People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 19, 2006
Memorandum To Lyngdoh Commission
Supreme Court has constituted a commission with former chief election
commissioner J M Lyngdoh as the Chairman to frame guidelines for the conduct of
the student union elections in universities and affiliated colleges. The
Commission is seeking public opinion on the issue before taking a final view and
present its conclusions to the Supreme Court.
Federation of India is organising seminars, discussions and round-table meetings
in all major education and university centres. SFI is trying to involve all the
elected student unions in the country, including the ones that are not led by it
to write to the Commission on this issue. Opinions from eminent intellectuals
and public figures too would be collected and sent to the Commission. SFI
leaders and students’ union representatives will take part in the discussions
in the cities where the Commission is organising its sittings and place their
opinions on student union elections.
the first sitting of the Commission held in Chennai, All India general secretary
of SFI, K K Ragesh, state secretary of Tamilnadu G Selva and CEC member
Kanakaraj attended and in its sitting in Delhi, R
Arun Kumar, All India President, K K Ragesh and Ritabrata Banerjee, All India
joint-secretary attended and made the following suggestions.
Students have the right to elect and send their representatives to the Assembly and Parliament as they are given the right to vote at the age of 18. But unfortunately they do not have the right to elect representatives to deal and represent them on the problems they are facing in the campuses.
Participation of students in students union trains them in the working of democracy and makes them a complete citizen aware of their rights and duties. This can also increase the falling voting percentage in the general elections, especially among the educated middle class. They train the would-be citizens of the country to question their representatives and make them accountable for all their deeds. This paves way for a healthy and vibrant participative democracy in our country, which is vital in today’ context of growing apolitical atmosphere.
Experience shows that students unions wherever they exist, promote the latent talents among the students. The various youth festivals organised by the students unions in the universities are the launching pads for young and aspiring artists and sportspersons. They also develop a healthy interaction among the students from across the campuses and promote integration among students of various regional, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, religious and caste backgrounds.
The argument that student union elections lead to student unrest, animosity among the students and group rivalries is totally unfounded. There are many examples like JNU and many universities and colleges in West Bengal, Kerala and central universities where student union elections are held peacefully, in a cordial atmosphere. The instances of some unruly incidents that have happened in some colleges and universities cannot be generalised and used as an excuse to ban student union elections altogether. It is a fact that even during elections to Assembly and Parliament, we find untoward incidents happening and this does not lead us to the conclusion that elections to these august institutions be banned. Violence in a society or a college can be controlled only by strengthening democracy and not by curtailing it. Worldwide experience shows that democracy and dialogue solve many problems that a war and dictatorship cannot. The same should be the case for student union elections too.
should be held either directly or indirectly according to the specific
conditions existing in the respective universities. The universities should
be given the prerogative to decide on the nature of the elections that are
to be conducted in consultation with the student community. Some uniform
guidelines that can be generally applied to all the universities can be
formulated like electing the representatives through a secret ballot. All
the representatives for a college students’ union will be elected through
a secret ballot wherein all the students of the college would vote for them.
feel that the students’ union elections should be conducted by an election
commission elected by the students in a general body meeting of the students
of that particular institute. The general body should elect the Commission,
which should be representative and has the powers to decide on the conduct
of the election-campaign period, number of banners/posters that can be put
up, amount of money that can be spent, etc- in a non-partisan manner (this
system is existing in some of the central universities). The ruling of the
Commission on the elections should be final on all the candidates contesting
Students’ Federation of India (SFI) is against the excessive usage of money in the student union elections. It should be discouraged and checked in a democratic manner by involving the students in decision-making process to fix the ceiling on the money that can be spent, and also the action that can be taken on the violators. A ceiling should be fixed depending on the size of the college and this should not exceed Rs 20,000. Candidates giving money or gift to any voter in order to procure the vote, giving, providing or paying, wholly or in part, for any food, drink or entertainment for any voter in order to procure the vote should be disqualified from the elections with the right to appeal. The Election Commission should possess this right to disqualify a candidate. The Election Commission can control the expenditure by insisting that the entire publicity material of the candidate be approved by it and only then displayed. Candidates violating this order would be liable to attract the provisions of disqualification. This would help in keeping the expenditure of the candidates in check and also ensure that the candidates do not campaign in the name of religion, caste, region and other divisive agenda.
at the end of their tenure, the students union should submit its accounts to the
general body, which should have the power to decide on any cases of impropriety.
The general body after passing the accounts should decide for the conduct of the
elections for the new union.
are also against the use of ‘muscle-power’ in student union elections. It
should not be allowed in student union elections and this can be ensured
only by involving the students in the process and not by framing some
student in the concerned institution should have the right to vote and
contest in the elections irrespective of the academic performance and other
curricular activities. If merit is made the criteria for contesting student
union elections, students coming from rural areas, tribal, dalit, and other
backward sections are usually in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis merit
when compared with their counterparts from urban and well-to-do families and
as such will be deprived of the opportunity to contest elections. Social
concern and consciousness apart, the will to serve the student community
should be the criteria for the students contesting elections.
organisations should be allowed to field their candidates in the elections
and campaign for them. Sufficient time should be given to the candidates to
approach the students, place their agenda before them and seek their votes.
The agenda of the contestants should be such that it does not discriminate
and divide students on religious, regional, caste, gender and linguistic
union elections should be conducted in all the campuses in our country every
year. The academic life of a student in an education institute is very
short. Students in +2 courses and Post Graduate courses are in the campus
for only two years. If elections are not conducted every year they will not
be able to ensure the accountability of the elected candidates. Moreover,
students studying in the final year in all the stages will be denied the
opportunity to contest the elections.
contesting elections should be given sufficient time to meet the students
personally, explain about their agenda and seek votes on this basis. At
least 21 days from the day of notifying elections should be provided. If the
candidates are given sufficient time to directly meet all the students, the
money spent on indirect campaigning like posters etc too would come down.