The unruly conduct of the student unions has its genesis in the upbringing by the parties that use them for disruptive activities
The assault on the principal of Tri Chandra College on Monday by members of the student wing affiliated to the ruling Nepal Communist Party must be censured by all as it manifests the state of anarchy prevalent in government educational institutions. The principal, Pradeep Bahadur Neupane, was beaten up so badly that he suffered injury on his right shoulder and had to be rushed to the National Trauma Centre for treatment. Neupane was attacked in his office Monday morning for having raised the Bachelor level fees in the science and humanities streams without first taking the consent of the student wing, the All Nepal National Free Students’ Union (ANNFSU) – a ground that defies any rationale or justification. The college has raised the fee for Bachelor of Science to Rs 14,020 a year from Rs 6,815. The annual fee for Bachelor of Arts is Rs 12,050, up from Rs 6,590. The student union had been warning the college administration not to hike the fees without first consulting them. But the college management committee had gone ahead with it on Friday.
Apparently, the college couldn’t have raised the fees arbitrarily. Tribhuvan University has given the affiliate college a mandate to revise the fees every year, but it had not been able to do so for ten years due to intimidation by the student unions. The college administration had no option other than to raise the fees as the subsidy provided by the university couldn’t even meet the daily expenses, let alone enhance the physical infrastructure, library and laboratory equipment. An education in a government facility costs only a fraction of what it does in a private institute, and without the subsidy provided by the government, public colleges would collapse overnight. It is a fact that national colleges are constantly short of money, and the only way to raise the needed funds is by raising fees, if only they were allowed to by the unions. Fees in public college are usually rational, and hiking it should be the prerogative of the college, without having to be dictated by the unions. The unions have no business interfering in the working of the college administration.
The unruly conduct of the student unions has its genesis in the upbringing by the political parties that use them for disruptive activities such as strikes, demonstrations, protests and bandhs. The student unions would not have dared to act so wilfully if they did not have the protection of the political parties. The road to power begins with student politics in government colleges, and this has helped nearly all politicians reach the highest executive posts, including that of the prime minister. This perhaps explains why quality education is of no concern to both the student leaders and those who make it to the corridors of power. It is indeed a pity that college students, who are the future of this country, should be behaving like mindless vandals. It is time all the parties distanced themselves from their student unions or even agreed to dissolve them altogether. The assault on Neupane cannot be treated lightly, and it remains to be seen how the ruling Nepal Communist Party will deal with it.
A cruel act
An elderly couple was ostracised on charges of practising witchcraft in Bigu village of Bigu Municipality, Dolakha. The elderly couple were ostracised from their village by a Tole Reform Committee, chaired by committee chairman Ratna Narayan Shrestha. The hapless couple were meted out torture from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on November 17. Nine other persons were also involved in torturing the couple. They were forced to sign a document calling them ‘witches’ and were also banned from attending weddings and other feasts in the village. However, all of the culprits were arrested after an FIR was filed against them by their son at the District Police Office.
It is against the law to allege someone of being a witch, a superstitious belief still prevalent in the society. It is especially shameful to see the Tole Reform Committee, which is supposed to bring reforms in society, formally taking action against an elderly couple on an unfounded allegation. The culprits who indulged in the cruel act deserve maximum punishment as allowed by the law. We get to hear of such ill treatment meted out to people in many parts of the country even though all know that a witch hunt is nothing but a superstitious belief.
A version of this article appears in print on November 27, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.