Press Release – Tribal Students Hunger Strike in Maharashtra
-- Press Release
AIFRTE condemns the Maharashtra government for its failure to urgently resolve the problems faced by tribal students in the hostels being run for them by the state government. Basic facilities like adequate rooms, toilets, transport, and sexual harassment by locals. Despite written complaints having been repeatedly sent to the authorities since 2012 the government has failed to meet their legitimate demands.
In December 2014 around 200 students from Palghar district government tribal hostel were forced to go on a hunger strike during which time a number of girls students collapsed and had to be hospitalized. Though they were given assurances by the administration and the police nothing was done.
The Government Tribal Hostels in Maharashtra are in such a pathetic condition that tribal students have now proceeded on an indefinite hunger strike in front of the Tribal Hostel at Panvel, Mumbai. There are two tribal hostels (one for boys and the other for girls) in Panvel. Only the boy's hostel has a building; the girls are staying in five rented rooms in a chawl in Sukarpur. Although a new building was rented by the Department in Kolavde with a capacity for about 500 students, students who started staying there from 2012, found it very difficult to access the place as there is only auto service which stops by 7 pm. Students coming after classes in schools and colleges often cannot reach in time. When there is a medical or other emergency the situation is alarming as access is difficult and there is no vehicle for the tribal hostel. Students also faced problems relating to proper food and other facilities. This situation is widespread in Maharashtra.
In April, the owner of Kolavde hostel put up a notice for the students to vacate the hotel as rent for their building had not been paid for more than a year. All of them were relocated in the Panvel hostel where 127 boys had to stay in accommodation allocated for 75 boys, while 200 girls are staying in the space allocated for 75 girls. It became impossible for students to live in Panvel. A delegation of students even met the Tribal minister and Tribal commissioner and additional Tribal commissioner. Despite assurances and consolations none of their demands were met.
Finally, around 309 students of both hostels decided to meet the Tribal Development Project Officer in Pen on August 21, 2015. Besides the meager facilities, even basic amenities like drinking water, proper food, and medical attention were not available. Uniforms, books and stationary were not provided for months after admissions. Despite funds being allocated, computers, training for competitive exams and facilities for cultural activities were not provided. The behaviour of female wardens, who often verbally abused the girls, and lack of staff to attend to urgent needs of the students, were other major complaints.
Immediately, on next day, the local Tribal Development Officer Ranjana Dabhade, who had been absent on the previous day, lodged a complaint against these students in Pen Police station where FIR has been lodged against 9 students namely Sunil Totavar, Vikas Nadekar, Sachin Dinade, Gurunath Sahare, Ajay Thumda, Vinod Budhhas, Rahul Chadar, Damu Mande and Yogesh Kade. They are accused of vandalism in breaking computers in the office and trying to create problems. Students who peacefully went and gave their complaints and request at the office were shocked by this move of the tribal development officer. Sections 341, 141,147,149 and 506 IPC has been slapped on them.
Over 200 students (boys and girls) from the Panvel hostel have started a indefinite hunger strike from 31 of August 2015. Tribal students are on hunger strike in Karjat, Neral, Mahad, Pali, Pen, Thane, Ulhasnagar, Kalyan, Bhiwandi, Jawajar, Talasari, Wada, Vikramgad, Goregaon, Panvel, Shahpur, Murbad and Bordi hostels highlighting the grave issues that they are facing. Students are being falsely implicated and few students have been hospitalized due to dehydration and being threatened by police and the hostel authorities to stop their hunger strike.
Unfortunately, the media has not found their conditions or their widespread protest action to be "newsworthy".
AIFRTE demands that
immediate steps be taken to end the indefinite hunger fast by accepting the legitimate demands of the students and giving a speedy time-frame within which they will be realized.
All false cases lodged against the students must be immediately withdrawn.
A transparent mechanism for dealing swiftly and democratically with problems and requirements of the students to be set up.
Dr. Meher Engineer, West Bengal, Chairperson, AIFRTE; Ex-President,Indian Academy of Social Science; Kolkata Prof. Wasi Ahmed, Bihar, Former Joint Secretary, AIFUCTO; Patna Sri Prabhakar Arade, Maharashtra, President, AIFETO; Kolhapur Prof. G. Haragopal, Andhra Pradesh, National Fellow, ICSSR; TISS, Hyderabad Prof. Madhu Prasad, Delhi, Formerly Dept. of Philosophy, Zakir Husain College, Delhi University Prof. Anil Sadgopal, Madhya Pradesh, Former Dean, Faculty of Education, Delhi University; Bhopal Prof. K. Chakradhar Rao, Telengana, Dept. of Economics, Osmania University, Hyderabad Prof. K. M. Shrimali, Delhi, Formerly Dept. of History, Delhi University Dr. Anand Teltumbde, West Bengal, Professor of Management, IIT, Kharagpur