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Issue Date: Sunday , January 6 , 2008, The Telegraph

The Telegraph on campus unrest - comments welcome - Saturday, January 05, 2008 at 21:29


I have to have the best job


Violence on campuses is on the rise with students. And many feel that this violence today has less to do with politics and more with students’ attitude shaped by competition.

Take the case of Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu), Shibpur. While this 150-year-old institute is at a crucial juncture on its way to being upgraded to an Institute of National Importance, its students continue to break rules, boycott exams and indulge in violence. Two other elite institutes in the state, Jadavpur University (JU) and Presidency College, have also of late faced violence in varying measures, particularly during students’ elections.

Things at Besu came to such a pass that Section 144 had to be imposed on the campus. The prohibitory order generally used to contain communal violence was imposed for the first time at the behest of the university authorities, if only for 24 hours, from December 14 evening to December 15 evening. Students were forced to vacate their hostels and semester exams were postponed indefinitely.

Besu has been on the boil since 2004, each year culminating in greater violence. Last year on August 12, it led to the death of Soumik Basu, a third-year engineering student. Soumik died as rival unions clashed on the campus.

While Besu has constantly been in the news, JU and Presidency, too, have had their share of violence during student elections. During elections there is invariably violence on campus, admit Surajit Bhakta, the vice-president of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology Students’ Union (Fetsu) at JU, and Agari Chakrabarti, an Independent Consolidation (IC) member at Presidency College. Recently a report of an inquiry commission probing the fortnight-long violence in JU after the students’ elections in April last year blamed the CPM-backed unions for the incident.

Both the JU and Presidency unions have the same horse to flog, the SFI. Says Bhakta: “The SFI deliberately taunts, rags students and passes obscene remarks, as if encouraging us to react. They forcibly occupy the union room, create a ruckus when our union members celebrate their victory and create an obstruction in maintaining a peaceful atmosphere.”

Students at Besu couldn’t agree more. “We have our own union in college, the Bengal Engineering College Students’ Union (Becsu), which is headed by the IC. And the SFI is trying very hard to make inroads,” says Mohor Sen, who passed out from Besu in 2007.

Soumik died when Mohor was an active member of the IC at Besu and “after this devastating incident both the IC and the SFI had resolved that our college union would be devoid of any affiliations. So for a year, no IC or SFI existed. It was just Becsu and there was no violence.” But both the IC and SFI are active again at Besu and “it might be pertinent to note that CPM MP Mohammad Salim’s son is a first-year student at the university”, says Sen.

Campus unrest is not new in West Bengal or India. It has spawned political movements like the Naxalbari unrest. But today violence among students takes a more sinister form. Most agree it is less to do with political ideology and more with turf war, a eagerness to grab control — and the GeNext agenda of securing the best job at any cost.

“Student unrest is a tradition of anti-establishment movement. Before Independence, it took the form of the anti-imperialist struggle. Today it is anti-Congress or anti-Left,” says sociologist and former Presidency College professor Prasanta Roy.

Amitabha Ghosh, the dean of IIT Kharagpur, an ex-student and a former faculty member of Besu, differs. “I have not seen such violence in my days at Besu from 1958 to 1970. And besides, at the IIT campuses in Kharagpur and Kanpur, where I have taught, students are much more intensely involved with governance. They are full-fledged senate members. But there is hardly any politics on the campus, either anti- or pro-establishment.”

The violence may also have to do with boys having a lot of spare time, particularly in residential colleges. “Academic pressure is low. After the rigour of the higher secondary exams, the undergraduate course is a cakewalk for us,” says Sen. Besu VC N.R. Banerjea has been alleging that teachers at Besu hardly spend time with students outside classes. He has urged the teachers to spend 40 hours a week with students. However, says Amitabh Ghosh: “Contact hours with students are quite high in Besu at 30-32 hours a week, while at IIT Kanpur, it is only 24 hours a week. But what keeps the IITians busy is a slew of term papers and undergraduate research projects.”

Besu and JU hardly engage undergraduate students in research projects. Says Partha Pratim Chattopadhyay, a mechanical engineering teacher and secretary of teachers’ union at Besu: “Corporates are willing to pour in millions in college fests and socials but are loathe to fund academic research projects.” He rues the absence of sponsored research and industrial counselling, a vital avenue of undergraduate research at IIT campuses.

Added to this is the phenomenon of campus recruitment that starts right from the third year (at JU) that assures students of jobs at the end of their courses. “Once a student secures a job, he hardly has any pressure to perform,” says Chattopadhyay.

While Roy is unwilling to blame early campus recruitment for the degeneration of the student community, Ghosh of IIT and Chattopadhyay of Besu feel that it is senseless to let companies recruit from the third year. “We at the IITs have taken a unanimous decision not to let placements happen before the second half of the eighth semester. On what basis are the companies recruiting if a student hasn’t completed the syllabus? That indicates that they are judging the candidates on non-engineering capabilities,” said Ghosh.

It is these skills that students seek to develop when they enter the portals of higher education. “A first-year student is driven by the one-point agenda of a six-figure salary. And for that they are willing to do anything. This inculcates an aggressive consumerist regimentation on campus, an attitude of dominance that manifests itself in violence. ‘I-have-to-have-the-best-job’ syndrome is not conducive to higher academics and research,” says Chattopadhyay, who rues the loss of brilliant mechanical engineering students to the IT industry in recent recruitments.

Ghosh, too, says 80 per cent of IIT engineers are with banks, insurance companies and venture capital firms because they offer the phenomenal salaries.


  • Prof Amitabha Ghosh. ex-Director, IIT Kharagpur
  • Partha Pratim Chattopadhyay, a metallurgical engineering teacher

As long as comments by the readers do not attack anyone personally and/or contain any hidden political agenda, we will keep them as-it-is -- GAABESU Publicity Sub-Committee

Comments by Readers
Comments by Namami Ghosh from India on Tuesday, January 08, 2008 at 00:00 - IP Logged
We talked on the same topic some time last year. Actually, if somebody does not have the inner urge for change, no solution works.
In today's world we cannot afford the time and energy to re iterate through this kind of petty topic over and over again. My 2 cents - lets not discuss these topics in the future.
Comments by T. Basu from United States on Monday, January 07, 2008 at 15:16 - IP Logged
Recurring problems involving students (be it party politics or ragging or dis-collegiate issue) could have been eliminated if the administration took strong measures against them at the beginning. It appears that the students think the administration is weak and they do whatever they want.
The issue of asking the students to sign a declaration to attend 75% of the classes seems to be superfluous. Is it not in the rule that anyone with less than 75% attendence will be discollegiate?
Comments by Siddhartha Banerjee from United States on Monday, January 07, 2008 at 12:19 - IP Logged
Rightly said by Prof Amitava Ghosh and Chattopadhyay. I believe to improve campus situation we need to have more academic pressure, research and cooperative industrial training. Although placement can't be seen as evil to students lack of interest to perform in academics after securing, administration should come up with methodologies to engage students in an environment for learning, tolarance and mutual respect. Administration should not hasitate to take tough stance to impliment its action.
Comments by Gautam from United States on Monday, January 07, 2008 at 09:00 - IP Logged
Just throw out the 10 guys who are umeligible to sit for the exams...they have not attended classes....let them suffer...why whole student community maligning college image with repaeted college strikes...its is enough for college authorities...please take some hard decisions...
Comments by Yogesh Upadhyaya from United States on Monday, January 07, 2008 at 06:05 - IP Logged
The root cause of campus violence seems to be students politics. As per Supreme court directive, students elections are banned in central govt. institutions. At IT-BHU, there was always campus violence associated with student body elections. There is peace for last 5 1/2 years after the elctions are banned by the university. Now the members of student council members are selected faculty-wise, based on their highest score in the 3rd year exam.
Yogesh K. Upadhyaya
IT-BHU, chemical 1977
Comments by Avik Mitra from India on Monday, January 07, 2008 at 05:25 - IP Logged
Politics in BESU was active ,is active and will be active as long as some of the faculty members keep on supporting/encouraging the students in some sort of henious acts or the other.Beg your pardon for saying such a statement,but I have seen it with my own eyes.Local leaders of pol parties visiting a particular(isolated) hall freq,that particular hall super supervising the fellow hall residents in their campaign before the polls...Is this an atmosphere for acedemics??Contd..
Comments by Sudipta Ghosh from India on Monday, January 07, 2008 at 04:53 - IP Logged
My head hangs in shame when I hear of campus violence at my beloved alma mater with such alarming frequency over the past few years! I can only hope that student politics at BEC is banned once it becomes IIEST, Shibpur.
Comments by Pradip Sarkar from India on Monday, January 07, 2008 at 03:34 - IP Logged
We should not blame it to the students alone. The institute officials, staffs and the teachers also need to be honest to lift the quality of this institute. It is very easy to drive the immature students into offensive act.
All of the unions (students, teachers and staffs union) should be removed from the campus. There can be regular seminars on work/business ethics for all individual related to the institute. My best wishes are always with BECollege.
Comments by Keshab Ray from India on Sunday, January 06, 2008 at 20:40 - IP Logged
BAN Politics and Unions immediately.
Student Unions have no place in IITs, IIMs and other elite institute like XLRI,FMS.
The individuals who want to be part of politics can take admission to other institutes(Can study Political Science in JNU).
IIEST is a hard earned status and please dont DEFAME BE College any more.
Let the students study well and flurish in life and help in developing the nation.
Comments by p.basu from Australia on Sunday, January 06, 2008 at 15:07 - IP Logged
West Bengal was destroyed during 1969-1972 because of horrible trade unionism and student politics. BESU was worst affected. Now that IIEST has come into being although , very very late considering the age and contribution BESU made to India and West Bengal in particular, student unionism must be banned once the new IIEST management begin controlling this institute.
Comments by ARUNAVA BISWAS from Norway on Sunday, January 06, 2008 at 14:57 - IP Logged
Enough of saying politely to these indisciplined students who do not understand or incapable of understanding what is good or bad for their own lives and the institution.!!! What to do when a part of a human body is cancer infected? The administration should be strong enough to do the same..i,e destroy,cut or amputate that part to save the rest of the body so that it can live long safely..get rid of these gyes..let them take care of themselves
Comments by Jishnu Roychaudhuri from India on Sunday, January 06, 2008 at 10:48 - IP Logged
I am an undergraduate student of B.E.S.U.I would like to bring to the notice of all well wishers of B.E.S.U,that there is a substantial mass of students,who have always been,and still are against any sort of petty politics inside the campus.All students have a special place in their heart for the institution.But they are often misguided.
Finally the university has got the much awaited INI/IIEST status.And i am hopeful that once the change comes over,petty politics will take a back seat.
Comments by Keshab Ray from India on Sunday, January 06, 2008 at 07:22 - IP Logged
In IIT ,IIM and FMS there is no politics.
So if BE College is in that elite category then politics can be banned in campus.
Comments by pinaki ghosh from United States on Sunday, January 06, 2008 at 06:59 - IP Logged
and why do we have to contribute to the college again? To support these students who refuse to part ways with political unions? give me a break - instead of helping these students let keep all the fund for some other good cause


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