EVMs stacked up along a corridor at Jamshedpur Co-operative College on Friday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Elections mean goodbye classes for nearly 7,000 students of Jamshedpur Co-operative College (JCC), one of the oldest cradles of the steel city and a current constituent of the infant Kolhan University.
Established in 1960 and sprawling over 35 acres, JCC has been the East Singhbhum administration’s favourite strongroom for general and Assembly polls since 1962.
More recent data collected from the district archives show it was integral to the April 2009 parliamentary elections, the November 2009 Assembly polls, the July 2011 Jamshedpur bypoll and the panchayat elections in November-December the same year. While the college diligently hosted polling officials and security personnel for nearly a month every time, and also guarded EVMs, academics took a big beating.
History is restating itself all over again, rued college principal R.K. Das.
“Polling in Jamshedpur is on April 17, but the district administration took possession of our college from March 20 and will use it as strongroom till May 20. Thereafter, we will have summer vacation (May 19 to June 10, according to the university calendar). I have intimated varsity officials about the ground situation. Studies will be hit, but do we have a choice?” he said.
Das added that they had sought a cut on summer holidays so that classes could be held and the syllabus could be brought back on schedule. He also pointed out that the Assembly elections were slated later this year and might add to the academic burden on both students and faculty members.
Kolhan varsity’s syndicate member Rajesh Kumar Shukla, who owes allegiance to the Congress, expressed helplessness. “My hands are tied because of the model code of conduct. However, I have decided to write a letter to chief minister Hemant Soren and deputy commissioner-cum-returning officer Amitabh Kaushal on May 17, requesting for steps to build a separate strongroom because frequent polling is hampering academic activities at JCC,” he said.
Shukla contended that the recurrent money the district administration pays the college for power and building use was more than enough to construct a separate strongroom. “For every poll, JCC is paid close to Rs 1 lakh. So, it will be financially viable for the administration to consider having a buildings of its own for election purpose,” he added.
Currently, the college is using its BEd and multi-purpose halls, around 100 metres from the main building, for stopgap classes in chemistry and physics, and for administrative activities.
“Official business like filling up forms and issuing registration to students is being done at the BEd hall, while science classes are being hosted at the multi-purpose hall. However, after security personnel take over the campus, I don’t know whether students will be allowed entry to the campus,” principal Das said.
The damage done by polling parties and paramilitary forces is another concern for JCC.
“They use our infrastructure and then forget the favour. We are left with broken benches, stained walls and littered campus. Heavy vehicles, used by polling parties, also leave the college ground unfit for our use,” said Pawan Kumar, a final-year law student.
Is the Election Commission listening?