Maharashtra Legislature unanimously passed the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016. The Act reintroduces the concept of student elections in the state. It is based on the recommendations of three different committees and was presented in the House by the State Education Minister Vinod Tawde. Student elections in Maharashtra had been banned in 1994 due to violence and a brutal attack on a candidate outside a Mumbai college. However, as student elections are set to make a comeback after 22 years, Bayside Journal spoke to students from Mumbai to understand their take on this decision.
Political Science student Atharva Pandit, 20, from Ruia College calls it a great decision. “It would increase political awareness among students and help them gain practical experience into it. The ban has deprived many students of practical political sense and leadership skills. It won’t repeat with the revival of student elections.” While Atharva thinks the natural political vibe in the campuses would arouse students’ interest into politics, he fears violence. “Mechanisms should be put into place well before elections commence,” he says.
Prutha Pandharkame also feels it is a good decision, “As long as it gets carried out in good faith. Through these elections the problems of students can be highlighted and solved, but it is important that this process doesn’t get politically driven, where ideologies get promoted and the primary purpose lost,” says the 18-year-old Arts student from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. “It would be interesting to see how politics works in students’ sphere, because it may give rise to future leaders. It will be great to see the work ethics of student leaders and hear their opinion,” she adds.
Though Markand Soni, 19, from KC College considers politics “important and interesting”, he feels it should be kept out of colleges. “It is a good thing to encourage students into politics, but we all know how dirty politics can get,” he says, “Campaigning and involving students into politics is not a good thing in colleges. Politics is unpredictable and there is a good chance of things going down in a bad way,” he adds.
Aniruddha Bhagwat from Usha Pravin Gandhi (UPG) College agrees with Markand and says that colleges and universities should be distanced from politics. “I have read about the violence that erupts during student elections. The competition is fierce and the battle often turns murkier,” says the 20-year-old journalism student. He calls for strict rules and regulations and emphasises on limiting political influences in campuses. “The platform of student elections should only be utilised for making students aware about politics and political processes,” he quickly adds.
While several stand on either sides, some seem to be having a neutral position on this decision such as Aakash Poojari, 19, from Hinduja College. Akash believes that student elections promote a sense of understanding and leadership among students, but feels that students should not be directly involved in politics. “Students should only contribute and not be directly involved. Politics is no easy task and it is a little extreme to ask students to get involved in this,” he says.
Arnav Deshpande, 18, from Ruia College, also has mixed reactions to this decision and wonders if it is a good idea for the Mumbai University. While he says student polarisation in Mumbai isn’t as high as in the other states, he is unsure if students should enter into politics. “If politically youth are given the opportunity to enter into politics, it only expands the scope of democracy. But I personally do not think students are in a position to make informed choices. This is the time students should explore and not block themselves in ideological walls,” he says and adds, “Students who enter into politics should keep the spirit of exploration alive.”
In case you are still wondering what this is about, check out Bayside Journal’s article simplifying Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016 here.