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Panjab University's only woman presidential candidate says 'reject politics of money, muscle power'

IANS | September 02, 2023 10:41 AM

NEW DELHI: While talking about Italian neorealism and the Indian Parallel Cinema movement, Panjab University, Chandigarh's only woman presidential candidate suddenly points, "Don’t you find it strange that in an institution which boasts of 70 per cent women students, I am the only (woman) one standing for the top post in the student body elections scheduled for September 6? Does this not say a lot about the mindsets of different parties?"

For Manika, a Master's student in the university's Sociology Department, who will be representing PSU (Lalkar) in the upcoming elections, being the only woman candidate in the fray for the President’s post is something that reflects on the organisation she has been working with for years. "For us, every member, gender notwithstanding is given an equal opportunity in every sphere -- be it management or leadership. We are democratic in the true sense."

Even as her group members are busy visiting different hostels and departments as part of campaigning, she points at the massive number of jeeps plying the campus during this election season. "We are not using any vehicles as a matter of policy. It is high time that the voters here realise that it is paramount to throw out money and muscle power. Most of us come from simple middle-class families and understand the problems faced by ordinary students, " she says.

No planning to enter politics once she leaves the campus, Manika, who has her eyes set on academics as a career, stresses: "For many candidates here, this is the first step to a career in politics. They hardly seem to be interested in voicing for much-needed changes in the university."

Pointing out that for the past 13 years, no permanent position in academics departments has been filled, and many departments are making do with research scholars taking classes, besides the absence of ramps for students with special needs, mismanagement in hostel allotment, and the issue of rising fee, Manika says: "We do not have any superficial demands, but are asking for facilities like wheelchairs in all departments, scholarships, hygienic food in hostels, and a safer campus, besides other things."

Talking about PSU (Lalkar), which is not associated with any political party but works for students across Punjab and Chandigarh, she says what really attracted her to the organisation was the fact it worked on the ground. "We do not show our faces only during election time but are constantly involved with students and raise our voices for them. There are no orders to be taken from political masters, no one to be pleased."

She feels that at campuses, it is important to end the domination of mainstream political parties as their agenda may not necessarily be student welfare. "In universities across the country, student bodies of these political parties are more interested in increasing their vote shares and members than taking concrete steps to solve problems at the campuses."

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