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No place for Mumbai University's outstation students?

Lack of adequate hostels, landlords unwilling to give out flats to single men and women and dubious brokers — all add to the woes of  thousands of students coming to Mumbai in search of better higher education

Mumbai is witnessing a sudden boom in the population of teenagers. But they are a worried, anxious bunch.  Thousands of students from across the state and indeed the rest of the country arrive in the city, hoping to secure admission in their chosen college and academic course.

college students
According to a study, 85 per cent single youngsters in the city say landlords are unwilling to open their doors for them. —Picture for representation purposes only

However, their biggest challenge is getting accommodation in a hostel or as a paying guest in a city, where being single and looking for rented accommodation is almost a crime. With only a handful of colleges offering hostel facilities, many end up depending on brokers for accommodation. However, their problem doesn’t end there.

 A study conducted by the website Flat.to, that helps students find accommodation in Mumbai, has found that 85 per cent single youngsters in the city say landlords are unwilling to open their doors to  them. When flat owners were quizzed by the website, 20 out of the 30 owners said fear of ‘unsupervised behaviour’ and general uneasiness in dealing with single young men and women prevents them from giving their homes to students.

“We have had incidents where students have inquired with us about accommodation close to their college. It’s very clear that finding suitable accommodation in the city is a big problem because of space constraints as well as the high realty rates,” said Marie Fernandes, principal of St Andrew’s college in Bandra. She added that students have also complained about how some PGs and hostels are not maintained well, giving a hard time to students. “It’s really sad that students who want to study in good colleges in Mumbai face problems when it comes to accommodation. This hampers their academic routine,”
she said.

Every year, HR College at Churchgate receives many applications from outstation students. “The number of outstation students has been increasing but I am deeply concerned about them as hostel facilities are inadequate in Mumbai. We have started an association in college to help outstation students,” said Indu Shahani, principal of the college. While few colleges in the city, such as Sophia College for Women on Bhulabhai Desai Road, DG Ruparel College in Matunga and St Xavier’s College at Dhobi Talao, provide hostel facilities, they have limited space.

And if lack of hostels was not bad enough, students struggle with suspicious landlords and dubious brokers. According to statistics provided by Flat.to, three out of 10 newcomers in the city are afraid of contacting unsolicited brokers for the fear of fraud. “There have been cases where students have been taken for a ride by brokers,” said Gaurav Munjal, CEO of Flat.to.

Vishnu Vipin, a BMM student at Patkar-Varde College in Goregaon, had a tough time finding accommodation in the city. “Just because I have a beard, the first thing flat owners demand is my background details and my family information. Even the brokers I’ve contacted have only taken me to shady places and asked for large amounts,” said Vishnu, who is from Kerala.

The University of Mumbai recently released figures showing that the number of students from other countries applying for courses in MU has increased manifold.

From a mere 47 foreign nationals studying in MU in 2010-11, this year there are 211 students studying in various city colleges under MU. Most of these students are from the Middle East, Afghanistan as well as Africa.

“Many of them find accommodation within the Kalina campus and we have never received any complaints from them. But there are students who prefer staying on their own in rented flats,” said a senior official from the university.

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