After 10 days of indefinite strike, 900 NIT Uttarakhand students still wait to get noticed by govt

New Delhi: After two students were recently injured in an accident, students of the National Institute of Technology Uttarakhand (NITUK) in Srinagar Garhwal town went on an indefinite strike on October 4. The students are demanding that the temporary campus along the National Highway-58 be shifted to a safer location and a permanent campus be allotted soon.

Two students were recently injured after being hit by a car while they were crossing the national highway to reach a laboratory from their hostel. Neelam Meena (20), a third year student of B Tech (electrical and electronics), was taken to AIIMS Rishikesh, about 100 km from the institute, after she sustained critical injuries in the brain, chest and spinal cord. Neelam’s batchmate Nupur Munda sustained minor injuries.

900 students of the institue announced an indefinite strike on October 4 this year after the accident. The students’ body wrote to the HRD Ministry, demanding “an immediate shifting of the temporary campus to a better place”.

The prestigious engineering institute, considered second only to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), is running on “borrowed” space, on the terrace of a government polytechnic college with a tin roof in place of a concrete one.

The NIT was set up in 2010 and the campus was to be established at Sumari, 15 km from the present location. The land, however, was declared unfit for development and construction. Makeshift arrangements were made on the first floor of the polytechnic to hold classes. Almost eight years have passed, but the college is still waiting for its own campus.

This is the story of a student of NIT Uttarakhand in her own words:

I am a third year student at NIT Uttarakhand and I somehow managed to get a seat in this college by clearing one of the elite examinations in India – JEE Mains. When I joined this institute, I was promised a campus of our own but it turned out to be a hoax. This college does not have a permanent campus even after a decade of its inception. All this college has is a temporary campus bifurcated into two parts, the polytechnic and ITI campus.

Classes and lodging of students is done in polytechnic campus, while the laboratories are there in ITI side, which is approximately half a kilometer away and to reach either side, one has to cross National Highway-58.

The students of the campus are currently on an indefinite strike. It all began on October 3, 2018, when two of my friends named Neelam Meena and Nupur Munda were heading towards ITI Campus for their regular lab classes through NH-58 when a vehicle hit them. As the national highway is swarming with cattles, the driver of the vehicle diverted the car towards my friends. Before anyone could react, the vehicle hit both of them in a split second. Neelam was tossed into the air and hit the windshield of the car headfirst which completely crushed her ribs, damaging her spine eventually leaving her unconscious. The other girl has sustained major leg injuries and fractures but is safe at home.

But Neelam was not that fortunate, she hung by a thread for almost 12 hours before she could receive proper medication and care as the nearest hospital was unable to provide her any sort of treatment other than first aid. She was referred to AIIMS Rishikesh and it took us approx. 5 hours to reach there. A girl sustaining such critical injuries was forced to travel for such a long duration in an ambulance which only had basic first aid kit in it.

Now, she is in such a state that she can’t be airlifted as it might affect her spine, leaving her lower body paralysed.

Last year also, the students protested seeking shifting of our temporary campus and allocation of land for our permanent campus. The HRD ministry agreed to our demands but nothing has been done yet. The college administration ignored one of our arguments regarding safety of students while commuting to ITI campus for their lab classes and this incident is a pertinent example of their ignorance. So, the strike this year reflects the anguish of the students towards the college administration. The students are demanding justice for Neelam Meena to make sure that no such incident happens in the coming future.

More than a thousand students gather everyday in the volleyball court of our college and sit on peaceful strike under the scorching sun for the entire day. The students are ready to boycott their classes and mid semester exams and continue their strike until the fulfillment of our three major demands.

Our first demand is that the college should take full responsibility of treatment of Neelam Meena.

Secondly, a shifting of this NIT to transient campus which has better medical facilities and basic amenities, which we deserve being students of an institute of national importance. And our third demand is to provide us with a land for our permanent campus.

We want our answers. Who is responsible for this unfortunate accident, the drunk driver or the administration? The strike will be continued until the demands are fulfilled.

The college administration has said that the demands of the students have been communicated to the state and central governments, “but the issues remain unaddressed”, read a report in the Indian Express.

Prof RB Patel, director in-charge of NIT Uttarakhand, said, “Our institute is regularly communicating the demands of the students to the state government and central government, but the issues remain unaddressed.”