SHILLONG, Aug 25 � Facing acute shortage of power and water for a week now, North East Hill University Vice Chancellor AN Rai has allegedly asked students �to live on biscuits� till power and normal cooking regime is restored in the hostel kitchens.
�The VC asked us to live on biscuits as there is shortage of drinking water for cooking purposes in the hostels,� a boarder claimed. The drinking water in the University is pumped and without power there has been acute shortage of water for drinking, cooking and other day to day usages for the 4,000 odd students and faculty members living in the University complex.
However, Rai today denied the accusation, saying he never said anything of that sort. �I have never said students should live on biscuits� these are all rumours. We are trying our best to restore power. Moreover, we have hired generators to pump water,� Rai added.
The students last evening gheraoed the VC�s residence and shouted slogans till 11 pm demanding immediate restoration of power and water. The police was called in, but remained outside the sprawling 1,100 acre complex gates, monitoring the situation.
The University has been without power from August 19. Temporary arrangements have been made, but, are far from adequate for the 22 hostels and the numerous quarters of the faculties and staff.
The power crisis is due to the failure of the two 3 MVA transformers in the complex. In fact, the standby transformer was out of order from December last year, but was not repaired. Rai is being blamed for it, with teachers and students saying, the VC tried to cut maintenance cost and the transformers were therefore never given due care.
�This crisis will seriously affect research in natural science and engineering subjects wherein some department�s samples for experiments and chemicals need to be kept at minus 20 degrees.
�This loss and its impact on the university are yet to be assessed. It should be noted that a crisis of this nature is unprecedented in the history of any Central universities,� Apurba Kumar Baruah, chairman NEHU Campus Welfare Committee and head of Political Science department, said.
Meanwhile, NEHU administration made some failed attempts to restore power. First, it tried to repair the transformers with engineers from Guwahati. The engineers said it would take at least 45 days to repair the transformers.
Then, it bought a 1 MVA transformer from Guwahati at Rs 16 lakh, which went kaput within hours after its operation as it got overheated taking the entire load of the complex. Now the administration is trying to get power from the State Electricity Board. However, due to some technical problem power has not been restored so far.
Under pressure from both teachers and the students, Rai has ordered an independent inquiry to probe into the power crisis. The university is calling a meeting of its highest decision making body, the executive council on Monday to discuss the matter.