mahIT was a scenario of great zeal and enthusiasm when a procession of shouting slogan students, with flags in their hands, hit the busiest roads of the historic city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. They all were assembled here for the open session of the 15th Maharashtra state conference of Students Federation of India (SFI), which took place from January 3 to 6. The public meeting that followed in Tapadiya Natya Mandir was addressed by former SFI general secretary Nilotpal Basu, former SFI vice president Dr Ashok Dhawale, former state joint secretary Dr D L Karad, SFI president Dr V Shivdasan and SFI state secretary Vinod Govindwar. State SFI president Bhausaheb Zirpe presided.

While addressing the public meeting, Nilotpal Basu described how the ruling class parties are fighting on who will be the next prime minister while the actual need today is to change the policies. Dr Ashok Dhawale, at present the secretary of Maharashtra state unit of the CPI(M), dwelt on the destructive role of the Congress led government at the centre as well as in Maharashtra. He spoke about the increasing unemployment and the growing inaccessibility of education for the poor. He sharply criticised the communal and sectarian forces too in the state. He stressed the need to unite against all such forces. Dr D L Karad spoke about why the students movement should move hand in hand the with the working people’s movement for a change of policies. Bhausaheb Zirpe, in his presidential speech, described the SFI as a university where one gets a degree in struggles. We must continue our struggle by taking this degree, he added.

On the next day, the inaugural session was held at Govindbhai Shroff Hall where the state SFI president Bhausaheb Zirpe hoisted the organisation’s flag. Amid loud slogans, the delegates and leaders saluted the flag and paid homage at the Martyrs Column, before entering the hall. The hall was named after Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a martyr, and the stage was named after martyred SFI comrade, Sudipto Gupta.

Reception committee chairman and well known political analyst Jaydev Dole welcomed the delegates to the historic city of Aurangabad and thanked the state SFI unit for organising the conference in the city. Former police commissioner of Aurangabad city, Uddhav Kamble, inaugurated the conference. The session concluded with the address by Bhausaheb Zirpe.

A presidium comprising Bhausaheb Zirpe, Mohan Jadhav, Balaji Kaletwad and Manjushri Kabade was elected to conduct the proceedings of the conference. The steering committee comprised Vinod Govindwar, Datta Chavan and Shrikant Bhosale. A resolutions committee, a minutes committee and a credentials committee were also elected. State secretary Vinod Govindwar placed the condolence resolution, whereafter the delegates paid homage by observing two minute silence.

State secretary Vinod Govindwar placed the draft political and organisational report which, after dealing with the ongoing international and national developments, pointed to the poor status of education and its availability in the state and the apathy of the state government to release the funds for education. He also mentioned the major activities taken up by the organisation since the previous conference. These included activities to oppose the private universities act and the holding of a large rally of students and youth on November 29, in cooperation with the DYFI, on the issues of education and employment. This year saw a big success in mobilisation of students. The report also discussed the recommendations of the Lingdoh committee for student union elections. In its organisational part the report noted that though there were signs of improvement in some districts, shortcomings still persisted. Regular attendance, participation of members in deliberations, regular check-up and criticism as well as self criticism will ensure the proper functioning of the state unit, the report asserted.

Delegates from all the districts spoke on the report for about four hours. Apart from sharing their experiences gained while doing work in their respective areas, they mentioned the problems they are facing and various ways they adopted to deal with them. The delegates resolved to build up struggle against the current policies by taking up the local issues and to consolidate the organisation.

A special session was conducted after that. Dr Ashok Dhawale spoke about the qualities required in an organisation leader --- that he needs to be soft-spoken, clear, cool-headed and inclusive. He also spoke about Shahid Bhagat Singh’s passion for books and his consistent effort to gain knowledge. These are the qualities that leaders should imbibe. This will strengthen the organisation and help us in facing the opposition.

A total of 12 resolutions were moved at the conference. These were on opposing the opening of private universities and on strengthening the government universities, on the recommendation by the Lingdoh committee, on the need to fight for various facilities in tribal students’ hostels and schools, on taking the organisation to private and professional education institutions, on the need to oppose the communal and sectarian forces, on the need to oppose social injustice in the form of caste panchayats and honour killing, on strengthening the struggle against gender based violence, on the demand for increases in scholarships and freeships for EBC students. All these resolutions were adopted unanimously.

Balaji Kaletwad put forth the credentials report which stated that a total of 185 delegates came from 17 districts; among that 44 were girls. About 10 delegates were attending the conference for the first time that indicated that a new team is getting ready to take the struggle forward.
The conference unanimously elected a 31 member state committee which in turn elected a 10 member secretariat, with Mohan Jadhav as president and Datta Chavan as secretary. A passionate felicitation programme was held for the outgoing state SFI leaders that included Bhausaheb Zirpe, Vinod Govindwar, Shrikant Bhosale, Seema Jivrag, Sarita Sharma and Prashant Vidhate.

The newly elected state president, Mohan Jadhav, expressed gratitude for the Aurangabad district units of the SDI and other mass organisations for the all-out efforts they made for the success of the state SFI conference. The conference concluded with a rendering of the Hindi version of “We Shall Overcome,” which all the delegates sang in unison before leaving with a determination to strengthen the organisation and forging more struggles in the coming days.

Dr Bhausaheb Zirpe, Dr Ravindra Madne

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