The Supreme Court issued notice to all the states on October 24 on a petition filed by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). In the petition, the ABVP sought directions for all the states to protect the Constitutional rights of the students of weaker sections, particularly the SCs/STs and to ensure full utilisation of the funds allocated for the education of SC/ST students. The petition highlighted the worrisome conditions of the government-run hostels in different parts of the country. The notice was issued by a bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and comprising of Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Aftab Alam.
The Court appreciated the research work done by ABVP about the pitiable condition of SC/ST hostels all over the country, whereby it has been shown that despite huge allocation of grants under various schemes the hostels lacked even basic facilities like adequate and hygienic toilets, water, power supply, food quality, etc., which denied the students their right to live with human dignity. According to Shri P Suryanarayana, national executive member of ABVP and all India incharge of SC/ST students, who headed the research work, the survey was conducted from July 2006 to June 2007 in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In all, the survey was conducted in 1130 hostels situated under 240 districts of 15 states. During the survey, the total number of the hostels, number of rooms, students, workers, food, water, toilets, hygiene, libraries, health, scholarship, sports and other aspects were taken into consideration. Before approaching the Supreme Court, the ABVP launched a massive agitation in various parts of the country, staged demonstrations and submitted memorandums to the authorities concerned, but nobody listened to them.
In the petition, the ABVP also stressed the CAG report for the year 2005-2006, which supported the results of the survey and mentioned alarming and shocking information like lack of basic facilities such as water, toilet, security, proper and hygienic food etc and pointed out that in the states/UTs the number of students accommodated in the hostels during 2001-06 was much more than the actual capacity. The report also indicated the large-scale misuse of the hostels.
The ABVP requested to implement the recommendations made by CAG in its report, i.e the ministries should take further steps to monitor timely completion of construction of hostels through effective monitoring and ensure that state governments bear their share for maintenance. The guidelines of the scheme should be amended to ensure that the state governments pay attention to availability of basic facilities such as toilets, drinking water, power supply, furniture etc. and deploy adequate staff in the hostels. Action should be taken to improve utilisation of hostels and misuse of the hostels should be investigated and remedial action be taken.
The hostels surveyed are run by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Ministry of Tribal Affairs under various schemes in order to facilitate the education of SC/ST students. But despite huge allocation of grant under various schemes these hostels lacked even basic facilities. The result of the survey shocks the conscious. In Uttar Pradesh, one girls hostel at Varanasi had been used as a Beggars? Home, electricity was found disconnected at five places due to non-payment of bills and at two places the mafia had grabbed the land of the hostel. Similarly, in West Bengal a hostel, constructed at a cost of Rs 31.26 lakh and having capacity of 140 students at Malda, was being used for accommodation of police personnel. At a SC/ST hostel at Shahapura, the number of toilets for 100 students is only two.
Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh, of the 24 hostels surveyed, no toilet was found in any hostel. Inadequate number of toilets without water facility was found in four hostels. One hostel did not have drinking water facility. In five districts surveyed, 32 out of 95 posts of wardens were vacant in the hostels. In Manipur, no warden was posted in three hostels for SCs/STs in the districts surveyed. In Tamil Nadu, out of 1102 hostels (SC hostels 1076 and ST hostels 26) functioning under the Adi Dravidar Welfare Department for SC/ST students, 31 hostels (SCs 26, STs 5) with the strength of 2642 students were functioning in dilapidated buildings without basic infrastructure facilities like water, toilets, drainage etc. Similarly, in Orissa, under Khurda district, five residential schools did not have hostels. The classrooms were being used as hostel-cum-classrooms for 600 hostellers. These schools did not have required facilities like water and power supply and adequate bathrooms and toilet facilities.
Similarly, the records in the states/UTs revealed that in certain hostels, the number of students accommodated during 2001-06 was much more than the actual capacity. The capacity of Women College, Chaibasa (ST girls hostel) in Jharkhand has the capacity of 100 students but it had 344 students. Similarly, the Girls Hostel, Valavanthinadu (Tamil Nadu) has the capacity of 61 students but it had 165 students.
Hostels were also found being misused in seven states. In West Bengal, two hostels, constructed at a cost of Rs. 31.26 lakh and having capacity of 140 students (one for STs and one for SCs) at Chanchal in Malda district and at Aranghata in Nadia district, were being misused for accommodating the offices of Sub-Divisional Officer and Sub-Divisional Police Officer and also for residential purpose for local police personnel since 2001. In Manipur, five hostels, constructed during 2001-02 to 2005-06 in four districts for colleges and schools, had been converted and used as college/school buildings. In three districts (Dhanbad, Dumka and Ranchi) of Jharkhand, three hostels for STs and one hostel for SCs, constructed during 2001-04, were occupied by police officials to run a KG school.
The ABVP tried every step to open the eyes of the administration in district as well state level hostels by giving memorandums, taking out rallies and organising demonstrations and even at some places persuaded the officials to visit the hostels, but it is unfortunate that no step was taken for proper utilisation of the funds and to improve the condition of the hostels.
In the petition, the ABVP also urged the Supreme Court to constitute a committee (answerable to the Court) to survey the Welfare Youth Hostels in different states and make responsible the officers in the Welfare Department who are negligent in their official duties regarding the maintenance and conduct of the said hostels, and call for a report from each of the respondent state regarding the state of the hostels for SC/ST students in their respective states.
The issuance of directions to every state was also sought to ensure the proper and full utilisation of the funds allocated for the purpose of the education for SC and ST students including the funds allocated for SC/ST hostels in their respective states. It also demanded issuance of directions to the states to ensure the maximum participation of the parents of the students through parent committee for the purpose of proper conduct of the affairs such as sanitation, food, mess management, light facilities, security aspect, medical facilities and transparency of utilisation of allocated funds for the hostels in their states.
After the survey, the ABVP had suggested the government to fill the vacant posts without any delay, the hostel wardens? residence should be in hostel itself, in all the states the Maharashtra pattern of hostel should be applied, District Welfare Officers should carry out regular inspections, student welfare policy should be declared, and the forest and environment management and development programmes should involve the local youth.