Why IIT-Bombay students are on hunger strike

Students in bachelor’s, postgraduate and doctoral programs have been on hunger strike in relay against a fee hike at IIT-Bombay since Saturday. The protesting students demanded a rollback of the new fee structure and insisted on permanent members on the university’s fees committee.

Students have protested against a fee hike at IIT Bombay. Twitter/@iitbfeehike

A recent fee hike by the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-Bombay) has met with strong opposition from several students who have decided to go on a hunger strike.

As the student protest entered its third day on Monday, the administration issued a statement justifying the hike which was met with fresh opposition. Here’s what the fee hike is and where students are objecting to it:

Protest against rising fees

The first institute recently announced a 35% fee hike, which reportedly infuriated postgraduate students. According to a report by News18, this turmoil began in early July, when the administration of IIT-Bombay first proposed a fee hike of almost 35% for all their postgraduate programs.

A resolution passed by the Board of Governors recommended an annual fee increase of 5%, based on which this particular fee increase was implemented, according to a statement released by protesting students.

According Live Mint, the fee hike was first approved in 2020. It had been held on hold as the pandemic interrupted the institution’s on-site activities. The problem emerged in 2022 when authorities proposed a 35% increase in postgraduate programs.

The university has raised the hostel fee from Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,700. The protesters called the hike “extremely inconsiderate towards the students”.

According to mintIIT-Bombay has further increased the tuition fees for PhD students from Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000. In addition, MTech tuition fees have been increased from Rs 5,000 per semester to Rs 30,000 per semester.

The students also demanded the inclusion of student representatives on the fee increase committee.

What did IIT-Bombay say?

Responding to student protesters, university officials released a statement saying the institute needed to “adjust its charges to stay alive and grow.”

The institute argued that only 8% of total expenditure is covered by fees collected from students. Operating expenses will continue to exceed fees collected despite the increase.

“Higher education institutions must now take out a loan to pay for the cost of constructing all new hotels and university buildings, which must be repaid in 10 installments, with interest paid by the Ministry of Education of the Union. Considering the large increase in the number of students, we need to build more hostels and university buildings. The increase in accommodation costs is essential to cover real expenses, allowing our other sources of income to be used to provide better academic facilities for all our students and to take out badly needed loans to expand our infrastructure rather than subsidizing hostel operating expenses,” reads a statement released by the administration.

“Majority of our students realize that the government cannot continue to subsidize them beyond a certain point. IIT Bombay is trying to convince the few remaining students to stop the unrest by talking to them,” says the statement from the institute.

The protesting student body, IIT Bombay Students Against Fee Hike, retaliated by saying that in a protest letter submitted to the university administration against the fee hike, it was endorsed by at least 1,000 students.

According LiveMint, the authorities added four student members as permanent guests to the fees committee and reduced the Semester Mess Advance (SMA) component of the fees by Rs 1,800.

The Institute has also issued other corrective fee payment options which include fee deferral, scholarships for Masters students, and the option to pay a semester mess advance in two instalments.

With contributions from agencies

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