In the horizons of last winters, I had the pleasure with some of my acquaintances of having a conversation with Walk the Talk fame journalist, Shekhar Gupta who asked us about that one thing we dislike about our University campus and for some reason; we thought it was the four wheelers that are allowed in the campus. The reason is probably because being hostellers; we are frequently posed with the danger of slowing cars, nasty comments passed by outsiders who come to visit campus for their evening long-drives. One party, namely Students For Society, that gained fame last election season , for their commendable opposition in the very first elections contested by them, is initiating a “Vote for 4-wheeler free campus” to build, what they call a democratic structure in the society.
This propaganda can be merely a trap to attract the educated and humanitarian campus crowd for the election season or probably a well-planned initiative we all need to contemplate about. The SFS pamphlets carrying these notices that are stuck everywhere from the notice boards to water coolers to walls might sound bizarre at the first glance as the whole idea of doing away with cars seem so weird in the new-fangled society we are dwelling in. But is it really that non-sensical? You’ll be infact surprised to know that the many reputed University campuses around the world are free of four-wheelers. Take, for instance, reputed IITs, IISC, IISER. This is not only to do away with the hooliganism but also to maintain a sense of equality among the campus crowd. In the present time, it may seem impossible but we must leave a window open for this well-needed rule to be passed, but not before there is proper legal arrangement of e-shuttles so as to make the University easily accessible for all the people.
A sneak peek into the SFS initiative in their own words:
COME FORWARD TO BUILD A DEMOCRATIC AND ACADEMIC CULTURE IN CAMPUS!
VOTE FOR 4-WHEELER FREE CAMPUS!
As we all know, few days ago the campus witnessed a protest against Sexual Harassment. The struggle went on for 12 days, with girls staying at protest site even at night. The protest saw a lot of opposition with authorities trying to defame the protest and other so-called students’ organisations playing as their puppets. But despite all this students stood united and firm and authorities were forced to agree to the demands. All the demands were met except about entry of 4-wheelers in campus. The authorities are going to conduct a survey along with PUCSC elections and the result will decide the fate of the issue. Let’s try to comprehensively deal with all the points in this regard:
Why the Campus should be 4-wheelers free?
Ø Number of 4-wheelers in the campus is increasing due to which the traffic has also increased. The congestion and noise causes much trouble to the students. Moreover, to adjust these vehicles, the greenery in the campus is being compromised as the lawns are being converted into parking lots.
Ø The campus, instead of giving the impression of an academic/educational institute, appears as if some mall/shopping complex/tourist spot where people come not to study but for mere enjoyment.
Ø Also, 4-wheelers serve as the primary means to spread hooliganism in the campus. During the campus elections, whole bunches of outsiders are loaded and transported inside the campus by some “students’ organisations” to make their rallies “successful”. Moreover the drugs, liquor and weapons also make their way to the campus through these 4-wheelers.
Ø As eve-teasing/sexual harassment exists in our society, university is also no exception. The height of shame is that the road near Girls’ Hostels 3 & 4 is called by the name of Gedi route. In the evening, the road is seen full of cars/jeeps which are seen stalking/following/commenting on/teasing/harassing the girls passing by.
Ø Further these 4-wheelers promote a discriminatory culture among students. Promoting pomp and show, this elite culture justifies all above problems. The image of PU is projected so as if everybody here has/can afford a car (which is contrary to realty) and the same argument is used by authorities every time to justify the fee-hike or any other hikes in mess diet prices and other charges.
Many a universities have already banned 4-wheelers and the demand is being raised in other places too. Similar demand had been raised at Punjabi University, Patiala. But authorities didn’t accept it till recently when a student was killed in an accident there. Similarly in PEC, the no-vehicle zones were created in the campus only after the death of a student. So are we waiting for such an unfortunate incident to happen here??
Now, when the demand for 4-wheeler free campus has been raised, some arguments are also put against the demand. Let us see the validity of such arguments.
- If 4-wheelers are banned, how students will go their departments?
Even today only a small proportion of students travel by 4-wheelers. Majority of students use 2-wheelers or go on-foot. Also, if other alternatives like shuttle-bus services are started, the problem will not only be solved but it would be convenient also for students who walk to their departments.
- How will our parents come to meet us in the University or how will we carry the luggage?
First of all, parents do not come daily and moreover not everyone’s parents come on 4-wheelers (on the contrary maximum are without 4-wheelers). If the University has a good mechanism like shuttle-buses/e –rickshaws, it will benefit all others. Even then if some unavoidable circumstances come, a special provision/permission mechanism can be put into place.
- Only outsiders’ vehicle be banned?
The problem being caused, as explained before, is not due to outsiders’ alone nor is the VIP/Gedi route culture solely due to the outsiders, this nuisance-causing section belongs to the university too. Also, it is impossible to segregate university students from outsiders as even if in a car a single occupant is university student, it gets entry in the campus. Despite attempts from many years, university authorities have always failed to do so.
- It is safe for girls to travel in 4-wheelers; the ban will make conditions worse.
By accepting the above argument we accept that the phenomenon of eve-teasing and sexual harassment exists in the campus and as discussed above 4-wheelers serve as means to perpetuate eve-teasing and hooliganism on campus. There is only a small number of girls who own 4-wheelers or have friends who own, rest all have 2-wheelers or travel on foot. So, travelling in 4-wheelers is not the solution to the problem but instead we should struggle and fight to end eve-teasing and harassment.
- For those who can afford 4-wheelers, it is their personal freedom to use or not. How can they be stopped?
No, it’s not their personal issue. As already explained, the increasing number of 4-wheelers is not good for campus, this is a common/public concern. For a convenience or interest of a small group of people, the interests of the rest can’t be compromised. On the other side, if anybody can afford that doesn’t mean he\she has the right to deplete resources. (Same way if one can afford to pay bill, doesn’t mean that he/she should waste electricity or should leave the tap open to waste water. There is already shortage of fuel-oil in India and maximum oil is imported for which whole country has to pay price. So, in no way some individuals have right to waste it. Resources must be used judicially.)
- Some very absurd arguments are also floated by other organisations like if 4-wheleers are banned, the University will turn into a school and by such actions university will become backward?
A university is recognised from its’ research and academic excellence and not from how many cars are there on the campus! Further many top universities in India like IITs, IIS, IISER etc. and a number of top foreign universities have made their campuses vehicle free. Have their level decreased or become schools or become backward? Such arguments only expose the bankrupt understanding of these organisations.
- Why many organisations are opposing the ban on 4-wheelers?
No other issue raised by a students’ organisation have ever faced such opposition from other students’ organisations. These organisations were also at forefront in efforts to defame the protest against sexual harassment.
The students’ concerns or academic culture of University has little importance to them. For if 4-wheelers are banned, how will these organisations import ‘herds’ of outsiders in the campus, who will participate in their car rallies displaying stickers, how will the drugs, liquor and weapons will then be imported into the campus. It’s quite clear their politics stands on these things only.
The student’s council instead of being a platform for student’s representation has been made into a power struggle. The dominant student politics which prevails in the campus, instead of serving students interests, promotes the culture where students are asked to enjoy the season of elections and ‘have fun’. This politics thrives on the same pomp and show culture whereby in their efforts to woo votes of students, these organisations organise trips, disc parties, movies, distribute drugs and liquor. Need is to uproot this elitist culture and build a healthy democratic culture where the purpose of education is achieved and students become concerned about the important issues of the society. Friends, this time the elections are not the contest between some organisations rather it’s a struggle between two parallel models of educational campuses. On one hand, is the same pomp and show campus which we have witnessed for successive years in PU and on the other hand is the struggle for a democratic academic environment. Only because of students’ pressure the authorities have been forced to conduct a survey, a first of its kind, to decide on the issue. Let’s reject this money and muscle power politics. Let’s stand together for a 4-wheeler free campus and vote for the ban (with proper parking system at gates and alternative transportation facilities).
About The Author
Currently pursuing her Masters from Department of English and Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Urvi has a knack for writing as well as reading and wishes to develop her skill-set to be utile to society.