JNU students on hunger strike for better health facilities

September 19th, 2009 - 7:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are on a hunger strike to press for better health facilities in the campus after a first year MCA student died of an asthma attack while being taken to hospital with the lone ambulance not equipped with even the life-saving oxygen cylinder.
The relay hunger strike, called by the students union, entered the second day here Saturday. The protesting students cut across all political parties - the All India Students Association, which won the students union polls, the Students Federation of India and the Democratic Students’ Union.

The prestigious university has over 5,200 students, with most staying in the 15 hostels spread out in the sprawling campus. The lone health centre, with around four beds, caters to around 20,000 people - comprising students, faculty and non teaching staff.

The students have submitted a charter of demands to the university authorities.

“Among the demands submitted to the university administration is the provision for a 24X7 health centre which should have at least 20 separate wards for students, the recruitment of eight permanent doctors and also at least three ambulances each equipped with oxygen and one paramedic ready to be pressed into service,” said Vismay Basu, a research scholar at the School of International Studies.

He said students who fall ill and go to the health centre have to go outside the campus to buy crucial medicines. It is the responsibility of administration to arrange for the medicines, said Basu, a member of AISA.

Basu said this is not the first time that the administration is not paying heed to “genuine demands on the pretext of lack of funds”.

He lashed out at the administration for spending money instead on expensive lamp posts and benches.

“What is one supposed to make of the intentions and deeds of the university administration where 300 lamp posts costing Rs.25,000 each have been erected throughout the campus and dozens of sitting benches costing Rs.35,000 each set up? There was also no need to instal plasma TV sets and provide new flooring in all the school buildings when the basic needs of students have been neglected for a long time,” he said.

The JNU students union began the hunger strike after a student from the School of Information Technology, Aishwarya, died last Sunday due to an asthma attack at night, when the health centre is closed. He was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the ambulance. He died later.

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