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Show me the money!

Says PIIT Management – Students go on strike

The greenbacked monster rears its ugly head at MES’ Pillai’s Institute of Information Technology (PIIT), Panvel, Navi Mumbai, as a fee hike of Rs.22000/- is imposed on existing students. Ashish Shakya brings you the latest on the situation…

On 14th August, the college put up a notice informing students of the increase from Rs. 46000/- to Rs.67900/-. This amount, incidentally, is greater than the fees charged by A-Grade institutions such as TSEC, Bandra (Rs.55000/-) and K.J Somaiya, Vidyavihar (Rs. 49100/-). ( PIIT is ungraded as of now.)

The sick twist in the tale here is the imposition of this revised fee on existing students. People who’d been admitted under a lower fee structure were suddenly faced with the prospect of paying an additional Rs.22000/- per year. This, in spite of the fact, that the Shikshan Shulk Samiti (SSS) had prescribed this hike for the academic year 2006-07. (Ref. Circular No: SSS/FINAL FEE/2006/1113, dated 31st July, 2006)

The students, in a bid for justice, approached the college management on 17th August with a signature petition bearing 800 signatures. They were greeted with a mix of indifference (“This hike is by the government. What can we do?“) and hostility ( “You can do whatever you want!“). It was time to strike.

Even as prospective freshers queued up for admission, their seniors gathered outside college by the hundreds, chanting slogans and refusing to attend classes till their concerns were addressed. It was then that Orkut, Google’s behemoth networking site, made its presence felt in an unprecedented manner.

The students used Orkut to discuss future plans, and also vented their frustrations against the college, using language that..well..engineers are prone to using when they’re pissed off. The management, unexpectedly tech-savvy, managed to get hold of the incriminating scraps and have allegedly printed them out, along with their profiles, and are using this information to target specific students.

“Some students are being threatened with low term work, while others are being offered high marks as an incentive to quit the strike”, confides a student, on condition of anonymity.

“They’re not allowing us to submit our concession forms, and even our exam forms”, says another.

This was on Thursday, 24th August, after students had put their strike on a hold. They had been promised a meeting on Saturday, 26th August, subjected to their attending lectures on Thursday and Friday. That meeting, however, was cancelled by the management and letters were dispatched to students’ homes, explaining how their ward’s participation in the strike and refusal to pay the fees would “affect his/her term work” and “may lead to expulsion.”

When this correspondent visited the college, the principal B.B Shrivastava refused to comment on the issue, saying that “We are not interested in your JAM magazine..”. Further queries via fax did not elicit a reply, and phonecalls were met with a hurried “I’m in a meeting now *slam*”.

One official, on condition of anonymity, said that there was no strike happening, professed ignorance about any meeting with the students and refuted claims of high-handed behaviour as alleged by the students.

The students, at the time of writing this article, were planning their future course of action – undoubtedly a difficult task if you take into consideration the mind-numbing pressure of academics. A similar fee hike occurred at SIES Graduate School of Technology, Nerul in 2003, which led to the filing of a case. The matter is still sub-judice, waiting for a hearing in the Supreme Court.

While PIIT can boast of one of the best infrastructures in Navi Mumbai, its blanket approach to fee hikes (and a 47% one at that) is questionable, if not utterly rapacious.

Watch this space for further developments.

JAM hopes that justice will prevail and wishes the students good luck. If you have had any such experiences in your academic life, or know of someone who has, write in to us at edit@jammag.com

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