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Tour ire seals principal office

Siliguri, Feb. 10: The chamber of Siliguri Women’s College principal was locked up by a group of around 20 people who had come to ask her about the delay in action against a tour agency for harassing students on an excursion.

The principal, Ruma Bhowmik Sengupta, did not come to the college today.

The protesters — mostly women — consisted of residents of Ward 23 of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, where the college is located, and guardians. They gathered outside the main gate around 10am.

“Many girls from this locality study in the college and we are concerned over their safety. They were harassed during a north India tour and the principal is solely responsible for it. Why did she arrange for a Malda-based tour operator to conduct the trip when there are so many agencies in Siliguri? We have come here to ask her what steps she has taken to nail the tour operator,” said Rumki Banerjee.

Thirteen third-year (geography honours) students, after returning from the trip on Monday, had filed a police complaint against the principal for leaving them in the middle of the excursion trip, that, too, without making proper security arrangements. According to the students, representatives of the tour agency who had accompanied them were drunk throughout the trip and were consistently demanding more money.

The students had also alleged that the hotel in Agra did not have proper security arrangements. The doors were without latches and windows did not have panes.

“Three days have passed but the principal has not taken any initiative so far. We want her to bring the tour operator and his representatives to Siliguri or else she will not be allowed to sit in her chamber,” said Papia Sarkar, another protester.

An hour passed by but the principal did not arrive. Finally, the group went inside and locked up her chamber. “She might have got to know about the situation and avoided coming to the college. We will come to the college tomorrow also,” said Banerjee.

Classes were disrupted because of the commotion and students complained that such disturbances would take a toll on their studies as the exams were round the corner. “We have not filled up the registration forms for the university exams scheduled in April. Moreover, unit tests will begin on February 15. There is something or the other happening at the college everyday which hampers our studies,” said a first-year student.

Inspector general of police (north Bengal) K.L. Tamta said a case had been started against the tour agency under sections 34 (act done by several persons with common intention), 420 (cheating and dishonesty), 354 (assaulting a woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation) under the Indian Penal Code

He appealed to all educational institutions to inform him before conducting tours so that he could give letters with which they could approach local administration during troubles.

Sengupta was not available for comment.

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