Mrunal Manmay Dash

Bhubaneswar: On the 19th day of their strike on Friday, students pursuing Forestry courses at the Odisha University of Agriculture Technology (OUAT) threatened to immolate themselves at the Odisha Assembly over educational qualification criteria for selection into different posts under the Odisha Forest Service (OFS).

The protest has spread to the lower PMG square from the campus by Friday.

The demand of the students includes the appointment of a permanent Dean and 100% reservation for B.Sc Forestry students in the appointment of ACFs and Rangers.

Putting forth their demand, a protesting student, Ankit Tripathy said, "We have been cooperating with the government since last 12 years to fulfil our demands, but their (govt's) gross apathy has forced us to launch a protest here."

"There is no reason why a Forestry student cannot qualify for the position of ACF or Ranger. If the government does not think us eligible enough, then it should abolish the course altogether," rued an angry Ankit, a student.

The marathon protest that was marked by boot polishing to sweeping the streets by students, has been garnering support from various quarters after Congress MLA, Suresh Routray visited the protest site on Friday and extended his party's support for the cause.

"I do not see why a trained student in Forestry cannot apply for Forest Department jobs. I think their demands are genuine and I will put pressure on the government to consider their demand at the earliest," said Routray.

It may be recalled that the innovative protest by the students who resorted to shining shoes and sweeping streets, had drawn the immediate attention of the media and empathy from citizens.

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