By Ankush Vats
It's often been a murky tale of harassment for outstation women students of Delhi University year after year. But now they are preparing a 'block list' of paying guest (PG) accommodations that are deemed not suitable for them.
Prepared by the student community Pinjra Tod, it is an online campaign for the time being. But there are plans to expand it offline as well to reach to a larger number of women students.
The aim is to help out-of-town women students in deciding which PG accommodations are to be avoided.
The decision to prepare the block list of PGs was taken after nine women students, who lived in a PG accommodation in Hudson Lane near the north campus of the University of Delhi, staged a protest against their landlord for "harassing" them on various pretexts.
Among their many concerns, the women students complained that the landlord was charging inflated electricity rates, refused to return the security money and did not provide any receipt for the rent paid.
This may sound like an ordinary protest, but the landlord was forced to refund the security deposit to all the nine students of the accommodation. The students also refused to pay the inflated electricity rates.
Harassment of students by PG owners and landlords is very common around campus areas. Lack of hostel facilities force the students to opt for expensive accommodations around campus.
The students have often raised the issue of harassment by the landlords with the university and government authorities but to no avail.
Consequently, Pinjra Tod wanted to identify unsuitable women PG accommodation in and around the campus.
Pinjra Tod has started an online survey on social media requesting all women students, who have lived in PGs, to fill out a form so as to classify PGs on the basic facilities provided by them.
Pinjra Tod will then prepare a block list of PGs based on the living conditions, high rent, undue interference by the owners and lack of respect for women's autonomy and other concerns.
"Ideally, the university should do it because it's their responsibility to provide accommodation to the students. But when we approached the university administration they told us that PGs were private property and they cannot interfere," said Subhashini Shriya, a third year LL.B. student at DU, who is associated with Pinjra Tod.
On being asked how they would regulate the PGs, she said: "We will publicise the block list across various platforms so that students know which PGs are to be avoided. We also want the cooperation of university and government."
In order to receive support from the government, the members of Pinjra Tod met Delhi's Culture Minister Kapil Mishra and apprised him about the situation.
"He (Kapil Mishra) assured us of all help. He also said the government would explore the possibility of setting up an online portal where registration and ratings of PGs could take place," Shriya said.
Meanwhile, Mishra appreciated the efforts of the students' community and said the Delhi government was ready to help them.
"Their (students') demands are genuine. They met me and we talked about the possibilities of setting up an online portal for regularisation of the paying guest accommodations. This is a good initiative by the students and the government is ready to provide help to them," Mishra told IANS.
So far, Pinjra Tod has received over hundred responses for the online survey, but it plans to take the campaign offline so as to reach maximum number of students.
"The colleges are closed now and most of the students are busy with their entrance examinations. Therefore the response has been a little low. We will take the campaign offline so that we can reach out to maximum number of students," said Shriya.
When asked whether they would conduct the survey for boys' PG as well, Shriya said they were focusing on women's PG for the time being.
"We have received responses from boys as well. But for now, we are only focusing on women's PG which itself is quite massive to handle. Also, most of the time boys find rooms on rent," she added.
Pinjra Tod, which means 'break the cage', was started as a movement in September 2015 at Jamia Milia Islamia University against discriminatory hostel rules for women students.