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Students want unions, experts object

Experts say college unions can never be spared from political influence.

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Students want unions, experts object
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College students think unions add value to the education system. Experts, however, beg to differ.

At a panel discussion on the issue in Central College on Tuesday, organised by the Young Leader’s Collective (YLC), an initiative to create politically conscious youth in the city, experts gave a thumbs down to the students’ demand to lift the ban on campus unions.

A majority of panellists, deliberating on the topic, ‘Do student unions add value to the educational system?’ warned students about the danger of interference from political parties through unions. “It is impossible to keep politics away from students’ unions,” Lokayukta N Santhosh Hegde said. “Students issues can be solved without a union,” he said.

Around 80 students of various colleges participated in the volatile discussion. They talked about the many problems they faced — from rules on attendance shortage to cameras inside classrooms.

“Student unions do not necessarily mean politically affiliated bodies,” Harshavardhan Reddy, a student of Christ University, said.

“Students cannot communicate their needs effectively with the management in the current set-up,” Madhukeshwar Desai, another Christ University student, said. Most colleges demanded 85% attendance, he pointed out. “This means I cannot intern during the semester,” Madhukeshwar said. But, if a single student were to raise the issue, his complaints would be dismissed, he said. “We need political units with a proper structure to take up such problems.”

Even politicians felt unions with political affiliation should not be encouraged. “Students’ unions are recruitment grounds for major political parties,” PGR Sindhia, working president of JD(S) and former student leader, said. “However, apolitical students’ bodies should be allowed,” he said.

The suggestion of apolitical unions created quite a stir among the panellists. “An apolitical union is an oxymoron,” Kanchan Kaur, vice-dean, Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, said. “It is difficult to keep politics away from unions.”

Many former student leaders like John Kumar Joseph attended the discussion. “The current system with numerous examinations in a single semester has killed students’ activism ,” Joseph, now a member of Parishkaran, an NGO, said. “There have been numerous instances in the past of unions’ success. Issues like fee hike for evening colleges were resolved due to bonding among students.”

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