For the last couple of months, woman students at the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) hostel have been facing a serious problem. A couple of months ago, nearly 125 security guards, including women personnel, were asked to leave after their contracts expired. The staffers, including women security guards posted at each of the nine hostel buildings, also left.
Residents of the hostel said that earlier, the job of the woman security guard was not just guarding the building, but also patrolling each floor to see if students needed something. They also accompanied handymen and workers who visited the hostel to carry out minor repairs in the girls’ rooms.
The immediate impact of the discontinuation of their service is that the number of security staffers at the hostel complex has reduced. We do have security at the main entrance gate but inside the complex, there are fewer security guards. Given the recent incidents that have raised concerns about security… this is one issue that should be looked into,” said one of hostel residents.
Students said the woman security guards were also responsible for turning off the water supply to the tank in the evenings.
“Almost on a daily basis, there is some issue or the other in the girls’ hostels. Sometimes the fan stops working, sometimes it’s the taps and so on… earlier, the woman security guards would accompany the workers who came here to carry out the repairs. Now, there are male personnel but we must say they are careful. Usually, they send a woman housekeeping staff with the workers, but the staff’s duty hours are only till the afternoon,” said another student.
However, not all students are unhappy with the absence of woman security guards. “I am glad they are not here as some of them were annoying. They would make rounds of the floors and if they found items such as water heaters, they would confiscate them and give them to the rector. They also used to be very strict about us not bringing our friends inside campus but with them gone, the male staffers are more accommodating,” said one of the hostel residents.
But SPPU Registrar Narendra Kadu admitted that the absence of woman security guards at the girls’ hostel complex was worrying. “The problem is that earlier we used to do e-tendering and appoint a security agency by contract. The last security agency’s contract term ended on December 31 and after that, we were told to hire through the Guard Board, which is a government agency. Of the 100-plus staff that we had under contract earlier, the board selected only 40, and others levelled serious allegations in the selection process. So, we couldn’t recruit even the 40 guards selected… Of late, we have been writing to the state government, to allow us to do e-tendering as we need security staff, but we are yet to get permission for that,” he said.
As an interim arrangement, Kadu said the varsity administration created the post of additional chief rector; a woman has been appointed to the post and she lives inside the hostel complex.
“The girls have been told to approach her if they face any issues. Besides that, we have appointed nine woman professors as wardens and asked them to visit the hostels at least once every day, to ensure that students don’t have complaints and can discuss their issues with woman staffers. However, from the point of view of security, I agree that we need woman security guards inside the girls’ hostel,” he added.