KARACHI: Traffic on one of the busiest arteries of the city, the New MA Jinnah Road, came to a standstill on Monday morning as students of the Dawood University of Engineering and Technology (DUET) protested the varsity's alleged mismanagement and 'unfair' administrative policies.
The situation took a turn for the worse when the police baton-charged the 200 protesting, injuring three of them.
How it all started
In the beginning, a handful of students of the varsity gathered outside the campus to protest against the vice-chancellor on the first day of the final examinations. They were soon joined by several others, who shouted slogans against the VC and registrar for corruption in the university, lack of laboratories, fake admissions, illegal appointments, fee increments and the issue of non-accreditation by the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC).
For his part, VC Dr Faizullah Abbasi refused to budge. "For the last two years, the students were given a free hand to do whatever they wanted. They cheated, promoted copy culture, didn't pay their fees," he said, counting off the contentions. "This year, however, we have decided to restore discipline in the varsity," he explained.
"Today was the first exam and all these protesters are the ones who wanted us to give them a free hand to cheat and appear in the exams without clearing their dues," he reasoned.
The VC added that a number of students were trying to make a mountain out of a molehill; they published and distributed pamphlets against the VC and contacted media representatives to help their cause.
The students' perspective
"How can a student form a middle-class family afford a sudden fee increment of Rs8,000?" questioned T*, a student of first year in the Industrial Engineering department.
According to him, the varsity had bumped the fee from Rs29,000 to Rs37,000 for the current academic year. "There are several reasons for our protest," T* claimed. He pointed out that the students hailing from outside Karachi had to pay Rs15,000 for hostel accommodation even though there is no hostel available. "The only hostel building has been occupied by the Rangers since the 90s," he added.
The students also demanded that the examinations schedule be changed and gaps between papers should be decreased. "Currently, our exams run for 40 days which is a waste of time. We demand to keep it to 15 days so it can save our time and the new semester can start soon," said another student, P.
"Another major problem we face is the registration and accreditation of our degrees from the PEC," he said. Four departments of the DUET, the Telecommunications, Petroleum and Gas, Energy and Environment and Computer Systems are not registered with the PEC. The students also claimed that the varsity had given admissions based on nepotism.
Abbasi expressed the administration's determination to not cancel or postpone any exam. "The time period between the exams is totally an administrative decision and the students have no say in this," he said.
On the issue of the PEC registration, he said that the DUET had been granted the approval for five departments while the registration of the remaining four departments was in process when the PEC governing body was dissolved earlier this month. "Once the elections of the PEC governing body are done, our case will be considered and we will get the registration for the rest of the departments too," he revealed. Speaking about the hostel issue, he said that University does not have any hostel and they do not charge any fee for it.
Abbasi also lamented the clash between the students and the police, adding that though the situation was clearly mishandled by the police, the students had also tried to damage the police mobiles.
After meeting the students, VC asked them to either accept the university's rules or leave the institution. "We cannot accept their demands as it sabotages the image of the institute," he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2015.