The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BE for beer brings no cheer

The three cheers for a more liberal campus from students of Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University), have been drowned by the authorities, sparking off a mini-mutiny in writing.

Uncorking this controversy was a welcome feast in September for the freshers of the Shibpur-based institution.The seniors, in the “larger interests of good cheer and socialising”, ordered a canteen, run by a private agency, to put out a few bottles of beer along with the food. The order was obeyed. The more prudish on the campus complained to the authorities about the guzzle goings-on and a probe was ordered.

The inquiry confirmed what everyone knew; the freshers’ welcome had been a high-spirited affair and the mirth and good cheer all round was caused, in part, by the bottles of beer.

The authorities got into the righteous-indignation mode and terminated the agency’s licence to operate on the campus. The students got to know of what officialdom was doing and promptly went on a protest.

They even penned some lines, denouncing the “moral policing”. What was the harm if some beer helped wash down the often-inedible canteen provisions, they asked. Besides, beer — with an alcohol content of less than eight per cent — can hardly qualify as ‘hard liquor’.

The protests were not taken in the right spirit. “Which educational institution allows alcohol in hostels'” asked BE College vice-chancellor Amaljyoti Sengupta.

The caterer was aware of the rules on the campus — that alcohol was forbidden — when it entered into the contract with the institution and it should have stuck to the rules, officials maintained.

Sengupta, despite admitting that the contract had been cancelled and that the agency had moved court against the decision, said closing down the canteen had very little to do with the spirited welcome for the freshers. “The 1998 contract had expired and so the canteen was sealed,” he asserted.

BE College students are not the only ones to suffer from arguments over the thin line of campus dos and don’ts. Their counterparts in Presidency College, till recently subdued by an SFI-imposed ban on smoking, have also started breaking the “rules”, with allegations that even some of the votaries of the ‘ban’ have started indulging in the “crime”.

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