The students of the Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies (RGUKT), locally referred to as IIIT Basara, can now finally heave a sigh of relief as the state government has agreed to resolve all the demands raised by the Student Governing Council (SGC). The students have been peacefully agitating for the past seven days hoping for a government intervention.
After a four hour-long meeting with the officials including the state Education Minister, the SGC decided to call off the protests and return to classes from Tuesday. TNM has learned that the lack of funds being released by the state government to the University was the root cause of all the problems faced by the students.
According to a senior official from the University, who requested not to be named, the requirements of the institution, which has around 8,000 students across branches, is more than Rs 100 crore per annum. RGUKT was set up by YS Rajasekhara Reddy in 2008 and was meant for the top 1% of rural youth.
State Education Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy during deliberations with students along with officials
The University and its three campuses were modelled after the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT). Though not an IIIT, this University is still referred to by many as IIIT. While IIITs are funded by the Union government, state government and industry experts in a 50:35:15 ratio, RGUKT is fully funded by the state government. At RGUKT, the students donâ€™t have to pay for education, accommodation or even food. Everything is taken care of by the state government.
Speaking to TNM, the official explained, â€śAround Rs 100 crore is needed for maintaining and running the University in a proper way. Every year, a request for a sanction of Rs 100 crore or more is put forward to the state government but hardly Rs 25 crore is sanctioned and released on a yearly basis. This is hardly enough to pay the salaries of the staff and faculty.â€ť
Students bore the brunt of stateâ€™s indifference
When asked how the University has been managing expenses like accommodation and food of the students with the sanctioned amount, the official said, â€śThe University had some amount as a corpus fund which had been split into fixed deposits. We have been using this money for the expenses of the University. As we have been using this for many years now, we are left with no reserve funds. Hence the issue snowballed into a major controversy.â€ť
An unmaintained portion of a mess hall in the IIT Basar campus.
Though on an annual basis, the University requests for more than Rs 100 crore, this year, so far only Rs 28 crore has been budgeted. In 2021-2022, only Rs 23 crore was allocated. The sanctioned amount was Rs 22.33 crore in 2020-2021, while in 2019-2020, the institution received Rs 29.83 crore. The amount sanctioned used to be much higher until a few years ago. The data has been collected from the state budget of the respective years. The Student Governing Council (SGC) too shared a graph to show how the funds sanctioned to the university declined continuously.
The university students were affected by the lack of funds. They had to bear with broken amenities, lack of cots and mattresses, unhygienic washrooms, ill-maintained kitchens, bad quality food, lack of water dispensers, broken tiles and crumbling walls. The lack of funds also affected recruitment of faculty and staff in the college.
Government steps in, promises change
On June 20, at around 8pm, around 40 members of the SGC sat down for talks with the delegation of officials who came to the University campus located at Basara. Education minister P Sabitha Indira Reddy was also part of the delegation. University in-charge Vice Chancellor Rahul Bojja, Prof V Venkata Ramana, Vice Chairman of the Telangana State Council of Higher Education, Mudhole MLA Gaddigari Vittal Reddy, Nirmal Collector Musharraf Ali Faruqui and Nirmal SP and ASP were present among others. The meeting lasted till midnight.
The delegation agreed to all the demands put forth by the SGC. As requested by the students, it was agreed that tenders would be issued for laptops, mattresses, cots, plumbing and electrical works etc. An amount of Rs 5.6 crore was released for addressing immediate requirements of the University including urgent repairs. Regarding the demand of appointing a Vice Chancellor, the delegation conveyed that a procedure needs to be followed and it will be done in a time-bound manner. The Education Minister assured the students that a search committee would be constituted soon and the VC post will be filled within 45 days.
The Education Minister also assured the Student Governing Council that no money would be collected from the students if fee reimbursements are pending. Fee reimbursements for financially disadvantaged students would be cleared in a time-bound manner so as to not inconvenience the students. In other universities in the state, students who hail from poor backgrounds have to pay the fees initially and the state later reimburses it directly to the studentsâ€™ accounts. At RGUKT, the students are not meant to pay anything, their fees, the hostel fees, mess fee etc are directly reimbursed to the University by the state government. As the state government failed to clear the dues on time, the University had been asking students to clear the remaining fee in order to collect their degree certificate. The student council raised the issue and she assured that the fees would be reimbursed henceforth on time.
A congested accomodation facility in a hostel in the IIIT Basar campus.
It is learnt that when the delegation accepted all demands of the students and assured time-bound action, the SGC asked for a written assurance from the government. The Education Minister asked students whether the fact that she herself had come down to the campus for the talks with the students wasnâ€™t an assurance enough for them. Hence, no written assurance was given to the students. Following the meeting, the SGC called off the week-long agitation. The council requested to call off classes in the first half of the day as the students were exhausted by the protest.
The Education Minister told the students that Chief Minister KCR had entrusted her with the duty to find a solution to the problems of the students. She also said she would return to the campus to ensure the promises are being fulfilled by the concerned officials. She also told the students that KCR has expressed interest in visiting the campus in the near future. The students are elated by the success of the meeting and are glad that the government agreed to fulfil all their demands. â€śThis week-long peaceful protest will be remembered in the history of RGUKT. We have proved that even by protesting peacefully we can achieve our demands. We are thankful to theEducation Minister for agreeing to fulfil all our demands in a time-bound manner,â€ť said G Prashanth Reddy, Academic Council member.