Lessons from NERIST

[ Tongam Rina ]
It appears that problems confronting North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology (NERIST) are not over yet even as the centre has appointed a Director following a week of peaceful protest and hunger strikes by the students.
Apart from demand of a regular director, one of the key demands of the students was appointment of a director who is not from the institute. The second demand has been overlooked which is likely to further fuel the agitation.
NERIST was without a regular Director since Oct 2014. An institution of such a refute running without a regular director is unthinkable anywhere else in the country. It speaks volumes about priority accorded to an institution that caters mainly to students of Northeast region.
The last few days have exposed the centre’s low priority accorded to the institution as well as politicization in appointment of key positions in institutions of higher education.
Going by several accounts, faculty and students, the new Director Prof HS Yadav is unlikely to have a warm welcome or a cordial working relationship which certainly is a not good sign for the future of the institution. The fact that he already served as Director in charge between 2016-20017, and then removed by the same Ministry that has appointed him throws up more questions than answers.
But it remains to be seen how the students and the new Director will negotiate the future of NERIST.
Most infrastructures in NERIST are falling apart as it remains a breeding ground for contractors to make money who are not necessarily bothered about quality work.
These issues can’t be addressed overnight but one must not forget that one of the main reasons that forced the students go on agitation was lack of facilities right from classrooms, laboratories to the hostels. While yours truly hope that the institution will be back on its track soon, there are several lessons to learn from the latest NERIST agitation.
It is advisable to listen to young people when they share a problem with those who can make a difference. This was conveniently ignored which led to massive protests and hunger strikes.
The second lesson is that it makes sense not to make promises, even in good intent when one is in position of power. Minister of state for Home Kiren Rijiju was at the receiving end for doing exactly that.
While one would have expected him to take care of his department and the crumbling Home department in the state, during a NERIST function last year, he told the students that a director will be appointed within a month to a cheering crowd of students and faculty. Perhaps, he did not realize that the video clip containing his promise will go viral, few months later as the students sat on hunger strike.
NERIST agitation should be a learning experience for all-listen to young people and priorities education sector even in this age where research on cow dung and pee is given precedence. The future of this country is in its thinking and questioning students.