Mumbai: Following the alleged rape and murder of an 18-year-old student at a government hostel, the state on Wednesday formed two committees to probe the incident and review the security of all the hostels run by its Higher and Technical Education department.
A one-member committee consisting of Nipun Vinayak, State Project Director (Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan), has been tasked with investigating the gruesome incident and has been asked to submit its report at the earliest. Another five-member panel, headed by Director of Higher Education Shailendra Deolankar will look at the security issues at government hostels and put in place a plan to resolve them in a time-bound manner.
The action comes as political parties and student organisations, in the wake of the gruesome incident, targeted the government for poor infrastructure, lack of regular staff and security measures at the hostels.
What will probe unearth?
Deolankar said that the committee will thoroughly investigate the security and infrastructure facilities at around 45 government hostels housing around 7,500 students. "We will check whether the hostels have sufficient manpower and whether the staff and security agencies employed are recognised by the government. We will make substantial recommendations following the probe," he said.
Hostel awaiting renovation, funds
Savitribai Phule Hostel, where students from various government-run institutes in the city reside, is currently in a dilapidated state and is awaiting repairs. The government had already asked the students to leave the hostel around two months ago to undertake the building's renovation work. In May, the state had zeroed in on a newly constructed Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) building in Bandra East as the temporary abode of hostel inmates. However, the girls are yet to be moved to this building.
"We have been demanding that the government provide an alternative boarding facility to students for a long time. The hostel building has become rickety and doesn't have adequate security measures in place. The students should have been shifted in April itself, but there has been a delay," said Amar Ekad, President, Care of Public Safety, a non-government organisation.
Since 2016, Savitribai Phule Hostel, along with two other government hostels in the city, also stopped receiving funds allotted under Mumbai District Planning and Development Council (DPDC). The lack of funding for the hostels, according to Ekad, has caused necessary upgradation and repairs at the facilities. He has now demanded that the government install CCTV cameras at all women's hostels in the city and appoint female security guards.
Activists demand security measures
Meanwhile, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student organisation aligned with the ruling BJP, has also taken up the issue of security at the hostels. On Wednesday, representatives of the organisation met with Keshav Tupe, Joint Director of Higher Education (Mumbai Region) and submitted a list of demands. Among other measures, they demanded that the government cancel the contract with the security agency responsible for providing personnel for hostels and appoint a female-only staff at hostels.
A delegation of women activists belonging to Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi also visited the hostel and expressed outrage over the incident. "Are women in the city secure? While the government has given concessions to women on bus fares, did it give any consideration to the security of hostels? They should make proper arrangements for the girls migrating to the city. The harassment of women has become a regular affair," said Sujata Shaikh, a BVA office-bearer.
(We are on WhatsApp. To get latest news updates, Join our Channel. Click here)