The March 11, 2019 elections of the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union and hall unions ignited hope among students, but in the end, all but Bangladesh Chhatra League demanded fresh elections because of irregularities. As the elected student body nearing its end of term, Lamea Tanjin Tanha reflects on its success and failures
A LOT people thought DUCSU as power, a lot of others as a place to hang around having a cup of tea and again a lot of students saw it as a tool of revolution for the betterment of the campus and the students.
In March 2019, the Dhaka University Central Students' Union became operational after three decades. Students were promised that their problems would be solved by the elected student representatives. One year has already passed and now the tenure of the elected committee has almost come to an end but has DUCSU succeeded to meet students’ expectations?
During electoral campaign, the whole campus including all the student residential halls was covered with posters of election manifestos promoting mouth-watering fancy words. It seemed as if all the panellists were in a competition of who can cover the campus with his or her panel’s posters. These manifestos were selected on the basis of general students’ expectations and DU could turn into anyone’s dream university facilitated with a congenial campus if those were fulfilled. But the irony is those words from the posters went in vain.
Chhatra League could not fulfil even one among their 30 stated mandates.
Yes they did fulfil some promises but partly. For instance, Bijoy Ekattor hall’s fee was decreased and the food from the canteen got better which happened after 40-kilograms rotten meat and 5-kilograms rotten fish were found as cooking materials in the canteen kitchen. DUCSU set a minimum rickshaw fare (though a lot of rickshaw pullers do not maintain it), launched an app based bicycle Jobike, launched app for DU bus maintenance named ‘amader lal bus’ and did some educational seminars and the cost of organising these events were really high. Adding to that Bangladesh Students’ Rights Council launched legal charges against DU question paper leaks.
Therefore, some fundamental mandates which should have fulfilled but did not happen are — transform the university into a residential one by adding ‘bunk-bed’ and ensuring single bed for all the first year students in the residential halls, managing health insurance programme including building quality medical centre, modernising and automating central library and establishing a digital lab complex, decreasing department semester fees and fines, managing quality transportation including air-conditioned bus and increasing bus trips, cancellation of evening course and seven college affiliation, launching DUCSU app for the convenience of the student, launching ‘Liberation War Research Institute’ and ‘Shekh Hasina Research Institute’, opening cafeteria in the Motahar and the Mokarrom building, organising public lecture with renowned researchers and specialists, building individual ‘cultural centre’ for the ethnic minority students.
All those high hopes and the committee could meet none.
It is not like DUCSU could not fulfil their manifestos because of budget as seventeen elected student representatives have spent Tk 90.38 lakh in the first nine months (from March to December) since their tenures began in March last year. Tk 3,66,000 was spent for maintaining DUCSU building, according to a report unveiled by the administrative wing of the union after the union’s executive meeting.
Of the total amount, Tk 83,51,304 was spent from DU’s budgetary allocation for the DUCSU and Tk 6, 84,508 came from various sponsors. Of the total budget of Tk 1,89,00,000, Tk 5 lakh was allocated to the DUCSU VP while Tk 52 lakh was allocated to its general secretary in three sectors and Tk 30 lakh was allocated for the inauguration programme of the DUCSU leaders only.
Among the secretaries, liberation war affairs secretary Saad Bin Kader withdrew Tk 7,82,120, science and technology secretary Arif Ibn Ali withdrew Tk 9,99,000, international affairs secretary Shahrima Tanjima Arni withdrew Tk 6,71,900, literature secretary Mazharul Kabir withdrew Tk 13,71,834, cultural affairs secretary Asif Talukder withdrew Tk 12,65,000, sports secretary Shakil Ahmed Tanvir withdrew Tk 19,81,000, and transport secretary Shams-e-Noman withdrew Tk 58,800 from the fund.
Social welfare affairs secretary Akhtar Hossain withdrew Tk 4,50,000 from the fund. Among members Yashio Sangma Chibol withdrew Tk 40,000, Rakibul Hasan withdrew Tk 61,700, Rakibul Islam Oitijjo withdrew Tk 2,20,000, Tanvir Hasan Saikt withdrew Tk 90,000, Raisa Naser withdrew 74,050, Saiful islam Rasel withdrew Tk 1,00,00, Farida Parvin withdrew Tk 61,500, Mahmudul Hasan withdrew Tk 94,500 and Rafiqul Islam Sabuj withdrew Tk 30,000 from GS Golam Rabbani’s fund as there was no separate budget for the members.
Big budget, enough spent but where are the significant changes? Why are the plans so mismanaged? Is it because the committee is not qualified enough? These questions again bringing the question of legitimacy of the March 11 elections.
Then again some students are saying that they have zero expectation from the DUCSU committee which was formed after such a questionable election.
Also, Nurul Haque Nur and Golam Rabbani did not get along, the chaos within the majority BCL panel, the conflict between the VP and the BCL, stress on improving personal popularity and lack of coordination — all led to the undoing of the DUCSU. After the elections there were some signs of cooperation, but with time the distance between leaders of the Chhatra League and the VP only increased. Perhaps this is the biggest constrain to the DUCSU acting as one body.
Students say that before the election, the parties and candidates promised to solve the university's basic problems: accommodation crisis, abolishing the ganaroom-guest room culture, closing evening commercial courses, increasing allocation in the research sector, student transportation problems, improving the quality of food in the canteens, cancelling the affiliation of seven colleges, traffic restrictions inside the campus and many more. Students say that during the first two months the DUCSU representatives did some great initiatives and made students’ hopes high but later on the process became sluggish which disappointed them.
Though BCL keeps flexing their muscle and keep mentioning how much benefits the students are getting now compared to the last 28 years. Assistant general secretary Saddam Hussein too claimed that the DUCSU was a success.
The candidates also announced during the election that they’ll abolish the ganaroom and guestroom culture. The ganaroom room has been named ‘bandhuroom’, and the guestroom has been named ‘conference room’. But the activities are the same as before. Ragging is also taking place like before. Students are being forcefully used regularly in political programmes. Not only that but also in the Salimullah Muslim Hall which is ironically called ‘Royal Hall’ has something called ‘Gana-baranda’ where first year students take shelter in the verandas of the hall and suffer a lot during rainy days and winter.
Yes, the food and water supply condition got better, the reading rooms got decorated but the students are still suffering greatly for accommodation which should have been prioritised more by the DUCSU leaders. Students wanted a pharmacy near the TSC and the TSC getting free from external visitors but the committee never paid any heed to it.
Female hall representatives seem more active than the male ones. Bongomata Shekh Fajilatunnesa Mujib Hall, Kabi Sufia Kamal Hall, Shamsunnahar Hall — they have already done some noteworthy modifications such as new canteens are built, food safety has been insured, safe gas lines in the kitchen are ensured, students are taught how to use a fire extinguisher, auditorium, dance room and reading rooms got facilitated with necessary equipment, more cultural wings are launched from where wall magazines are published and the female students got more opportunities to take part in sports.
However, the vice-chancellor of the university is satisfied with the activities of the DUCSU. VC Professor Akhtaruzzaman said that the DUCSU is doing a lot of programmes and has huge student involvement. He also added that the way they are moving forward in such a short time is very promising.
DUCSU 2019 has already disappointed the students but the biggest question is when will the authority declare a new DUCSU election? Will that election be a fair one? Will the elected committee be qualified enough to spent the budget according to their manifestos and will not disappoint the general student again?
Lamea Tanjin Tanha is a student of the University of Dhaka
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