Awhad's 'Coffee with Students' turns bitter with outpouring of complaints

Jun 17, 2014, 06:31 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

The newly anointed medical education minister came to the city to woo students with his informal initiative, but returned with a litany of woes from unhappy students

When the newly appointed state minister of medical education, Jitendra Awhad, began his interaction with students of B J Government Medical College on Monday under his new initiative ‘Coffee with Students’, he did not expect to be flooded by gripes.

A student asks questions of Minister Jitendra Awhad (inset) at the B J Medical College
Disgruntled: A student asks questions of Minister Jitendra Awhad (inset) at the B J Medical College. Pics/Mohan Patil

The students poured out a volley of grouses — from poor seating arrangement in lecture halls, to dearth of books and journals in library, to not having basic infrastructure like fans in hostel rooms, to concerns on campus security, Awhad tried to pacify the students by selling promises of fulfillment of their demands in the next few days, but when the students seemed not to relent or get convinced, the minister took to criticising Dean Ajay Chandanwale.

“Despite knowing eight days in advance that the minister would interact with students, you haven’t solved the students’ problems. This is unfortunate, and quite shocking. How do you have such a lethargic approach?” Awhad asked Chandanwale.
Even if Awhad knows that his appointment is no more than a four-months affair — what with the state headed for elections in October — he did not miss a single opportunity to woo the young voter base.

To a question from a post-graduate student about the new assessment procedure instituted by the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS), he instantaneously replied that he would ask the university’s academic council to reconsider this decision.

After many complaints from students about space crunch on campus and inadequate rooms in hostels for boys and girls, he sought to turn to the dean. The dean informed him that a proposal for additional FSI for the college is gathering dust in the state’s urban land department. Awhad then measured his response and said, “Just give me the details, and the names of officials with whom the file is stuck. By next Wednesday, you will get results.”

Another of his populist declaration stated he would restart elections in medical colleges. At the end of the ‘coffee time’, the NCP minister invited Pune Rajya Sabha MP and party’s city president Vandana Chavan to please students with more promises. And she stuck to the script.

“I am ready to give R1 crore to this college if the priority list comes from the students and not from the dean of the college,” Chavan averred.


Modi on target

After the heated coffee session, Minister Jitendra Awhad attended a press conference. During the interaction, even though no one asked him about the recent arrest of nine students in Kerala for publishing objectionable content against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Awhad decided to speak proactively. He said, “I was writing against Modi and I will keep writing against him. If anyone has guts, arrest me.”

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