Image courtesy: Soniya Agrawal, ThePrint
On protest since October 3, students have demanded a permanent director & removal of registrar of institute. NSD management has denied students’ claims, said there’ve been no budget cuts.
First year students of the Delhi’s National School of Drama (NSD), touted to be India’s premier institute for theatre training, are struggling to study. There is no set syllabus six months after the commencement of the year and of the 17 permanent faculty positions, 11 are still lying vacant. Third-year students, whose graduation is several months overdue, still have courses which haven’t been taught to them and there are no teachers to teach them either.
Students’ problems with the management and the lack of regularity in classes has become a bone of contention between the students and the management, which had brought education to a halt in the institute.
The protest by students of the National School of Drama (NSD), Delhi, against the institute’s administration entered its on October 10. Among other problems, students have been demanding the appointment of a permanent director and other vacant faculty positions as well.
Students began the protest on October 3 after numerous meetings with the current director and administration went in vain, students informed the media, “We do not get materials for our craft and makeup lectures on time and as a result, we don’t have those lectures. This affects the production process of our shows,” said Mrunal, a first-year student at the institute.
The NSD is one of the foremost theatre training institutions in the country with its presence in not just Delhi, but in Bengaluru and Varanasi too. “Students come here to seek quality education from across the country but they are met with limited faculty members and reduced funds for the production of shows,” said Pasai P, a second-year student at the institute.
In a statement issued on October 6, the students’ union of NSD stated that the funds are only being sanctioned a few days before the production of their show. “This makes it difficult to buy the appropriate set materials, properties and costumes for the production, significantly affecting the quality of the work,” they said in their statement.
The students also claimed that the post of director has not seen a permanent candidate for four years. “Additionally, there are only six permanent faculty whereas 13 more positions are still vacant,” students said. They demanded the appointment of a permanent director who also has knowledge of the theatre background.
Moreover, guest faculty that are invited from outside the institute to conduct classes are not provided with accommodation and remuneration on a timely basis, the student union claimed. “This makes them withdraw from future endeavours of the school compromising the quality of education the students receive,” they said.
Protesting students also informed the media that around nine students had earlier gone on a hunger strike against the institute’s administration. “Not receiving craft or makeup materials might seem like a small issue to some but it stalls our production process on a huge level,” said Mrunal.
Solidarity from sister institutes
Meanwhile, theatre institutes have expressed solidarity with students of NSD. The students’ association of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune in an official statement expressed concerns over students’ academic losses and stated that, “The students have highlighted the inefficient planning of their academic schedule which often sees them waiting for days after the end of an input to receive details on their next one. Classes are planned on such short notice that the persons selected to teach these classes often back out.”
In fact, students also informed that the famous singer and music director Piyush Mishra visited NSD on October 9 to express his solidarity.
Prof Ramesh Chandra Gaur, Director of NSD, who took over the position in May this year, is on a temporary deputation. He is also a professor at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). Actor Paresh Rawal is the current chairperson of the institute.
After the end of the then Director Waman Kendre’s term in September 2018, the institute was led by Suresh Sharma as Director-in-Charge.
However, Gaur has denied several claims made by the students and stated that a meeting of the governing body cannot be held at such a short notice until it is a matter of urgency.
He further added that Chairperson Rawal will be visiting the institute on 11 October in a bid to conduct interviews for the position of a director. “He has promised to speak with the students and the same has been communicated to them as well,” Director Gaur added.
Apart from their demand for a permanent director, the students, in a statement released by the students’ union Sunday, demanded the removal of the registrar of the institute.
‘We deserve a permanent director’
Tamilasara, a third-year student and spokesperson of NSD’s students’ union told media outlets like ThePrint, “Our academics are suffering and the quality of learning has dropped severely. Our production budgets have been cut by over 50 per cent and we are time and again told that theatre is a ‘poor man’s medium’. How will we learn if this keeps happening?”
Another first-year student, who wished to not be named, told ThePrint, “If our classes are scheduled to start on 1 October, the institute sends the syllabus on 29 September. Sometimes they don’t have guest faculty come in time.”
Students have been informed that the current syllabus is under review and a new syllabus will only be implemented by the next session.Students also allege that not only are guest faculty not treated well by the institute, their education suffers greatly as the institute does not pay t
NSD is an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Culture and, according to Gaur, a selection committee has been appointed by the ministry in order to select the new director and fill up the vacancy positions.