Four students of Film And Television Institute Of India (FTII) the country’s foremost government-run film institute, have launched an indefinite hunger strike against the steep hike in the institute’s tuition fees and entrance exam fees.
The FTII students’ union has demanded that the decision taken by the institute’s governing council in 2008 to increase the fees by 10 per cent every year be revoked, and the JET (Joint Entrance Test) 2020 be put on hold until the entrance exam fee hike is rolled back.
The students, under the leadership of the students’ association, had written letters to the administration over the past three years asking them to reconsider the fee hike. Finally, on the afternoon of December 16, Rajarshi Majumdar, who is the general secretary of FTII students association, Vivek Allaka, Aadhith Sathvin and PR Manikandan, went on an indefinite hunger strike.
“FTII is a public-funded institute which was founded with an aim to help poor masses have access to film education. This increase in fees will turn FTII a privilege for the elite class,” said Samudra Banerjee who belongs to the 2017 batch of direction and screenplay writing course. The members of his batch have stalled all their film production activities as part of the course and extended their support to the on-going strike.
A Pune Mirror report quotes Bhupendra Kainthola, the director of FTII, as saying that the student protest was “totally unjustified”. “We received a letter from the students’ association on Monday informing us about the strike. However, their demands cannot be fulfilled..Any decision to review the fees or its rollback can be taken only by the FTII government council,” the report quotes him as saying.
The fee hike is just the tip of the iceberg, says Banerjee. “We are striking against the increase in the fees because this is more pertinent at the moment. There are several unaddressed issues. Instead of getting a better studio and better infrastructure, the FTII management has been spending most of the public fund on unnecessary beautification of the campus. Replicas of nationalistic monuments are erected outside the FTII gate on every other occasion. The forest inside the campus and the green spaces that had been used for years by different batches as shooting spots have been cleared. There is an utter disregard for the students’ needs.. In the last two years, hardly has the director come out of his room and talked to us. There is so much protocol in everything,” said Banerjee. “The problems that we face are part of the same problem that other public institutions in India is undergoing now. We, the students who are striking now, aren’t directly affected by the entrance fee hike. We are raising our voice to protect the future and sanctity of this place,” he added.