Students Strike at Vivekananda College

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are my own and are not that of the Chennai Metblog team nor Metroblogging network

Ramkrishna Mission Vivekananda College is run by the Ramkrishna Mission. There are two separate colleges, with different administrations under one roof namely the day and evening colleges. The day college is government funded while the evening college is run by the mission and is self-aided. The day college staff are government appointed and reservation as required by the Tamil Nadu Government is implemented there, while none of that exists in the evening college. The evening college staff are appointed by the Mutt, and the person who makes those appointment decisions is Sathyapriyananda. Though the evening college has a principal, the common perception amongst the students, some of whom were my friends is the college is run by Sathyapriyananda and A.S Kannan, with the principal just being there for administrative purposes.

The strike started I hear in the hostel block, and then spread to the evening college with discontent against the evening college administration. Trouble in the hostel started way back in 2003. The hostel is run by the Mutt, therefore the college administration has no control over it. During my first year of college, I have noticed another person who was clad in saffron (kavi) interacting with the hostellers. I learnt from my friends that this person was in charge of the hostel and its functioning, except for deciding who is admitted into the hostel. After a while, I stopped seeing this person in the college hostel. I later learnt that this person had been transferred out of Madras to another mutt. The rumour amongst the hostel students was that he was demoted in the mutt hierarchy and transferred to another city. The reason being the Chief Mutt representative was upset with his functioning, that is, this person didn’t implement compulsory religious instruction nor was strict regarding the attendance, he closed the gates at 10 pm I heard, and if students didn’t return by then they would be locked out, and warned. They wouldn’t be denied food or prevented from using the facilities. This person also was popular amongst the students, as opposed to the Chief Mutt Representative; I’ve been told by hostellers that this was another reason why he was transferred. After this person’s departure, the hostel came under the direct control of the Chief Mutt Representative. When the Chief Mutt Representative took over, the number of regulations increased, like students were forced to attend religious instruction on a daily basis, and had daily attendance. Earlier students who wanted to go home during the college term could easily get permission and leave, now that became harder, with hostellers usually bitching that they had to beg the Chief Mutt Representative to get permission. Recently, hostellers were fined for various reasons from not giving attendance, or not attending religious instruction or not keeping their room clean. Along with the fine they would be penalised, which usually was no food, electricity in their room, and not being allowed to use the toilet facilities for a week, and even denied water to drink. This has caused considerable heartburn amongst the hostellers.
Meanwhile in the evening college, the students complained that the commerce dept HOD, was now creating trouble for the good professors. the problem with the evening college is the professors are all management appointed and it is hard to get good staff for them since the economy was booming. In a desire to be the most important person in the evening college, the commerce dept HOD consistently eliminated his rivals by spreading rumours about the others.
This person is capable of this because, when he was appointed as a management staff in the day college, he consistently used to tell the Chief Mutt Representative rumours about the commerce departments functioning, and this lead to the Representative hauling up the commerce department staff members. The evening college Commerce Dept HOD, using his clout with the Chief Mutt Representative had all those were his potential rivals in the evening college. He also implemented strict rules in the evening college which restricted the freedom of students. Secondly, since he had eliminated his potential rivals, the quality of teaching dropped, but then the college has a high percentage of students clearing professional courses because the students are good and work hard, it is definitely not because of the quality of teaching.
After the college became autonomous, the restrictions and rules in evening college increased a lot, especially the fines. Students were forced to attend religious instruction, this is common in most colleges, but then students are not penalised for not attending the instructions, it is said to be compulsory, but students often cut them.
This environment of discontent proved an ideal ground for a strike to start. The catalyst was a hosteller who attempted suicide, as the mail I received from a hosteller informs me.

A boy has come from some south part of Tamil nadu who is disabled. he had attended prayers as required. One day, he had to sing during the prayer, therefore couldn’t give his attendance for that day, and he was told he would be fined, even after all the students vouched that he was present. He was also fined for not keeping his room clean
The fine was so huge that it prompted him to attempt committing suicide by cutting his jugular vein and was hospitalised.

Apart from this, a the former Genral Secetary of a past students union in the day college also informed me that due to some reason, the Chief Mutt Representative refused to serve food for 81 hostellers, cut the electricity in their room and didn’t allow them to use the toilet facilities. This also added fuel to the fire starting the strike.

The hostellers began their agitation two weeks ago, and recently the evening college students too have joined the strike. They are demanding that the HOD of the Commerce Dept, be removed along with the Chief Mutt Representative, the Principal, and the accountant, who seems to be hand-in-glove with the Commerce Dept HOD of the evening college. The college has effectively been closed for two weeks, with negotiations having broken down. Another round is expected to take place on Monday. If the students stick to their guns, which will happen in all likelihood, the strike will continue because the management is unlikely to give in to their demands. Though publicially the students organisations like ABVP and SFI are demanding that the Tamil Nadu government cancels permission to the college, it is unlikely to happen.

The former general secretary also informs me that the negotiations are being lead by this professor from the Physics department of the day college. Though the day college staff are publicly neutral in this dispute, privately they do seem to be sympathetic to the students cause is what I am told.

What is even more surprising is that the English media hasn’t covered this strike for over 2 weeks. The only piece of published news was in the Hindu, which was a 50 word piece in some obscure corner stating the college has been indefinitely closed. With the news hungry English media, I would hope it would be covered by them. I remember a while ago that a small scuffle between Loyola and Pachayappa students was covered prominently by the local English news papers. Considering that I’m surprised this is covered.

PS: All Images courtesy of Badri Seshadri

9 Comments so far

  1. Anonymous Coward (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2007 @ 11:53 pm

    ┬╗┬╗Strike At Vivekananda College – 1
    posted by Vatsan at 2:41 PM on February 23, 2007

    About two weeks back, my friend informed me that Vivekananda College students have striked against the management. I thought he was kidding, this college, where I studied for 3 years is known as a school, due to the strict administration, where the students don’t stand up against the management.
    I have reproduced below a mail I received from a current student, on the situation. It was written during the early period of the strike.

    actually we became autonomous only when I was in first year After tat many new rules came were made. From this year it became Strict. We have prayers daily, 3 meals a day and keep room clean. So if u miss prayer or miss a meal in a day you have to get permission from our secretary who is none other than our swamiji satyapriyananda he will should at u like get out you dog in tamil. He does not talk like a swami

    permission to stay in hostel
    Till u get permission u won be allowed in and no food will be provided and he will fine 500 bucks and no meals for 1week.

    For that one week, you cant use any facilities, no water, cant use the toilet or have a bath there, and electricity will be cut in your room.u can jus use your room to sleep using a hand fan and in night they take attendance like a boy will go to each room and check if their mates are there if he is not there again next second vacate hostel get lost
    or else after 3-4days pleat u can get mercy by a severe punishment of 2weeks of no meals power water and 1000 bucks fine.
    my class mate who is a hostelite was fined thrice in the past month. He couldn’t do anything. One day he was sick so he slept early in his room and didn’t give his attendance that night. He was asked to vacate. he pleaded literally for 3days standing in front of his (Sathyapriyananda) cabin 19hrs a day, and finally he was permitted to stay with severe punishment. Again he went representing our college for cricket team and he came by 12pm he was tired so slept so he didnt take the lunch, once again he was fined.

    What Prompted the strike
    a boy has come from some south part of Tamil nadu who is disabled. he had attended prayers as required, to say he was the one who took attendence in the prayer he is a 1st yr student when he was to write his name for attendance, he had to sing in the prayer therefore couldn’t give attendance and he was told he would be fined, even after all the students vouched that he was present. He was also fined for not keeping his room clean
    The fine was so huge that it promted him to attempt committing suicide by cutting his jugular vein and was hospitalised.

    later SFI student federation of india had come to help us and it became a big issue

    I received this mail s during the first few days of the strike, when it was isolated to the hostellers, with the day and evening college day scholars staying outside the strike. Now the strike ha extended to the entire college, with day scholars to joining the strike. The demands of the students pertains to the removal of four members of the management namely,
    1) Sathyapriyananda – The Mutt Representative
    2) A.S Kannan – HOD Evening College commerce Department and management appointed staff in the day college
    3) The Principal
    4) Ramesh – The accountant for both evening and day college.

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    It’s great that this gets coverage here; atrocities committed by college managements in TamilNadu are often furthered because the media often does not report on inside-college issues. This can make a difference.
    Posted by: Ashwin at February 23, 2007 03:39 PM

    Hey, fellow alumnus! :D
    Posted by: Navneeth at February 23, 2007 04:17 PM

    That letter could be exaggerated for all you know. You know how most college students are.

    Btw, I don’t what the “inside story” actually is, so don’t think I’m in cahoots with the management. :D
    Posted by: Navneeth at February 23, 2007 04:22 PM
    Post a comment
    Long Live – SM . Vatsan!, Vivekananda College Alumni – M.A Economics 2004-06, We appreciate your efforts- Vatsan Fan Club

  2. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on February 24th, 2007 @ 1:16 am

    About that small para in The Hindu. It wasn’t the first thing I’d read about this, but it might as well be.

    I couldn’t believe that such a thing would receive so little coverage — I asked my wife, is this really about that college?

    It is the landmark for that whole area. This should be a big story.

  3. annoynomas (unregistered) on February 24th, 2007 @ 8:00 am

    Here is one for the Administrator’s.
    Heed the call.


    Come gather ’round people
    Wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters
    Around you have grown
    And accept it that soon
    You’ll be drenched to the bone.
    If your time to you
    Is worth savin’
    Then you better start swimmin’
    Or you’ll sink like a stone
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Come writers and critics
    Who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide
    The chance won’t come again
    And don’t speak too soon
    For the wheel’s still in spin
    And there’s no tellin’ who
    That it’s namin’.
    For the loser now
    Will be later to win
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Come senators, congressmen
    Please heed the call
    Don’t stand in the doorway
    Don’t block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled
    There’s a battle outside
    And it is ragin’.
    It’ll soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Come mothers and fathers
    Throughout the land
    And don’t criticize
    What you can’t understand
    Your sons and your daughters
    Are beyond your command
    Your old road is
    Rapidly agin’.
    Please get out of the new one
    If you can’t lend your hand
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    The line it is drawn
    The curse it is cast
    The slow one now
    Will later be fast
    As the present now
    Will later be past
    The order is
    Rapidly fadin’.
    And the first one now
    Will later be last
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    — Bob Dylan

  4. david (unregistered) on February 24th, 2007 @ 9:48 am

    It appears that the college is being run as a fiefdom with scant respect for the rights of students as individuals. How can fee paying students be denied food, electricity, water and access to toliet facilities? This is absolutely scandalous. No wonder the students are on strike.

  5. G V Balasubramanian (unregistered) on February 24th, 2007 @ 11:43 am

    Such incidents deserve coverage.Hope the Management changes its conduct. Good work, Srivatsan

  6. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on February 25th, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

    Since young Indians often devote themselves to their education with a dedication bordering on fanaticism, and since they are very likely to put their entire future in danger if they do not do just that (as expected by their school, parents, etc), I can’t imagine them taking this sort of action without good reason.

  7. A Red Devil (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

    Hey trust me the college is one of the pathetic colleges u can ever find…(I studied there :( )

    The College thrives on the name it obtained decades back …

    The Professors are absolutely useless , they are so called multi domain specialists , where i remember a teacher who taught us 7 different topics including Law

    The first class i remember
    him saying “Prospectus is Offer AND NOT INVITATION TO OFFER ” and later argued that act was changed without his notice…lol

    There is a so called Interval where u r not allowed to go outside the college and they force that by having 2 Professors and a Lock which weighs abt 3 kilos locked to the ancient gates…

    The College has a unwritten contract (BONUS) with canteen guy of forcing students to eat there…

    The so called food is WORST PATHETIC , trust me if you eat there for the first time u will bed ridden for a month …
    Anything and Everything is Bogus there including Chocolates Coke etc.

    There is only 1 toilet which stinks like hell…

    The Swamiji makes suer that they get Hot Dhosa Iddlis etc. served hot with HOD and another professor enjoying at our cost…

    So Why do people join This College ?
    The Glory which obtained 10 yrs back makes The parents to believe it is still good.

    It is the only college in the residential area…
    and if u get 80 % they tempt u to join by giving scholarship of 5000 rs of 120 $
    The Sad Story of a X student :(

  8. anoop (unregistered) on March 2nd, 2007 @ 8:44 pm

    What cutting electricity, not allowed to use toilets ….what is this the medieval period..

  9. a-$carred_psyche (unregistered) on March 5th, 2007 @ 6:24 am

    i studied in a deemed univ that went on stike just about a yr back (hehe… i’m not dropping any names here) the rules of the college are legendary – boys not allowed to talk to girls, no electronic gadgets (cellphones, computers, music players, table lamps or even extension cords!), a hostel inspired by nothing less than the architechture of the andaman jails… this college was also run like a fiefdom, there was no respect for educated ppl at not – no not even the lecturers or hods. all the powers were concentrated in the hands of some 26/28yr olds who flunked out of coll and have no experience/idea on how to run an academic institution. there were so many benz cars on campus that mercedes could have opened a showroom! the beginning of each academic yr would see the fleet being expanded, all while basic infrastructure was lacking. things were pretty bad though we could never organize ourselves to strike but it eventually happened. i guess the same is true for ramakrishna mission college. i was shocked to read about the strike, after all the college has an excellent reputation in the outside world. just goes to show that you can repress students for long..

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