It was almost three weeks ago that the city university was renamed on August 9, and one of its first acts under the new banner of Savitiribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) was to promise support to eight survivors of the landslide that had struck Malin village on July 30.
However, as with other decisions in the past, the university seems to be dragging its feet this time as well, with no steps taken to follow through on the promise yet.
Vice-Chancellor W N Gade had announced SPPU’s intention to take complete responsibility for the education of the eight surviving students who were pursuing graduation courses at varsity-affiliated colleges in the nearby towns, Manchar Ghodegaon.
Not only had these students lost their homes and their belongings, some had even lost their parents. Many of them have not returned to college yet. It stands to reason that the university’s offer of assistance would go a long way in their rehabilitation.
Annasaheb Awate College in Manchar had three students registered from Malin, of whom two survived the landslide. The principal, Dr P N Gaikwad, said he was surprised that the university was taking so long to begin its support programme.
“I had heard of the announcement by the VC about the university adopting students from Malin earlier this month. But after that, nothing has been done by the varsity. Considering the severity of the issue, I had expected that, by now, the implementation would have begun. I am still waiting for guidance from the varsity about how to move forward,” he told mid-day.
But, the college authorities have not been idle during the wait, and have already gathered financial aid to help the students, as well as other survivors of the disaster. “We had appealed to our students and staff to come forward, and have recently collected a sum of Rs 2.5 lakh,” said Gaikwad, adding, “The two survivors are residing in our college hostel, and we are encouraging them to attend classes. I have plans to arrange special counselling sessions for them.”
At B D Kale College in Ghodegaon, a total of eight students from Malin were enrolled, out of which two lost their lives in the landslide. Of the surviving six, Principal Indrajit Jadhav said, “Some students have started attending college, but a majority have still not rejoined. I am planning to go to Pune along with the principal of the Manchar college to meet the VC regarding the students’ rehabilitation.”
Apart from promising full assistance for education to the surviving students, the university was also supposed to extend compensation to the three students who died in the disaster. SPPU has a death insurance scheme in which all students pursuing higher education on its campus, as well as in affiliated colleges, get an insurance cover of R1 lakh. If a student dies in a mishap, then his or her family members receive the sum.
But, it has now emerged that no concrete move has been made to bring the offer to fruit, and the issue has not even been discussed by the university management yet. In fact, the issue was on the agenda for a meeting of the management council scheduled for Monday, but officials still ignored it.
Council member Nandkumar Nikam, who was present at the meeting, said, “After the announcement by the VC, yesterday’s was the first meeting of any governing body in the varsity. We did not, however, discuss any topic regarding Malin.”
“Anyway, the VC had already announced that the university is going to take full responsibility for their higher education. In the meanwhile, either the students or their respective colleges should come forward with their specific requirements, so that the varsity can finalise the road map,” he added.
Dr V B Gaikwad, director of SPPU’s Board of College and University Development (BCUD), who is responsible for all varsity-affiliated colleges, is clueless about the developments. “This particular topic about assistance for students from Malin comes under the purview of the university’s student welfare department. Hence, I am not aware about it,” he said.
On the other hand, the service tenure of the director of student welfare department, Dr Pandit Shelke, has already come to an end. Shelke had earlier visited Malin to review the situation soon after the landslide had struck. “Before vacating my chair, I had submitted my report about the Malin students to the VC. Now, he has to decide how to move forward,” Shelke clarified.