The M.C. Raja College Boys Hostel in Saidapet has often made headlines, largely for the wrong reasons.
Unclean corridors, liquor bottles strewn all over, broken taps and a pervasive stench marked the hostel.
Today, in sharp contrast, the corridors sport a clean look. At the entrance, a newly-installed iron gate is followed by a notice asking all students to register their details for biometric-based attendance to be implemented soon.
All this is part of a transformational project recently launched with a 30 lakh funding support of the Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), the social arm of TVS Motor Company and Sundaram Clayton.
Swaran Singh, retired IAS officer and presently the Chief Executive Officer of SST, says that the objective was to develop this as a model hostel. We visited many hostels run by the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department and felt a strong need to improve the conditions of these hostels to help the students, he says.
P. Kuganantham, a former City Health Officer with Chennai Corporation who is working towards improving the quality of these hostels, says that the transformation began a year ago with the concerted effort of a group of activists and resulted in the State government allocating 11 crore for repair works in hostels in Chennai.
Not just cosmetic
The project will not just involve providing basic amenities, but also complete supervision of the day-to-day administration of the hostel by deploying additional staff. For now, the steps taken include providing beds, pillows, plates and other such necessities, a revised food menu, installation of lights, deployment of security guards and CCTV cameras.
Anbu Selvam, a researcher associated with the project, says that cleaning the campus and ensuring basic amenities is the easy part. There is a need for a complete overhaul of the way the hostel is run. There was opposition from several quarters. However, with the support of government we were able to overcome it, he adds.
In the past two weeks, around 80 persons, who were not students but residing in the hostel, were evicted. Of them, 13 had criminal cases against them. Some were drug peddlers, Mr. Anbu Selvam says. He adds that separate identity cards are being issued to students apart from the introduction of a biometric attendance system to put an end to outsiders entering the hostel.
Mr. Singh says the project will involve setting up a library, a reading room and utilisation of available space for sports. He adds that scholars will be engaged to teach students subjects that they find difficult, apart from providing career guidance.
Knowing about the changes, students from other hostels, including those from Backward Communities, have started seeking admission here now, Mr. Anbu Selvam says.
Based on the success of this project, he says SST plans to adopt more hostels in the city and perhaps in the district as well. We chose this hostel since it was one of the worst maintained. If we get this right, then we can easily replicate the model in other hostels, he adds.