to you on the struggle of TISS students.
We urge all the Spark readers to express their solidarity with TISS students!