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DU stalemate leaves city students stranded

Siya Mukerji is flying back on Wednesday, Urvi Khaitan is staying back, Ishika Seal has cancelled her ticket and Rohini Mitra doesn’t know what to do.

Scores of students from Calcutta and their parents have been forced to reschedule or rejig their travel plans to and from Delhi at the last minute because of the uncertainty over admissions to Delhi University.

According to a conservative estimate, more than 30 per cent of the applicants at DU are from Bengal and most of them are in a quandary over the stand-off with the University Grants Commission (UGC) that has led colleges to postpone admissions by at least a week.

The UGC had given the university and its 64 colleges time till Monday to junk the four-year undergraduate programme introduced last year. The regulator threatened to stop grants to DU and the colleges if its directive wasn’t followed, citing a law that allows it to de-recognise degrees awarded by the university.

Colleges under DU were scheduled to announce their cut-off marks on Monday evening and the admission process was to start on Tuesday.

Siya Mukerji and her mother Saswati are taking a flight back to Calcutta on Wednesday because of the uncertainty. “My mother and I reached Delhi on Monday morning and were supposed to fly back on Saturday. She has taken leave from work but we have had to change our plans. How long can she be on leave without knowing when admissions will start?” said Siya, who passed ISC from La Martiniere for Girls.

Urvi Khaitan, who has applied for admission to St. Stephen’s College and DU, has tentatively decided to stay put in Delhi until the second week of July. “I had my economics interview at St. Stephen’s on June 20 and the one for history is scheduled for July 1. The college has said the admission list is provisional. Till the stand-off ends, I wouldn’t know whether I have made it to the college of my choice,” said Urvi, who scored 98.75 per cent in ISC.

Calcutta might be hailed as the cultural and intellectual capital but many of the brighter students from the city prefer Delhi for their higher education because of the lack of opportunities and infrastructure in Bengal. Politics on college campuses in the state is another deterrent.

According to an official of the higher education department, nearly 20,000 students leave Bengal every year to pursue undergraduate courses in general streams, engineering, medical and other professional and job-oriented courses such as mass communication and fashion and interior design.

Admissions being postponed at DU means many parents and their wards have had to spend extra on travel and lodging. Siya and her mother bought return tickets to Calcutta for Rs 22,000. “We will have to spend on tickets again once the dates are declared,” Siya said.

Ishika Seal, who aspires to study sociology at DU, had a ticket worth Rs 12,000 for June 25. She has lost Rs 8,000 in cancelling that ticket along with the one for her return. “We cancelled the tickets because there was no point in going while the stand-off lasts,” said Ishika’s mother Madhumita, the vice-principal of a reputable south Calcutta school.

“The reason for me to choose Delhi over Calcutta for my daughter is the wide range of opportunities available there in terms of internship and placements. Besides, student politics in Calcutta is not what my daughter would find easy to adjust to.”

But students fear that the longer the stalemate continues, greater the chance of DU admissions clashing with the dates for applying to colleges in Calcutta. Ishika has an interview at Loreto College scheduled for July 5.

Presidency University’s admission list is to be published on June 30, followed by open-house counselling sessions on July 7 and 8. The admission dates are July 14 to 16.

“I reached Delhi on Monday but I feel there is no point returning now because there can be developments here anytime. However, I will have to be back in Calcutta for my interview at Loreto College on July 7,” said Rohini.