Mumbai : the indefinite hunger strike by the students in Government Tribal Hostels (Panvel) and false cases against them

September 5, 2015

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Fact finding report on hunger strike in the Government Tribal Hostels Panvel, Mumbai, Maharashtra

Government Hostels for Tribal Students

In Maharashtra Government hostels have been started at Divisional/District/Tahsil places in order to attract the tribal students to pursue higher studies. At present under the Tribal Development Department out of 495 approved Government Hostels, 487 Hostels are running.

According to the official statistics of the tribal development department these hostels provide residential facilities to 49539 tribal students (31622 Boys & 17917 girls). In the Hostel, tribal students are admitted on purely merit basis. It is said by the government that about 100 students are admitted in each hostel. However, the number of the students who are residing is always more than that because there are no sufficient buildings and infrastructure. At Taluka & District level 10% seats are reserved for secondary school going students 25% reserved for Jr.College students & 65% reserved for Sr.College students whereas as at Divisional level 20% seats are reserved for Sr.College students & 80% for Sr.College students free lodging & boarding facilities are provided all other educational equipment such as text book, reference books, computer, Gym, library etc are also suppose to be supplied.

The situation in the tribal hostels are really patehetic, hostels are over crowded and the facilities that are suppose to be provided by the government is not provided. Across the state of Maharashtra there have been number of hunger strikes and protest by the tribal students demanding for their constitutional entitlements.

We got to know from some local contacts, that the students at the Government hostel in Panvel are on a hunger strike because of they are not getting the facilities that government is suppose to provide and the department has filed complaint against the students and FIR has been registered against the students who protesetd demandings their rights. We met the students both boys and girls and also had talk with the hostel warden and other employees at the Panvel hostel and on the basis of which this report is being prepared.

The hunger strike in Panvel hostel

According to one of the leaders of the protesting students, there are 87 Tribal hostels in Konkan region out of which the only building the government owns is the one in Panavel. While the Government. owned building follows all the standards of a student’s hostel, enough computers, library, a dining hall of their own and a TV set, most of the students living in leased and rented buildings which don’t even have enough space for students to sleep.
The ongoing hunger strike is a continuation of the repeated negotiation to meet the demands of basic infrastructure, accessibility and the basic constitutional entitlements that is provided to the tribal students. Around three hundred students are on a sit-in protest in front of the Government Tribal hostel in Panvel. There are two tribal hostels in Panvel, one for boys and the other one is for girls in Sukarpur. Only boy’s hostel has a state owned building and the girls are staying in five rented rooms in a chawl in Sukarpur. From 2010 there is also a new building which was rented for the tribal hostel by the Department in Kolavde which has a capacity for about 500 students. Student started staying there from 2012, however it’s very difficult to access this palace since there is only auto service which will stop by 7 pm in the evening. Students who are coming after their classes in schools and colleges can’t reach back to hostel before evening. When there is a health emergency or any other difficult situation it’s very difficult access and there is no vehicle for the tribal hostel. They are also not provided travel allowances which can be used for auto. Student were also facing many issues like the lack of edible food, bathrooms, and other facilities to have a minimum standard of living. They have to struggle for something as basic as an edible lunch since the lunch is cooked early in the morning which gets spoiled by noon. The condition of tribal hostels is more or less the same across Maharashtra, according to another student’s representative who is co-ordinating with students from other places as well. It must also be noted that, most of the students come from the remote villages of Maharashtra who has to travel up to 24 hours to reach their village. The students are also from various competitive disciplines like MBBS, Engineering and Nursing for whom getting admitted to those courses has been a struggle in itself.

Over the years, students have been launching complaints both verbally and in written, which has been neither addressed nor responded to. In April 2015, the owner of the Kolevadi hostel for boys put up a notice for the students to vacate the hostel. As it was April 1 they thought it’s a prank. Later, they came to know that the rent of their building is due for more than a year and they had to vacate the hostel. Having no place to stay the 192 residents of the hostel in Kolevadi had to immediately moved to the hostel in Panvel which has much lesser capacity. It became impossible for students to live in Panvel. They continued giving complaints and petitions to their immediate warden and other higher officials in Pen and in Mumbai Showing all these problems and issues a delegation of students even met the Tribal minister and Tribal commissioner and additional Tribal commissioner. But, despite giving assurances and consolations none of their requests were accepted and no positive actions were taken.

The desperate students took out three protests in Thane tribal project office and two protests in Panvel showing their situations. On August 2 2015, one more protest was organized in which around 2000 students from the various hostels in the region were present. However, no positive action or response came from the concern authorities.

Finally, again around 309 students from the Panvel decided to meet the Tribal Development Project Officer in Pen on August 21 by raising the following issues

• The hostels should be in accessible locations. (Students have to go to colleges and schools and come back to the hostel; they had to take auto by spending money from their pockets to reach the hostel in Kolavde which is remote and inaccessible at night).
• There are 127 boys staying in the space that is allocated for 75 boys and 125 girls sharing five rooms and five bathrooms.
• The quality of food given in the hostel is so poor. No proper drinking water facility in the hostel and the basic amenities mentioned in government resolutions of November 2011, April 2013 and June 2013 have not been provided.
• Girl’s hostel in Sukarpur, one room that has capacity for 5 students is given to 25 students and have a single bath room.
• The scholarship money must be paid immediately.
• Female warden don’t treat the girls well and they are being frequently verbally abused
• They are not given traveling allowances, the rules of diet is not followed
• After many months of admissions students are not given uniforms, books and other stationeries which they are entitled to.
• No proper clean drinking water facility in the hostel.
• There are no regular medical checkups for the students.
• There is no computer and other facilities even when there are allocated funds for that.
• They are not allowed to have their own cultural programs and they are not taken for outing even when there are allocations of funds for this.
• There is no facility for training for competitive exams and physical trainings.
• No staff is available to attend even the urgent problems and issues of the students.

As the warden of the Panvel hostel informed the Tribal Development Officer Ranjana Dabhade that the students are coming to meet her with their problems and demands, she managed to escape from the office and phoned the police and the district collector. Immediately, DSP arrived and started to have a conversation with students. He managed to convince the students and they went back peacefully. However, on the second day Tribal Development Officer lodged a complaint against these students in Pen Police Station to suppress them from raising their demands. Fabricating the case, the Pen Police Station has lodged FIR against 9 leading students. Sections 341, 141,147,149 and 506 of IPC have been charged against them.

Name of the students against whom FIRs have been filed
• Sunil Totavar
• Vikas Nadekar,
• Sachin Dinade,
• Gurunath Sahare,
• Ajay Thumda,
• Vinod Budhhas,
• Rahul Chadar,
• Damu Mande
• Yogesh Kade

The cases have been registered accusing that they have tried to break the computers in the office and trying to create problems at the office. Students who peacefully went and gave their complaints and request at the office were shocked by this move of the tribal development officer.

Considering all this torture from the state, Tribal department and police around 200 students (boys and girls) from the Panvel hostels have started an indefinite hunger strike from 31st of August and no media is ready to report their strike. They are demanding that their issues (as mentioned above) should be solved and the cases charged against the students should be withdrawn.

On 5th september a delegation of students in hunger strike met the tribal development minister of state Mr. Vishnu Savra and all Project officers in Palghar, however the minister and officers were not ready to meet their demands.

25 students, includings girls were hospitalised as the result of hunger strike, on the 10th day, the students have a hold for the hunger strike considering the semester exams that they have in the colleges. As soon as the examinations over, they will again go hunger strike and state wide aginations and deminstrations will be carried out unitl the demands of the students are met.

Radical Study Circle, TISS, Mumbai
Samta Vidyarthi Aghadi Govandi, Mumbai
Ambedkar Periyar Phule study Circle- IIT Mumbai

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A report by Ajmal Khan

The condition of Government Tribal Hostels in Maharashtra are very pathetic. In December 2014, around 200 students from Palghar district government tribal hostel had gone on a hunger strike demanding basic facilities like toilets and library in their hostel and against the sexual harassment by some locals. Their hunger strike had lasted few days and number of girls students had collapsed and were hospitalized. Though they were given assurances by the police, no one was booked.

Once again tribal students have started an indefinite hunger strike in front of the Government Tribal Hostel at Panvel, Mumbai. There are two tribal hostels in Panvel, one for boys and the other one is for girls in Sukarpur. Only boys hostel has a good building and the girls are staying in five rented rooms in a chawl in Sukarpur. From 2010 there is also a new building which was rented for the tribal hostel by the Department in Kolavde which has a capacity for about 500 students. Student started staying there from 2012. However, it’s very difficult to access this place since there is only auto service which will stop by 7 pm in the evening. Students, who are coming after their classes in schools and colleges, can not reach back before evening. When there is a health emergency or any other difficult situation, it is very difficult access and there is no vehicle for the tribal hostel. Student were also facing many issues like no proper food, and other facilities to live properly as any other tribal hostels in Maharastra. Students kept on giving written complaints and asked for their demands regularly, but the warden and other officials didn’t pay much attention to that. The life of the students worsened day by day and during last April, the owner of Kolavde hostel put up a notice for the students to vacate the hotel. As it was April 1, they thought its done to make them fool. But they came to know on that day that, the rent of their building is due for more than a year and they had to vacate the hostel and all of them have to leave to the hostel in Panvel which is already over-crowded. It became impossible for students to live in Panvel. They continued giving complaints and petitions to their immediate warden and other higher officials in Pen. Showing all these problems and issues a delegation of students even met the Tribal minister and Tribal commissioner and additional Tribal commissioner. But, despite giving assurances and consolations, none of their requests were accepted or demands were met.

Finally, again around 309 students of the both hostel decided to meet the Tribal Development Project Officer in Pen on August 21 by raising their issues like.

  1. Their hostel should be made available in the locations where they can reach easily (students have to go to colleges and schools and come back to the hostel, they had to take auto by spending money from their pockets to reach the hostel in Kolavde which is remote and not accessible at night).
  2. There are 127 boys staying in the space that is allocated for 75 boys and 200 girls are staying in the space allocated for 75 girls.
  3. The quality of food given in the hostel is so poor. No proper drinking water facility in the hostel and the basic amenities mentioned in government resolutions of November 2011, April 2013 and June 2013 have not been provided.
  4. Girls in Sukarpur hostel, one room that has capacity for 5 students is given to 25 students and have a single bath room.
  5. Female warden don’t treat the girls well and they are being frequently verbally abused
  6. They are not given traveling allowances, the rules of diet is not followed
  7. After many months of admissions students are not given uniforms, books and other stationaries.
  8. No proper clean drinking water facility in the hostel.
  9. There is no regular medical checkups for the students.
  10. There is no computer and other facilities even when there are allocated funds for that.
  11. They are not allowed to have their own cultural programs and they are not taken for outing even when there are allocations of funds for this.
  12. There is no facility for training for competitive exams and physical trainings.
  13. No staff is available to attend even the urgent problems and issues of the students.

Immediately, on next day, the local Tribal Development Officer Ranjana Dabhade who was absent on the previous day lodged a complaint against these students in Pen Police station to suppress them from from their demands. Fabricating the case, the Pen police station has lodged FIR against 9 students namely Sunil Totavar, Vikas Nadekar, Sachin Dinade, Gurunath Sahare, Ajay Thumda, Vinod Budhhas, Rahul Chadar, Damu Mande and Yogesh Kade accusing that they have tried to break the computers in the office and trying to create problems at the office. Students who peacefully went and gave their complaints and requests at the office, were shocked by this move of the tribal development officer. Sections 341, 141,147,149 and 506 IPC has been charged on them.

Considering all this torture from the state Tribal department and police, around 200 students (boys and girls) from the hostel have started a indefinite hunger strike from 31 of August and no media was ready report their strike. They are demanding their issues should be solved and the cases charged against the students should be withdrawn.

Tribal students have been 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. Whenever they meet the authority and concerned officials they get promises, but their issues never get solved. The hunger strike in Panvel is hugely under reported, when there is around 200 Adivasi students are on hunger strike from last four days, students are being falsely implicated and few other students are also been hospitalized following dehydration and being threaten by the police and the hostel authorities to stop their hunger strike. To be known and to be popular, these students are not from IIT’s, FTII or other elite institutions in the country, but poor Adivasi students from Maharashtra.