It takes no time for the dream of most freshers to have a nice study life at Dhaka University to be shattered as they have to struggle to find a place to live from day one after admission because the authorities of the country’s premier university fail to provide accommodation facilities to them.

Failing to find a seat at a hall of residence, first-year students of the university have to live in subhuman conditions on hall room floors, in the guest rooms, mosques, canteens, television rooms, at balconies and even on the rooftops of the halls.

The situation has worsened over the years as the ruling Awami League-backed student body Bangladesh Chhatra League controls the allotment of rooms at the male halls instead of the house tutors.

Nearly five thousand students get admission each year at Dhaka University with most of them coming from outside the capital.

As these students have no suitable place to live in the city of Dhaka, they try their best to get a seat in a residential hall of the university.

Taking advantage of the accommodation crisis, general students alleged, the Bangladesh Chhatra League has turned four-bed rooms into ‘mass rooms’ putting in these  30 to 40 first-year students almost in all the male dorms, depriving meritorious students of residential facility and forcing the resident students to join their political programmes in the process.

The pro-AL student organisation even drives out resident students from their rooms allotted by the authorities or forces them to share their beds with BCL activists, general students further alleged.

‘I had been sleeping on the floor of a dorm for more than one year and later with the blessings of BCL members got a seat,’ said a student of Surja Sen Hall seeking anonymity.

A first-year student at the university’s Institute of Education and Research who is a resident of Sir AF Rahman Hall said that he lost his interest in the study as he was compelled to attend the student organisation’s political programmes in and outside the campus.

Both the students said that they were given the accommodations by the Chhatra League.

According to the Dhaka University Order 1973, only the hall authorities can allot dorm rooms to the resident students and a non-resident student can stay at the hall he is attached to with permission from the hall provost.

Every year, out of some 5,000 students who enrol at the university, mostly from the outlying districts, about 2,000 of them manage to get accommodations in the student halls with BCL backing.

Dhaka University has a total of 21 dorms, five of them for female students, with the capacity of 16,180 seats against a total of 37,000 students that study at the university at any given time, according to the university’s engineering department.

The resident students have to attend ‘orientation programmes’ conducted by Chhatra League activists at the hall guest rooms under the coinage ‘guest-room gathering’ while they also have to join the political programmes of the student body.

First-year students have to attend the orientation programmes four days a week and the attendance frequency decreases based on seniority, general students said.

BCL leaders in such gatherings usually bully freshers and train them up using abusive languages for political gains, the further said.

On September 10 the Surja Sen Hall chapter of the Bangladesh Chhatra League allegedly sealed off four rooms of the dorm which housed 32 second-year students after they refused to go to Madhu’s Canteen of the university for giving ‘protocol’ to its then central general secretary.

On September 29, the university’s Bijoy Ekattor Hall authorities suspended a BCL activist from the dorm for beating up a fresher with a cricket stump at its ‘guest room’ as he failed to attend a political programme of the student organisation.

DU residential students alleged that BCL leaders and activists grabbed most of the rooms and thus distributed most of them among their followers and loyal students.

Campus sources said that some BCL leaders each lived in a single room where usually around eight students stay.

They also said that relatives of some of Chhatra League leaders often stayed in the halls.

A number of house tutors on condition of anonymity told New Age that they (house tutors) could not perform their duty properly for fear that the leaders of the ruling party-backed student body would demand their dismissal.

Though the female students are not involved in student politics in such way, similar problems also existed at the female dorms as the number of rooms or seats was also inadequate in those for the students.

Often students who have completed their final exams try to keep their rooms by obtaining a job in the hall, creating additional problems.

However, the Dhaka University Central Students Union is yet to take any practical step in this regard after the much-awaited DUCSU election was held on March 11 this year after about three decades.

General students alleged that the DUCSU in which the Bangladesh Chhatra League bagged most of the offices was busy trying to accomplish the student organisation’s political agenda.

BCL DU chapter president and secretary could not be reached over mobile phone after several attempts for their comments in this regard.

On October 10, in a meeting of the university’s provost committee headed by the vice-chancellor, Professor Akhtaruzzaman, it was decided that students who were appearing at their master’s final examination would have to leave their dorms within 15 days after the completion of their exams. 

At present, post-graduate students can stay at their residential halls until the announcement of their master’s exam result, usually three to four months after the exam.

At the meeting, the provost committee decided that the hall seats would be allotted on the basis of merit to students getting admission in the first year and no one would be allowed to stay in the halls without permission of the authority, said a press release.

Besides, a committee has been formed comprising experts from Dhaka University and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology to assess the feasibility of putting up bunk beds in rooms to accommodate greater number of students, read the press release.

Acknowledging the seat crisis, DU proctor Golam Rabbani said that they were trying to solve the problem.

DUCSU vice-president Nurul Huq Nur alleged that the university administration was playing a nonchalant role while the Bangladesh Chhatra League had established a one-party show in the dorms for a long time.

They (university administration) rather collaborated with them in their activities, he added.

The DUCSU VP further said that the Chhatra League occupied 23 posts out of the 25 in the DUCSU, for which they could not play any strong role in solving the long-standing crisis.

Kabi Jasimuddin Hall provost Professor Rahmat Ullah declined to make any comment regarding the problem.

Bijoy Ekattor Hall provost Professor AJM Shafiul Alam Bhuiyan also acknowledged the situation being prevalent at the male dorms for a long time, saying that they were trying to solve the crisis with corporation from all stakeholders of the university.

He further claimed that he had already ensured the administration’s control at his hall over seat allotment.

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