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Student panel for Presi repairs

The portion of the first-floor ceiling from where chunks of concrete fell on the students last Thursday

Presidency University has formed an 11-member students’ committee to suggest which parts of the crumbling Baker Building need immediate attention in the wake of two postgraduate students being injured by falling chunks of concrete from a ceiling.

The committee was set up after a group of bioscience students petitioned vice-chancellor Malabika Sarkar on Monday for repairs across the heritage building.

The delegation said Baker Building’s problems were not limited to cracked ceilings and broken staircases. The laboratories are so dimly lit that students often bring bulbs from home to work there. “We had been assured that compact fluorescent lamps would be provided in the labs, but there was no action,” said Esha Halder, a second-year student of the zoology department that functions out of the building.

Esha is one of three conveners of the students’ committee. Co-convener Parichita Chakrabarti said the delegation had already pointed out the need for emergency electrical repairs to prevent a potential accident.

“The fans look like they might come off the hooks on the ceiling any day. There was a short circuit in the botany lecture theatre a few months ago, resulting in a switchboard bursting into flames,” recalled Parichita, a first-year student of bioscience.

A fan came loose and fell last year in the middle of a laboratory session in the physiology department, another student recalled.

On Thursday, postgraduate students Shreya Sengupta and Chandroma Majumder from the molecular biology department were chatting over tea after working in their laboratory when chunks of concrete fell on them.

Vice-chancellor Sarkar admitted that repairs were required immediately to prevent such incidents from recurring. “Students have been asked to get in touch with me directly with their requirements. I will seek more funds from the government for repairs,” she said.

A senior university official who was part of the team that met higher education department officials on Tuesday said renovation would begin this month. But he did not give a date.

“We have received bids for renovation but the contract is yet to be finalised. We are fast-tracking the process so that work can start as quickly as possible,” the official said.

Presidency had asked for Rs 50 crore in 2012 to repair Baker Building. The government announced a grant of Rs 3.8 crore last June and the money was disbursed in September.

Of that amount, Rs 1.85 crore is for the renovation of Baker Building.