Public universities and colleges in India have an insufficient number of hostels in India. Even so, the Government of India has no further plan for new hostels.
As per the All India Survey of Higher Education (2015-16), there are 799 Universities, 39,071 Colleges, and 11,923 Stand Alone Institutions listed on AISHE Web Portal and out of this 754 Universities, 33,903 Colleges and 7,154 Stand Alone Institutions have responded during the survey. 268 Universities have affiliated colleges. The total enrolment in higher education has been estimated to be 34.6 million, with 18.6 million boys and 16 million girls. Girls constitute 46.2% of the total enrolment. But there are only 26,652 hostels where 2,205,321 residents are living inside the residential facilities of Central Universities, State Public Universities and affiliated Constituent Colleges combined.
The number of hostels is very low against the total number of seats, and as per the higher education survey, there is a steady growth in the number of university campuses.
In the present condition, without hostel accommodation, better education cannot be provided in a true sense.
Proper hostel accommodation in higher education is extremely necessary for Indian students. The Room Rent Control Act does not work properly in the cities and students face a lot of hurdles like access to food, high room rent, sexual harassment and depression in the absence of good companionship. These are reasons for the increasing dropout rate in higher education in India. There are no spaces for economically weaker students in the high-ranking universities that do not provide hostels.
Not only in economic terms, but a hostel also allows for the overall development of students. It brings cultural inclusiveness and makes us proud of the diversity of India. It gives a new vision and aspirations for a new India and also brings out the creativity of young people. To those from marginalized classes who have not enjoyed freedom, equality, and brotherhood in the society, a hostel offers access to these experiences. Hostel life is where people experience a sense of equality for the first time. A college disseminates education but it is the hostel that gives an opportunity to explore constitutional and universal rights and experience knowledge without untouchability. Given how Indian Society behaves with their young girls and marginalized classes, a hostel gives everyone an opportunity to share space with freedom.
But the present condition of existing hostels is not very different from the Indian Society. Hostels are also suffering from the same feudal, patriarchal, casteist mentality as the rest of society. Without policy-driven interventions, this illness cannot be treated. The higher education policy-makers need to make suitable administrative interventions into the hostel issue to ensure that anti-ragging campaigns, based on the Raghavan Committee formed by the Supreme Court, are carried out seriously.
Government of India has formulated policies for the marginalized classes but they remain irrelevant due to policy paralysis. In 2009, the Planning Commission released a report called ‘Evaluation Study on Construction of Hostels for SC Boys & Girls’. The report says that “the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) of construction of new hostels as well as the expansion of existing hostels for SC girls was initiated in 1963-64 so as to give an impetus to the education of girls belonging to the SC community. During 1989-90, based on the recommendations of the Working Group on the Development and Welfare of SCs and STs, this scheme was extended to SC boys also. The scope of the scheme was enlarged further to cover institutions of higher education/learning such as colleges and universities. The main objective of the CSS is to provide free boarding and lodging facilities in the hostels for SC boys and girls studying at Schools and Colleges/University levels. In order to integrate the SC students with the mainstream, 10 percent of total accommodation in such hostels was left for non-SC students”. A few states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana worked on this policy very efficiently but other states are still reluctant to implement this policy on the question of hostel accommodation.
The Centrally-sponsored Scheme for Construction of Hostels for OBC Boys and Girls is being implemented since 1998-99 to address the problem of educational backwardness of OBCs. Very often, students from rural areas, especially those belonging to the economically weaker sections, discontinue their studies because of lack of secondary schools and colleges nearby, and due to non-availability of adequate hostel facilities at a reasonable cost in the vicinity of such educational institutions. Therefore, the scheme was initiated with a view to facilitating the continuation of education by students belonging to OBCs, especially those hailing from remote areas and from poor families. But there are very few hostels which have been constructed for the OBC students in India. This perhaps reveals the behavior and caste-consciousness of Indian policy-makers with respect to the reservation policy. In 2013, UGC had granted money for the construction of hostels, especially for OBC students, but the University of Delhi distributed laptops from this hostel-specific fund, instead of building hostels for OBC students.
It is a matter of shame that to this date, universities and college hostels are not implementing OBC reservations, 28 years after the Mandal Commission report. The Mandal Commission report clearly explained educational backwardness of the OBCs but our institutions are mute on the report and the Indra Sawhney judgment. The Indra Sawhney judgment held that there should be 27 percent reservations for the OBCs in admission to educational institutions. But none of these OBC reservations have been implemented with regards to the hostel. The Central Educational Institution Act 2006, upheld by Ashok Kumar Thakur vs Union of India, mentioned 27 percentage reservations for OBCs but the bureaucracy of India is silent on hostel reservations. As per our data collection, Jawaharlal Nehru University is providing only 10 percentage reservation for OBCs in its hostels. There are only two newly constructed hostels in the University of Delhi- Rajiv Gandhi Girls Hostel and Undergraduate Girls Hostel that are implementing OBC reservations despite there being 18 hostels in the University. There is no provision for OBC reservations in other hostels of Delhi University, BHU, Allahabad University, University of Hyderabad, Patna University and other universities.
It seems that the policymakers are not aware of the concept of inclusiveness of higher education. There should be proper guidelines for hostel reservations in the University Campuses but UGC and MHRD have failed to implement it. In truth, universities need proper, centralized guidelines for hostel reservations to ensure their implementation. Without hostel reservations, students cannot enjoy the diversity of India and there will be no sense of institutional equality. B.P. Jeevan Reddy, in the Indra Sawhney case, said, “Forty and three years ago was founded this republic with the fourfold objective of securing to its citizens justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. Statesmen of the highest order the like of which this country has not seen since – belonging to the fields of law, politics and public life came together to fashion the instrument of change – the Constitution of India.” This is relevant for the hostels, too.
To conclude, Indian students need hostels for better education. Without hostel accommodation, it is impossible for marginalized classes to be a part of higher studies. Not only do universities require the proper implementation of reservations, but they also need greater help for the construction of hostels. The Government of India should form a committee for the hostel accommodation situation in India to redress the grievances of OBC students.
Raja Choudhary is a Student of law at the University of Delhi and an independent writer.