Mrunal Manmay Dash

Khandapada MLA and senior leader of the ruling-Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Soumya Ranjan Patnaik targeted the Odisha government on Thursday over the cancellation of student union elections in colleges and Universities of the State.

Addressing the students on the foundation day of the Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanja Deo (MSCB) University in Baripada, Patnaik asked, why does the government fear student leaders?

“I think perhaps nobody wants the University students to play an important role in State politics. Why the government is scared of student union leaders?” Patnaik said.

“If this is not the case, then neither the students nor the university authorities want themselves to be an active part of a vibrant democracy. In either case, the pattern is not healthy for a democracy,” Patnaik added.

Describing the benefits of student union elections, Patnaik went on to say almost every great freedom fighter and eminent leader has a glorious past of getting involved in revolutionary activities during their student days.

In fact, the academicians have a similar opinion too. Vice Chancellor of FM University, Professor Santosh Tripathy said, "Student union Elections pave ways for the students to lead at an early age. I think it is vital to continue with the student election in order to nurture and prepare future political leaders."

Meanwhile, the Chhatra BJD has already formed campus committees in almost all colleges and universities to attract students into its fold. 

Following the comments by Partnaik, the student wing of BJP, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has asked why the government is not conducting student union elections especially when it is beating its own trumpet on fighting for the students'rights."

To this the BJD replied, "Biju Chhatra Janata Dal is always ready to face elections provided a healthy and conducive atmosphere is there for elections."

However, when the question of a peaceful campus atmosphere arises, the recent violences in several college campuses by BJD leaders indicate a contrast to what the ruling party claims.

Recently a BJD leader and campus committee president was accused of ragging in the Binayak Acharya College in Berhampur. Similarly, ruling party leaders were allegedly involved in the fake certificate case in Bhadrak.  

It is pertinent to mention here that no student union elections in colleges and universities across Odisha have been held since 2018.

Student union elections were cancelled in Odisha in 2018 due to Cyclone Titli, in 2019 due to campus violence, and since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of elections, educational institutions are now being run by committees formed by students. This will be the sixth consecutive year when the student union elections will not be conducted in Odisha as no notification has been released so far for the same in 2023.

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