Monday, September 1, 2014


Any institution is made up of the people and students, being primary stakeholders in the University system, have major role to play in various ways. I thought it a good idea to get comprehensive information on the working of the Students’ Union. If the facilities in the University are in poor condition even with presence of an elected Students' body and we are not being provided what we are entitled to as students, we have a right to know “why”….
Hence, this RTI application- a small step towards Governance and Participation…. :)
RTI Application can be accessed from here:
Bhagidari :)
Natural Rocks formation at the UoH Campus

University of Hyderabad (UoH), is one of the premier institutions of higher learning in India. Based upon various parameters many agencies have been ranking the UoH among top ten institutions in the country in recent years. Like many others, I too love this place very much because of my long association with this place and most importantly, the excellent platform I got here to explore my inner strengths, to do a lot of experiments with real life situations, to learn new things and to unlearn many other things. I’ve got wonderful lifetime friends and mentors during my stay at the UoH and feel very happy about this. One can’t say enough about the green coverage, the water bodies, the natural rocks and the biodiversity at the UoH that enriches the students’ stay here and everyone falls in love with this unique feature of the campus in no time; this aspect can’t be explained adequately in words, it needs to be experienced! :)

Well! With this background, when I look at state of affairs around, I do find a mismatch between desired level and actual situation in terms of governance, provision and management of utility services and stakeholders’ participation in decision making. Let’s get a glimpse of few most visible issues:

Food Courts: There are few number of food stalls in the campus. Not only their kitchen hygiene maintenance is questionable, one can often see dogs licking the used plates. All food stall owners are required to adhere to the price list and quantity for various items as per their contract with the UoH however, if one goes to any of these shops, he/she has to pay the price as per the price list maintained by respective shopkeepers and it’s very different from the applicable one. It’s a recent improvement that official price lists have also been put at all shops but, they are hardly being followed. If one insists on following the official price list, it’s most likely that he/she will not get the food !

There must be some office to look into such issues of irregularity and unhygienic condition but we all know the state of their activeness.

Drinking Water: Safe drinking water is essential for life. A large number of diseases have their origin in culminated water. Water coolers are available at various locations at the UoH but, many of them are not maintained in terms of their attachment with water purifier devices, scheduled periodical cleaning and maintenance.

Why is it that this important facility doesn’t get proper attention?

Security: Security check procedure at entrance gates is not uniform. At times, one is asked to show his/her identity, there may be many other occasions when such procedures may not be followed subject to the ad-hoc satisfaction of the duty staff. As night progresses, it starts becoming Ram Rajya as often, identity verification is not done. It may not be possible for the security officials to tell exact number of people and vehicles from outside present in the campus at any point of time.

Should this be the state of security?

Mess: It’s really Mess. Compared to other places the situation is really bad. Every month, each of the hostels receive 50+ applications for the post of the Mess Secretary even when there is negligible provision of formal incentive. There are widespread irregularities. Mess Secretaries’ positions are further sub-contracted and many people take it as an opportunity to become Lakhpatis. The average Mess Basic turns out to be almost Rs. 50 per day/ person. Further, there must be an expense of about Rs. 20 from the administration side under various heads such as salary of employees to be added to daily Mess Basic. For Rs. 70 + /day, whatever food one gets here at the UoH is really very basic, it doesn’t meet nutrient requirement anywhere.Expenditure on supplementary food items, that is very much essential, adds to food expenditure.

At this scale, if one will expect food arrangement like JNU, DU, IITs, possibly he/she will have to mortgage many years’ salary to pay the Mess Bill ! Are we not facilitating hundreds of youth to become master of manipulation every year?

Administration: At many offices at the UoH, if a student submits some application or document, he/she doesn’t get acknowledgement for the same even upon request. Officials say, “We don’t acknowledge receipt on photo copy of your application./ It’s not required.”

It’s not a proper practice. Receipt of all applications/ documents should be duly acknowledged.

At many offices at the UoH, it’s also a practice that if a particular person is absent for some reason, students are told to visit later as the dealing assistant is on leave and others can’t do anything about this. Mostly, others in section refuse to do simple works such as receiving applications, providing information on clearance of applications etc. There are cases where work gets delayed for several weeks just because dealing assistant is absent for that period. Students mostly come with usual procedural requests and it’s not something that others can’t process and alternate arrangements must be in place at student support service offices in case someone is on leave to address their requests.

We usually face conversation of following nature:

:) Sir! I need to submit an application for ABC work.”
“Actually, the dealing assistant is on leave; come later.”
“Sir! It’s just an application and someone can receive it here.”
“No! you need to meet that person only.”
“Sir! When will he be back?”
“He is on leave for ten days.”
“Does this mean that all works that he looks into will not be processed till then?”
“You’ve to wait. I can’t do anything about this.”

Possibly, these undue troubles can be eliminated or minimized if the University adopts a process centric and user friendly approach and not the person centric approach.

I understand that this list is not complete but, this was not the aim either. I gave these few examples just to clarify upon the context.

It’s generally believed that level of education attainment has direct bearing on development and governance outcome. Next question that automatically arises is: 
Then, why things are the way they are when they should be different at the UoH where the residents are not only educated but are highly educated and are equipped with sophisticated information tools and are supposed to be very much aware of their rights and responsibilities? 

By virtue of being a premier publicly funded institution of higher learning, the society expects that people from this place will take leadership roles in various fields and will provide direction to the society and the nation. In my view, higher education is a luxury and is a matter of privilege for all of us in this country. If we study at this elite institution, it doesn’t mean that we are most eligible people for this place; there can be many people who are better than us but are not able to reach this place because of various socio-economic circumstances. In fact, each one of us is representative of hundreds of people on whose behalf we’re getting this luxury and we must be conscious of  our responsibilities to the society and the nation.

Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Hon’ble President of India, in his speech dated August 05, 2014, to the higher educational and research institutions, mentioned:
“…. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan had once said and I quote: "All education is, on the one side, a search for truth; on the other side, it is a pursuit of social betterment. You may discover truth but you should apply it to improve the status of society” (unquote). A sound education system is the bedrock of an enlightened society. Our institutes of higher learning are the cradle of future administrators and policy makers. The seeds of progressive thinking have to be sown and nurtured here. The core civilizational values of love for motherland; performance of duty; compassion for all; tolerance for pluralism; respect for women; honesty in life; self-restraint in conduct, responsibility in action and discipline have to be inculcated in these institutions....

....A democracy cannot be healthy without informed participation. You, dear students, are amongst the brightest young minds in this country. The society has invested in you, and in return, you owe something to the society. You are entrusted with the people’s hopes and expectations. Read, learn and formulate views on national issues. Make the governance of this country your passion. Choose to engage with our beautiful but sometimes noisy democracy. As the future practitioners of governance, you have to play an active and positive role in ensuring that these institutions perform their duties with responsibility. ….”

Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, the VC, UoH, during his Independence Day speech on August 15, 2014 coined the term “University Social Responsibility (USR)”. Personally, I’m not convinced about this terminology as I feel that Universities exist for social purpose only. He mentions:

" .... Today I would like to suggest that we must take the opportunity to make our University Social Responsibility – our USR if you will- explicit. We must look more closely at the real needs of our society and each segment of our UoH community can do its own bit to address these needs. To start with, let us remember that our campus is in our custodianship, and we must nurture it carefully to provide a lung for the city. Our lakes must add to the water table. Our campus should be a refuge, not just for us, but also for the flora and fauna of Telengana, for the region. We should be careful keepers of the land and not owners or exploiters. This is a responsibility that devolves upon us all- the students, the teachers, and the staff- as we live and breathe here....

…. USR would suggest that we need to evolve at least as much as our society is evolving, in what we teach, how we teach it, and how we prepare our students to cope effectively with the India that is just outside our walls, and the India that lies beyond, both in space and in time…. “

Firstly, does the University provide “minimum entitlements” admissible to its students as per the provisions of the UGC Guidelines on Students’ Entitlements? If not, then is it possible to long for such societal deliverables when we are not able to manage our own affairs on routine matters?
Copy of UGC Guidelines on Students' Entitlements can be found here:

Students' Politics
Almost one and half months have passed since the new academic session has started at the UoH. It’s also that time of the year when the political outfits in the Campus become super-active and ensure adequate visibility among the students’ community through various means with special focus on newly admitted students. You guessed right- it’s time to get ready for the Students’ Union election :) Let the actual season come and one can easily find-

  • Slogans such as-  Don’t Vote Don’t Crib !
  • Huge campaign by all political outfits to attend the University General Body Meeting (UGBM) at the end of the term of the last Students’ Union where one can ‘supposedly’ get answer to all questions from the Union. What one can actually witness there is complete violation of democratic values, there is no place for meaningful public dialogue there. I remember the speech by Prof. Amartya Sen, during the First Hyderabad Lecture at the UoH on December 19, 2013, where he mentioned about Dr. B R Ambedkar’s commandments – Educate, Organize, Agitate – to bring the change in a democratic setup and relevance of people’s ability to talk to each other in a meaningful manner that makes all the difference in a democracy. (Source:
  • Strategic campaigning that includes all features of a usual election
  • And many more…

Shri Shailesh Gandhi, the former Central Information Commissioner(CIC),  mentioned something very insightful during his appearance on the television show Satyamev Jayate:

".... Casting a vote once in five years is not enough for a democracy to thrive; its citizens must ensure that they engage on a regular basis with the government system as participants. If eternal vigilance is the price of democracy, every citizen has the duty to assess its workings. Yet, most of us spend a significant amount of time criticizing the establishment instead of trying to change it.

..... People say nothing can happen in this country. Why do we visit temples, churches or mosques? It's out of faith. We don't see any direct results.

Each one of us must ask what we do for our beloved country out of faith? Have I tried to do anything that would bring about some change in the country?

Those who are proud of India must do something.
Let's try something as a matter of faith. Let's pledge to take up a cause for the country and pursue the cause whether or not we succeed. Our country can definitely be better.... "

Here is the video section where he appeared on the show. (duration: 08:52)

I find the students’ politics here a microcosm of our national politics. Every year, political outfits come up with same promises of excellent mess food, increased fellowship, improved security, better maintenance of hostels and academic premises, excellent academic and extra-curricular support and so on. However, once election is over, most of our elected representatives forget all such promises and don’t even bother to comply with the UoH Students’ Union Constitution. I must mention that it’s a well thought document and many provisions of this Constitution has been adopted by the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations on Students’ body and its election in educational institution. Nothing much happens….. We seethe about promises that were made and then forgotten….  and next year, again, same story repeats... Purani Chitthi, Naya Liphapha...... Circle goes on...

They proclaim to be determined about changing the whole world and build a Just society based upon their respective ideologies even though they can’t deliver anywhere on their responsibilities here that are comparatively much simpler to handle and act upon. Not only this, they severely fail to respect and follow the procedures specified by the ‘Students’ Union Constitution’.
Well! Any institution is made up of the people and students, being primary stakeholders in the University system, have major role to play in various ways. I thought it a good idea to get comprehensive information on the working of the Students’ Union. If the facilities in the University are in poor condition even with the presence of an elected students' body and we are not being provided what we are entitled to as students, we have a right to know “why”….

Hence, this RTI application- a small step towards Governance and Participation…. :)

When we receive reply of the RTI application, at the minimum-
- We can get critical insights about working of the Students’ Union that can’t be obtained during the UGBM at the term end or otherwise.
-  We can be prepared to question the business of Purani Chitthi, Naya Liphapha by the political outfits. Whenever a candidate approaches next time with flowery promises, we should be asking what practical solutions he/she has for various issues rather than simply getting satisfied by mere promises.
- And possibly, many more.....

However, this is just a starting point. It needs participation of many people in various forms to engage in such activities.

Let’s call this initiative as “Bhagidari”. 'Bhagidari' means 'Participation'.
I promise to make available reply of the RTI application as soon as I get the same. 

While this particular post is about the UoH, the same may be applicable to many other places. It can be an annual activity and similar exercise can be done at other educational institutions as well. People will be free to make their own assessment and analysis.

I’ll be happy to share the word file of this RTI application with anyone who may find some use of this in any way. Please mail me at

Please feel free to put forward your comments/suggestions.
Keep Smiling :)

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