New Delhi, Nov 12 : In any of the cheapest areas in the South Delhi, renting an unfurnished room set with liveable conditions would cost about Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per month for a person but if you are a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) you might just get the room for as little as Rs 20 per month -- and if you are willing to share space with another person, then room rent would be Rs 10 a month, with furniture and utilities included.

The university is located in south Delhi. Up ahead is Vasant Vihar, a coveted address for India's rich and famous. A short distance away are India's glitziest malls.

Though the JNU administration has now decided to hike prices and bring up the rent to Rs 300 and Rs 600, respectively, for double sharing and single rooms, the move has brought the varsity back on the boil, as students believe this is an unjustified hike.

At the heart of the controversy is the new hostel manual approved by the Inter-Hall Administration (IHA) Committee which proposed a fee hike of the hostel room from Rs 10 to Rs 300 for a double sharing room and Rs 600 from Rs 20 for a single-seater.

Some other updates in the manual which was not revised for over 14 years are the utility charges (electricity and water charges) which students did not pay for so far but will have to do so now -- by paying actuals. Service charge (sanitation, maintenance, cook, mess helper, etc) was nil all these years but has now been revised to Rs 1,700 per month, which the administration has said is based on estimated amount as per actual.

The big change in the new hostel manual is the one-time mess security fee which has been raised to Rs 12,000 from the earlier Rs 5,500. This has to be paid up front but is refundable.

The students have claimed that the fee hike is about 999 per cent, including all utility charges, which the students will have to incur once the new manual is put to function.

"They claim that the students have to pay about Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000 annually but according to our calculations the amount will rise to about Rs 70,000 to Rs one lakh annually," N. Sai Balaji, AISA member and former President of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union, told IANS.

Balaji did not comment on how the figure was arrived at.

The JNU administration is firm on its stand and has refused to roll back the hike, as they claim it is "completely justified" and there had been no revision over 14 years.

"How can you expect to live on the same rent as you were living 14 years ago? Are the electricity rates same? Does your food cost the same? Or do sanitation workers charge the same amount as salary?" a senior official in the JNU administration said.

The Democratic Students' Federation (DSF) which has been active in JNU politics has made calculations to show that in the first year, those occupying single-seaters will face a 411 per cent hike and those in double-seaters 374 per cent hike. From the second year onwards, the DSF says those occupying single-seaters will have to pay 999 per cent more and those in double-seaters 911 per cent more as compared to the earlier hostel charges.

The DSF said that if the fee hike was implemented, a large number of students would have to leave the university.

On Monday when the Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhiryal 'Nishank' were in the university to attend its convocation ceremony, thousands of students gathered outside the venue and blocked the road to protest against the hike in hostel charges.

The agitating students confined the Union Minister along with various other alumni in the building for about five hours and the minister could only be escorted out after senior Delhi Police officers reached the spot and escorted the minister and Vice Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh kumar out of the All India Council for Technical Education hall (AICTE hall) where the convocation ceremony was being held.

Established by an act of Parliament in 1966, JNU came into existence in 1969 and is financed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) which comes under the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development.

The varsity was ranked number one in India by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) with a Grade Point of 3.91 (on a scale of 4) and was ranked no 3 among all universities in India by the National Institutional Ranking Framework, Government of India, in 2016 and no 2 in 2017. JNU also received the Best University Award from the President of India in 2017.

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