TNM has accessed a series of letters written by students in which they have alleged that there are restrictions on movement, usage of mobile phones and that the principal used unparliamentary words.

Stifled by restrictions Students allege harassment at Bengalurus CSI Nursing School
news Controversy Monday, August 13, 2018 - 19:01

“We are not permitted to go out to even buy basic things. The Principal buys these things from a shop and sells it to us. I paid Rs 7,000 for books, fee and uniform, but till now I have not got a receipt and my parents keep on asking.”

“Our principal madam uses unparliamentary actions and uses unparliamentary words towards us.”

These are few of the allegations that scores of first-year students at the Church of South India (CSI) Nursing School in Bengaluru have raised in letters submitted to authorities at the college. The bulk of the letters written in the last week of July makes a series of allegations against Amudha Sundari, the principal of the institute.

And ever since students raised their voice against the principal, they allege that discontent has brewed to such an extent that their movement has been further curtailed and that they have been warned not to speak to the media.

Students at the institute, who wished to remain anonymous, alleged that authorities had suspended multiple students temporarily for infractions including "talking to a male colleague", "talking on a mobile phone" and had also denied basic amenities to students staying in the hostel. These amenities were sold by the principal at the hostel, they allege.

The letters accessed by TNM, show that students have alleged they were restricted from using mobile phones in the hostel, even if it was to speak to their family members.

Two basic phones are circulated amongst the 91 students who study in the institute and records are kept of how long each person talks. The phones are circulated between 4 to 7 pm and every student is given 10 minutes to make a call, the principal says.

A letter from the principal of the institute Amudha Sundari on 11 June confirms a suspension given to a student for "willful insubordination or disobedience whether alone or in combination with another or others of any lawful and reasonable order of a superior". The student claimed that the ‘wilful subordination’ mentioned in the letter was that she spoke to an X-Ray technician.

In March, another student was given a seven-day suspension for the same reason for "talking on the mobile phone". In addition to suspensions, the students say they are expected to make up the workload by staying back at the institute and working for extra days in a 1:3 ratio. "For a seven-day suspension, 21 extra days of work need to be done which means an entire month of work. For a 20-day suspension, it is 60 days of extra work. We believe that this is unjust punishment for trivial reasons," says Jeevan, an activist who is helping the students.

Much of the ire of the students is directed towards the institute's principal Amudha Sundari, who denies wrongdoing and claims that she is ready to face an enquiry. "I am only following rules that have been followed for years. In fact, there were no mobile phones allowed in the hostel and the students were using coin pay phones. I have introduced two phones to be used by the students on a rotational basis to call family members. Students are allowed to use the prescribed mobile phone from 4 pm to 7 pm every day," she said, before adding, "We also order all necessary amenities for them in the hostel using services like Big Basket. The parents of the students worry about the students and have no complaints against us in the way we work".

Around 17 parents were called in for a meeting on Sunday in an attempt to straighten the issue however, students and parents allege apathy from the principal in response to complaints made by them. Students also say that the principal verbally abused students when they raised their complaints. Amudha has been the principal of the institute since 2014.“My daughter called me to tell that the principal had disrespected her. She has also not been able to call me often and says she is not able to speak freely," a parent told TNM.

The hospital's medical superintendent Rathish meanwhile sought time to respond to the allegations.  An enquiry is being conducted into the allegations raised. "This came to our notice only a week ago and we are getting to the bottom of it since it contains allegations about the principal," Rathish said. 

The CSI Hospital was built in 1893 by missionaries of the Church of England, Zenana Mission, as part of an outreach programme to provide facilities for Muslims. "The hospital is important because it is one of the few hospitals in central Bengaluru that gives services at affordable prices," says Jeevan, a CSI member.