Saswat Singhdeo

Bhubaneswar: A day after the Higher Education Department of Odisha decided to cancel student union elections in the colleges and universities across the State, various student unions vehemently opposed the decision and staged protests today.

The ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) today gheraoed the residence of Higher Education Minister Arun Sahoo protesting cancellation of student union elections, following which a scuffle broke out between cops and agitators. The members of ABVP alleged that it is a planned strategy of Odisha government to stifle the voice of the students.

As per reports, more than 50 ABVP students have been detained by police following protests.

"Minister Arun Sahoo himself was a student leader. Now, he is opposing the same. Who gave him the right to snatch away the rights of students?" said a protester.

ABVP coordinator, Sanjay Mallick, said, "We strongly oppose the decision to cancel student elections in the State. They should reconsider it after holding a meeting."

The National Students' Union of India (NSUI) raised questions over the decision saying that polls are being conducted in other states.

"This will stop good student leaders from joining State politics in the future. If in other States, the polls are being conducted why not in Odisha. Why can't police provide protection during elections and prevent violence?" said NSUI coordinator, Itish Pradhan.

On the other hand, the decision of cancelling the polls has been welcomed by students' wing of ruling-BJD.

"We are happy and completely support the decision and in future we want the government to go for an alternate option," said Rajesh Swain, vice-president of Biju Chhatra Janata Dal.

As per a notice issued to all vice-chancellors of all state universities and principals of all government degree and aided colleges, the Higher Education Department has said that, ‘An Alternative procedure for nominating students’ representatives to various bodies of universities and colleges, where students’ representation is required, shall be prescribed subsequently.”

The Higher Education Department’s notification further stated that decision has been taken by the State government in the larger interest of the students’ community.