IISc Mess Subsidy Protests

Published by Arun Isaac on

Tags: iisc, musing

On Thursday, April 10, the students of IISc protested the administration's proposal to cancel the mess subsidy. I myself participated and was witness to the proceedings. Here is a short account of the events of the day and a comparison of various newspaper reports on the incident.

On Thursday, April 10, the students of IISc protested the administration's proposal to cancel the mess subsidy. Here are three different newspaper articles reporting the same incident.

I am an MTech student in IISc, and actually participated in these protests. So, it is interesting to see how different newspapers have different variations on the same story. I was actually there when it all happened, and therefore can compare the different stories to the actual truth.

By far, the Hindu has the most neutral and objective standpoint. It is a very short article they have, but they have stayed very close to the facts, without taking sides in any subtle fashion. So, hats off to them! If you wanna read a newspaper, go get the Hindu.

The Bangalore Mirror has a longer story. The part about the director addressing the crowd is reported almost verbatim. I can vouch for that. But, they have a gotten little over-enthusiastic and exaggerated the figures too much. Mentioned here are some more correct numbers:

  • Maybe 600 people turned up for the protests. 1000 is a little too much.
  • With the subsidy cancelled, the students will have to pay around Rs 600 to Rs 1000 more per month, not Rs 2000.
  • The students waited for maybe 1.5 to 2 hours before the director addressed them. The entire protest, starting from the beginning of the march to the end when the crowd dispersed, was over in about 2.5 to 3 hours.

The Deccan Chronicle version of the story, I think is highly biased. The article claims that "many" students were opposed to the protests, and were fine with cancellation of the subsidy. This is most certainly untrue. It is true that there are those (even myself, partly) who do not believe protests will not achieve anything significant. But, nevertheless, no one was happy or supporting of the subsidy cancellation. Though there were many people who did not actually participate in the protests, few were actually happy with the twin issues of subsidy cancellation and no hike in stipend. So, considering the perversion of the truth that seems to be reported in newspapers these days, I think I had better be careful about what I choose to believe and what I choose to discard.

Maybe the institute is finding it hard to make ends meet. But, personally, I think, they should make the welfare of the students a priority, and try to do something about it. Making the students the first victim of a shortage of funds is no good for the long term future of the institute or science in the country. Maybe, the Indian government is not ready to pour in more funds. But, if a nation is not willing to invest in science, it is going nowhere.

Also, I thought the crowd of students participating in the protests were quite well behaved. They were shouting slogans, and making a lot of noise, it is true, but otherwise, there was no violence of any other kind. And, when the director came to address them, they were willing to maintain silence and hear him out. Even if most of us were not happy with what he was saying, we did hear him out. A good part of the time before the director arrived was spent in a hall in the main building where many artifacts from CV Raman's life (original letters, the original spectroscopy films developed by Raman, photographs, etc) were being exhibited. None of these things were touched, disturbed or damaged even in the slightest way. This goes to show the responsibility and self-discipline the students of IISc have. Had a similar protest happened in my BE alma mater (PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore), I'm sure they would have ransacked the whole place, brought the building down, and send the CV Raman memorabilia up in smoke, lost forever.