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 its 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 not reach back before evening.When there is a health emergency or any other difficult situation its 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 worsen 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 raising 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 broke the computers in the office and trying to create probables 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. 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 August 31 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 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.
*Researcher and activist based in Mumbai. Courtesy: countercurrents.org