Female students of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) living in a private hostel on Monday held a protest against what they claim insecurity, unhygienic condition, increase in hostel charges and mismanagement by officials of their new accommodation.
Over 50 students reached the PIDE building and protested outside the offices of the institute’s vice-chancellor and senior management.
The protest, which started in the morning, came to no avail, as talks with PIDE management resulted in nothing but more anger and anxiety among the protesters.
According to the students, who were staging a sit-in there with their luggage, PIDE management shifted them recently to a new hostel in Sector I-10 far off the institute. The new hostel had been outsourced to a private operator two days prior to their shifting. Before this change, PIDE management was in charge of hostel affairs for its students.
“We are left on God’s mercy as we are living in hostels where men are residing, and enter our rooms without even knocking the door,” said a PhD student, who did not want to be named.
Another student added that for their own safety, they keep blades and knives with themselves, as their previous hostel warden has also abandoned her duties in light of the relocation.
In addition, students lamented the new hostel’s facilities, which they say are unhygienic.
“Three PhD students are living in one cramped room; while four to five students of MPhil are also living in similar conditions,” said an MPhil student. The students also protested against PIDE management’s decision to suddenly increase hostel charges. The rent has been increased to Rs7,500 per month from Rs3,500 in 2013, another student said.
PIDE was shifted from Karachi to Islamabad in 2006, and was made a degree-awarding institution.
The protesting students blame the management for gender discrimination as male students of another PIDE hostel in Bhara Kahu have no such rent hikes, nor were they faced with any relocation.
They also criticised the institute’s management for stubbornness, as issues relating to their hostel has lingered on for the last few years. “At the time when we are supposed to prepare for our thesis and research papers, we are here resolving hostel issues and visiting the vice-chancellor and others,” said another student.
The students also maintained that the hostel has been outsourced to an individual who is a relative of the PIDE registrar. The students claimed that due to low admissions last year, this year’s prospectus claimed that hostels would be available for this year’s admissions.
Later in the afternoon, the protesting students met with the VC and student affairs in-charge, but the management could not come up with any solution during the meeting. The students rejected all options, and called to be relocated back into their previous hostel.
The students then remained with their luggage outside PIDE offices within the premises of Quaid-i-Azam University, and vowed to continue the protest.
Vice-Chancellor Dr Asad Zaman said he was not aware of the issue. When asked whether the issue had existed for the last few years, he expressed ignorance about any such problem.
“Yes, I invited them for talks today, but they refused [accept any solution other than relocating back to their old hostel],” he remarked.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2015.