For Northeast students, house hunt trickier than DU admission

By Azera Rahman, IANS

New Delhi : Hostel vacancies are limited, paying guest (PG) accommodation could be unsafe and private hostels charge high rents. For the thousands of students from the northeast queuing up for admission in Delhi University (DU), getting the right accommodation is perhaps more difficult than getting admitted to the university.

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Every year, more than 4,000 students from the northeastern states come to the capital to study in DU. While various initiatives by the university and the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) have made the admission process smoother with each passing year, the accommodation problem persists – more so for girls.

The demand still outstrips the supply despite colleges like Ramjas in the north campus now offering accommodation for girls too and despite the university setting up a hostel exclusively for northeast girls in that area.

"Every second day we hear stories of girls getting sexually harassed or molested in Delhi. While we want the best education for our daughter, her safety is our top priority as well. If it is not the college hostel, we will have to find a place where she will be safe," said Amiya Chetia of Assam who is here for her daughter's admission in DU.

Of the 10 colleges under DU in the north campus, six offer hostel accommodation to girls. Even then, getting a hostel seat is no mean task with a limited number of seats, reservations and a series of interviews to avail it.

"My sister's friend last year had a tough time getting an accommodation in the campus. She was banking on a college hostel seat but as it turned out, she couldn't make it at the last moment. She had to hunt for a private hostel because she didn't want to take on the additional burden of cooking by staying in a rented apartment," said Akhila Sukhalu of Nagaland, an aspiring DU student.

"Hence I am not relying on the college hostel seat. I am on the lookout for a private hostel. Butl the hostels that we have seen are not good enough: either the rooms are too small and dingy or the rent is too high. So, well, we are still looking," she said as her father stood by.

Most colleges offer 250 hostel seats for girls on an average. Miranda House has 280 college hostel seats while the renovated hostel of Indraprastha College will have 200 vacancies.

DUSU vice president Vikas Dahiya said: "We do come across a number of problems students from the northeast face. Besides the language and cultural barriers, food and accommodation are persistent problems they face.

"Although the newly constructed northeast girls hostel has enough space to accommodate nearly 700 students, it is not enough," Dahiya told IANS.

Biju Borah, warden of a private hostel for Assamese girls in north Delhi, said she is flooded with applications every year. "The fact that only girls from the northeast stay here is the biggest attraction for the parents to prefer this for their daughters' stay.

"Whether it's the food or the language spoken here, it's the feeling of being at home that makes girls opt for this place," Borah said.

If one does not get a college hostel seat or that of a private hostel, the only remaining option is rented accommodation. While it might sound good to many, considering the unlimited freedom that comes with it, it also has its set of drawbacks.

Mandira Singha of Manipur relates her horrible experience of putting up in rented accommodation.

"Just because we have very distinctive facial features, we get branded as 'Chinkies' and it is taken for granted that we are easily available because of our western style of dressing.

"In one of the places where I was staying in the south campus, in my first year of college, the landlord's son used to hassle me and my friend every day. Taking advantage of the situation that we were not very familiar with the place he told us that we either entertain him and his friends or pack our bags and leave," she recounted.

Not tolerating it any more, she then shifted to her friend's place in north campus and has been since living close by to her place.

"I learnt a lesson. It's safe to either stay in a hostel or close to people you know. I have tried staying in a hostel as well but can't tolerate the food," she said.

When it comes to finding an accommodation, boys don't have as much a difficult time as girls. The reason is obvious. Safety is not as big an issue with them as it is with girls.

"I just wish that all the co-educational colleges like Hansraj and Hindu which are sought after also had girls hostels. That would have saved us the tension of finding a safe and good accommodation for our daughter," sighed Chetan Sharma, a harried father.