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SFI inches into new private colleges

After capturing students’ unions in nearly 74 under-graduate colleges in Calcutta, including Presidency, the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), campus wing of the ruling CPM, is set to extend control in the upcoming private engineering institutions.

Bowing to pressure from senior SFI leaders, the authorities of these institutions are considering a relaxation of rules restricting students from associating with campus wings of political parties.

To keep politics and unionism out of their campuses, the authorities of most private engineering institutions had made it mandatory for their students to shun links with any political organisation. The rules also barred students from setting up unions in the colleges.

The institutions are planning to relax the restriction. The move follows a recent meeting the state SFI leadership held with Satyasadhan Chakraborty, higher education minister. He was submitted a memorandum demanding that students be allowed to exercise their right to support a political party of their choice.

“We are not going to allow the private engineering colleges to infringe on the fundamental rights of students by not allowing them to join campus wings of political parties. The authorities may not allow students’ union if they feel it is improper. But they cannot be allowed to stop the students from participating in political activities outside the campus,” said Sudip Sengupta, secretary, SFI state committee.

Rishikesh Mondal, director, Netaji Subhas Engineering College, a private institution in Garia, admitted he was aware of the SFI demand. “We will not object now if any of our students wants to participate in political activities outside the campus. But we will be firm with them if we find them trying to influence others inside the college,” said Mondal, adding that unionism is prohibited in his institution.

The SFI, according to its leaders, is the first students’ body to have raised the right-to-practise-politics issue with the government. “The thaw in attitude has helped not only our organisation, but also students’ wings of other political groups,” asserted state committee secretary Sengupta.

Education minister Chakraborty was not available for comment, as he is out of the city for treatment. Sources close to him in his department, however, said the government had informed the private engineering colleges about the SFI demand soon after the memorandum was submitted to the minister.

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