FREQUENT CLASHES between students’ wings of political parties in educational institutes in several parts of the country has made the state government wary of re-introducing student elections, said sources. College-level student elections, which were supposed to restart from the academic year 2017-18, may be delayed by a year, said a senior government official. The recently-amended Maharashtra Public Universities Act mandates that student elections be held at college and university levels, to encourage student participation in decision making. While the Act came to force on March 1, the statutes for student elections are yet be announced.
The official said that owing to the volatile political environment in campuses across the country, the government was deliberating on stringent measures for the elections and the deliberations could result in a delay. “We are seeking inputs from several stakeholders and looking at election guidelines in other prominent universities in the country. We are also consulting the Lyngdoh Committee’s recommendations,” said the official.
Pointing out that the statutes will be designed in a way that leaves little room for chaos on campuses, the official said, “The elections should not disrupt academic activities, which is the focus of any educational institute.” To increase transparency, one of the measures being deliberated is to do away with ballot booths. Students could cast their votes through their mobile phones. Another measure in consideration is reducing the campaigning period to avoid unprecedented violence. He added that the elections for the senate and other governing bodies will begin in the upcoming academic year, but college-level open elections will be delayed. While state Education Minister Vinod Tawde said he was committed to bringing the elections from the coming academic year, he refused to comment on when the statutes would be released.
Meanwhile, some principals too, expressed nervousness over student elections. “Elections are necessary for students because they can learn about leadership. However, there are inhibitions. Given the current situation in other colleges, there is a scare that violence could break out even on a campus like Xavier’s,” said Agnelo Menezes, principal, St Xavier’s College. Student organisations, which are busy preparing for the elections, said they were anxious for the statutes. “The government should have released the statutes and the code of conduct by now, so we have enough time to prepare ourselves,” said Santosh Gangurde, vice-president of the student wing of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
The Maharashtra Public Universities Act, which was passed in the Winter Session of the Assembly in December last year, will bring back student elections to all non-agricultural universities in the state for the first time after they were banned in 1994. The government had banned elections following a murder of an NSUI candidate Owen D’souza. D’souza, district president of NSUI, was stabbed 64 times by unidentified assailants in Jitendra Chouhan College of Law inside Mithibai College on October 5, 1989.
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