Vikram Singh

‘All the day, all the night-occupy UGC’has become a popular slogan these days and is reverberating in the university centres across the country. This slogan emerged out of students’ anger against the decision of UGC under the direction of MHRD to discontinue the non-NET scholarship. Though there is an immediate economic demand of the students community which triggered this movement, the scope and scale of the movement has become much large than the immediate concern. The struggle now is not merely against the particular decision. Rather the agenda now is to save the research in Indian universities and research institutions from the clutches of finance capital and its diktats. What is at stake hence is the very idea of ‘research’ and the ‘research scholar’.
For growth of any nation and equal development of all sections of society,country should know its problems and possible solution. It is equally true for problems of society as well as problems of science and technology. To serve this purpose basic research in humanities and sciences plays an important role.Through basic research in humanities and science we can address our problems of hunger, poverty, social evils, health etc. This basic research is the mandate of our research institutions and universities. Universities play a greater role and are very important in progress of any nation. They are not merely the degree awarding centres but the centre of developing the national builders. According to the Dr. SarvepalliRadhakrishnan ‘universities are known for the creation of knowledge.’ Universities by definition are centres of critique, and questioning hierarchies and the status quo is central to that process.
In these research institutes and universities there are thousands of research scholars who are involved in research under M.Phil. and Ph.D. courses. It is the duty of government to support these research scholars financially as research work is a long term process and needs immense patience and concentration. These students are at such juncture of life where they are concerned about their livelihood as they cannot ask for it from their family. And the hard reality is that most of their families are not in a condition to support them in this working age. They are involved in social research which is aimed at social welfare so state is required to support them only then they can whole heartily give hundred percent in an honest and genuine research.
For this support in university there is a provision of fellowship offered by UGC and CSIR which constitute major portion of all the available scholarships. To avail this scholarship students have to qualify examination conducted by CSIR and UGC twice a year for JRF/SRF. But reality is that this examination ‘eliminates’ more people than it ‘selects’, this process is also questionable and its main aim seems to eliminate students out of the channel of research rather to provide them opportunity. This examination is based on multiple choice questions and students have to choose one right answer out of given options. Various studies have indicated that success depends upon the cheap guides available for clearing the exam have shown that not all students showing research aptitude or skills qualify the exam. Those who can afford coaching with a high cost have a better chance to qualify the exams. It does not mean that all who have qualified JRF are not capable. But this is also true that success in these exams depends more upon such quickfix skills to choose an option. Those who are unable to qualify these exams and make a way to so called ‘Merit’ are unable to pursue research and for them doors of research are closed forever.
For all those students these non-NET fellowships provide a welcome breather. They get a monthly grant of 5000 and 8000 rupees for M.Phil. and Ph.D.respectively. This amount is given to Ph. D students for a period of four years and to M.Phil.Students for 18 months.In addition to this they also get annual contingency fund to purchase books, journals, for printing and photocopy purpose. This is a very small amount but is very crucial and serves as life line for research scholars whose research careers are saved.
In this scenario this decision of UGC will adversely impact the research scholar as well as research of India. Researchers from deprived backgrounds will be the most hit by the new decision as should be obvious. Especially in the case of women researchers, the lack of financial independence makes them susceptible to familial pressures to leave research. The overall result would be the weakening of research in the country, undermining its knowledge base and intellectual self-reliance even as it makes research degrees inaccessible to the deprived sections of society.According to the UGC’s figure more than 35, 000 scholars are pursuing research under this non- NET fellowship. It means after decision of UGC India will lose these potential scholars of future.
It looks like that these steps of government are the part of a broader economic policy followed by the NDA government to leave all things under the control of market, which include research and education also. Now they are targeting research also. Government is directing research institutions and universities to generate funds for research at their own. At the time when UGC is facing resistance of students against this infamous decision during this time news came about the direction of the Ministry of Science and Technology to Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to generate half of the funds for its labs themselves. Labs are directed to collaborate with industries and market for joint research ventures. Ministry has directed in so called ‘Dehradun Declaration’ to emphasise on ‘Research for profit’ for next two years and had signed up to “develop a revenue model in a businesslike manner with a clear cost benefit analysis. In this meeting of officials of ministry and scientists of CSIR, an organisation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was present in the meeting on June, 6. What is more worrisome that they were not only present there but actively participated in the discussions to ensure the idea of ‘indigenous science’.
These directions mean that research in universities and research institutions is left on the mercy of market. They have to take up projects funded by private funding agencies and private companies. Universities also have to follow the same route to support their research scholars and research. When funding will be coming from this route then priority of research will be decided by these funding agencies. Priorities of state and general public interests will not be in focus of research in future. This raises basic question on the very aim of the research.
State of research is in a pathetic condition in India. Innovation and creation of new knowledge are the major areas in which universities in the developed countries have an edge over their Indian counterparts. At its present stage of growth, India and other developing nations require knowledge based development of areas like pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, Nano Sciences, healthcare, genetics, IT etc along with studies in humanities. An alarming trend is the decline in India’s share of world’s research, which stood at 2.2% in 2007, a reduction from 2.3% in 2002. A study on India’s research output by Thomson Reuters in 2010 has estimated India’s global share of scientific publication to be about 3.5% for 2010. On the other hand, China’s share has increased from 14% to 21.1% during the period under study.The number of PhDs produced by India is less than half of those in USA. China’s steady increase in PhDs is worth noting; in 2002 India and China were not too far apart in the number of PhDs. However, by 2007 China had surged rapidly ahead in terms of its research output and is now almost rivallingUSA. Comparison of Indian performance with respect to SCI publications compares favourably with many other emerging economies but not China. Countries like Korea and Brazil are growing their research outputs at higher rates. Therefore, it is important for India to scale up its R&D effort engagement if it has to have a relative advantage over other emerging economies.
This is the need of hour to Intensify and expandthe research oriented higher education in the university system. Such intensification and expansion would be possible through the infusion of massive public investments that would ensure quality and help larger number of aspiring universities to excel instead of remaining limited to relatively small and specialized research oriented institutions.However, both the above-mentioned decisions are contrary to this. This can be seen as nothing but India’s preparation for WTO-GATS meeting to be held in Nairobi in December 2015.
However, the good thing is that these anti-student efforts of central government will not be successful. After the decision of UGC, students from all over Indian universities came to protest against this decision. Protesters included not only research and PG students but students from all courses and classes. Along with central universities, students from state universities are also raising their voice against this decision. Delhi became the centre of the agitation and ‘Occupy UGC’ has emerged as a symbol of protest. Student organisations across the political and ideological lines, came together to wage a decisive struggle. Though absence of ABVP is understandable who first tried to disrupt the agitation, but after seeing full support of students for this struggle, planned to dilute the movement through a fixed meeting with the HRD minister. They were propagating about some promise of minister but agitated students decided to carry forward under the banner of JNUSU, SFI, AISA, AISF and AIDSO. They were thrashed by police twice but were not frightened by the terror of police. During this lathi-charge Delhi state secretary of SFI Sunand, State committee member Prashant Mukherjee, Najeeb, Suresh and Deepanjan Krishnan were severely injured. At the time of writing these lines students were occupying UGC for few days. Students from various universities are spontaneously and voluntarily coming and joining protest. Teachers unions, academicians, social workers and politicians are also coming to venue for solidarity. At a time when society is being dividedbased on caste, religion, dress, food etc. these agitators are presenting a unique example of unity and struggle with full conviction of victory. It is the responsibility of all progressive and democratic people to extend their support for this struggle.

 

Caste at the Heart of Indian Engineering

Ajantha Subramanian

In April 2015, an anonymous letter arrived at the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The letter came from IIT Madras, one of India's premier engineering schoolslocated in southeastern Tamil Nadu State’s capital city of Chennai. It complained that a student group on campus created "hatred among students in the name of caste." The letter also accused the group of being “politically motivated” to "create hatred against the prime minister and Hindus."

The group in question is the AmbedkarPeriyar Study Circle (APSC), formed a year earlier. APSC’s invocation of Ambedkar and Periyar, both strident critics of Hindu casteism, reflects the group’s political orientation. The APSC Facebook site records a range of events that it has organized responding to the Indian government’s policy directives. This current government, led by right-wing NarendraModi,requires central government institutions to celebrate a Sanskrit Week, establish separate dining halls for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and adopt Sanskrit name boards for campus facilities. While the APSC criticizes these measures as part of the government’s broader Hindu nationalist agenda, it defends its events as opportunities to facilitate discussion and debate.

Not only do the anonymous letter writers criticize the APSC of being troublemakers. IIT Madras’s Dean of Students, too, took issue with the group. In June and September 2014, he objected to the “polarizing” effect of the names Ambedkar and Periyar. On May 22, 2015, he went even further. A day after receiving a letter from the MHRD expressing concern over the APSC’sactivities, the Dean de-recognized the group.

The Dean and the letter writers share two key assumptions: that the political activities of the APSC were unprecedented, and that caste politics has no place in the fifteenIIT campuses. But did the APSC bring the politics of caste into a space where it did not exist? Was IIT Madras previously caste-free? As an anthropologist currently investigating caste and meritocracy in the IITs, I see the history of the institution differently. Caste and casteism have shaped IIT Madras for a very long time, generally to the benefit of upper castes.

Caste at IIT

The assumption that IIT Madras is beyond caste partly rests on the representative weight of the “general category,” or students who fall under the open admissions process. Until 2008, it made up 77.5 percent of the student body. Because of the administrative distinction between the “reserved,” or “caste-based” quota,and “general,” or “merit-based” admissions, the general category is often perceived as caste-free. But who falls under the general category and what is meant by merit?

Tamil Nadu’s history of engineering provides some answers.In the 19th century, most engineers in India were European. Asthe profession was indigenized, upper castes who had long enjoyed the privilege of education and bureaucratic employment became disproportionately well represented in it. By the 1920s, Tamil Brahmins made up 70 percent of seats in southeastern engineering institutions, despite being barely 3 percent of the total regional population.

In response, the rise of regional Non-Brahmin and Dravidian movements called upper caste cultural, economic, and political power into question. They also identified Brahmins as the principal beneficiaries of caste privilege. Today, Tamil Nadu is known for its highly politicized non-Brahmin majority, the predominance of regional parties emerging out of Dravidianism, and far-reaching institutional reform through reservationsin education and employment.Most regional engineering colleges now reserve up to 69 percent of their seats for three socially disenfranchised groups: Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). These measures have democratized caste access to the engineering profession.

Amidst these transformations, the founding of IIT Madras in 1959 by the central government was propitious for many Tamil Brahmins and other regional upper castes. Affiliation to a prestigious central government institution allowed them to leapfrog over the region’s progressive reservations policies and secure their educational status. It was in keeping, too, with a longer historical connection to the central government seen in the overrepresentation of upper castes in central government services. Even the makeup of central government schools in Chennai shows a disproportionate number of upper caste students, another sign of their extra-regional alignment. Within Tamil Nadu, these schools happen to also be the principal feeders of IIT Madras. Not only students, IIT Madras faculty too are overwhelmingly upper caste with 464 professors drawn from the “general category” and only 59 OBCs, 11 SCs, and 2 STs.

Rather than caste-free, then, the “general category” at IIT Madras clearly comprises beneficiaries of caste privilege. Indeed, most IITiansassume that the “general category” is upper caste, which only proves how entrenched the equation between caste and merit is for them. Although their claim to the institution is made in the language of merit, upper caste students and faculty understand IIT Madras as meritocratic in large part because of its association with them. In other words, upper caste affiliation and a defense of caste interests are at the heart of such claims to merit.

IIT Madras’s caste culture is apparent in the everyday workings of the institution andin the opposition to reservations. SC and ST students started attending the IITs in the early 1980s after the implementation of the 1973 SC/ST quota of 22.5 percent. Their integration into the campuses was far from smooth. Students who gained admission through the quota encountered innumerable instances of everyday discrimination that called their intellectual and social worth into question.

In my interviews with upper caste graduates from the 1980s and 1990s, theyfrequently mentioned how “the SC/STs did not fit in.” There were a number of explanations for this supposed bad fit, from their poor academic performance to their provincial dress style and poor command of English. Indeed, even grades were interpreted differently depending on who earned them: “general category” students got poor grades because they were too busy having fun while “SC/STs” did because they were not intellectually capable. Therecent spate of suicides and attempted suicides by SC and ST students across the various campuses speaks volumes about the routine slights and indignities they suffer.

Backward Caste students spoke of a more ambivalent experience at IIT Madras. Before the implementation of the OBC quota in 2008, those who got admission through the general category spoke of how invisible they felt. Given the assumed equation between the general category and being upper caste, their classmates automatically assumed them to be upper caste. They quickly learned to play along by not expressing adverse opinions on issues such as reservations or Tamil politics. When I asked why they felt the need to do so, they told me that this was how you “fit” into the institutional mainstream.

In contrast to these experiences of alienation, upper caste students spoke of the campus as a space where caste, religion, and other markers of identity simply did not matter. Here, they told me, we’re all just IITians. This upper caste sentiment is the background assumption that makes the APSC appear to be bringing caste into a previously caste-free space. But the disavowal of caste by those who enjoy its benefits must be understood for what it is: the comfortable occupation of the mainstream by those who do not bear the stigma of difference. At times, the caste feeling underlying this identity of “IITian” was clear – for example, when Tamil Brahmin students spoke of the campus as a second home where the large numbers of Tamil Brahmin faculty embraced them as extended family.

The expression of upper caste identity and interest are most evident in the opposition to reservations. In 2006, theIndian Supreme Court mandated a 27 percent quota for OBCs in all central government institutions. The verdict sparked mass protests within the IITs. SeveralIITMadras alumni recollected that the protests against OBC reservations were overtly political. Moreover, the administration not only permitted but tacitly endorsed student demonstrations against government policy. Students were even warned not to take their protests outside the campus gates where they were less likely to be tolerated. In addition to campus protests, many IITians joined Youth for Equality, an organization formed in Delhi to oppose the 2006 reservations.

This is only a recent instance of IITians protesting what they perceived as interference in the institutes’ meritocratic functioning. When the 1973 quota for SCs and STs was extended to the IITs, one of the most vocal opponents was P. V. Indiresan, director of IIT Madras from 1979 to 1984. In his 1983 Director’s Report, Indiresan drew a distinction between “the socially-deprived” who demanded “special privileges” and “the talented” who deserved “rights of their own.” For him, and many with similar views, upper castes are simply “the talented” who inhabit a casteless, democratic, and meritorious norm threatened by reservations.In 2011, it was Indiresan who took the Indian government to court challenging the constitutional validity of the 2006 OBC quota.

Given the caste history of the region, the make-up of students and faculty, and the strident opposition to reservations, it is no wonder that IIT Madras is such a lightning rod for caste critique. Of course, accusing low castes of politicizing caste is not new. When those who have borne the brunt of caste discrimination expose structural inequality and demand redress, they are accused of casteism. For simply naming the unspoken status quo, they are accused of being divisive, hateful, and anti-egalitarian. Meanwhile, the beneficiaries of caste privilege claim to be defending nothing less than equality and merit itself. Democratic rhetoric, it seems, has become the favored language of anti-democratic politics.

From the outpouring of support for the APSC, it is clear that this doublespeak does not convince everyone. A broad alliance of Left, OBC, SC, and student groups arecurrently engaged in sustained direct action in solidarity with the embattled organization. And their efforts have borne fruit: on June 7th, the Director of IIT Madras reinstated the APSC. Most heartening, however, is theproliferation of new APSCs across Indian college campuses, a clear sign that student dissent is alive and well.

Ajantha Subramanian, Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University, is the author of Shorelines: Space and Rights in South India (2009) and most recently, “Making Merit: The Indian Institutes of Technology and the Social Life of Caste,” Comparative Studies in Society and History (2015).

Shatarup Ghosh

The busy streets of Mumbai came to a halt few days back as the last rite of Yakub Memon saw a major turn up of people. Though the identity of every single individual is not known to anybody, by looking at the pictures of the procession, one can easily make out that most of the people present there were Muslims by faith. Without even wasting a single a minute, the R.S.S. started circulating some of those pictures on social media, claiming it to be the ultimate proof of Muslims in general being ‘affectionate towards terrorists’. Shri. Tathagata Roy, veteran BJP leader of West Bengal and the present Governor of Tripura went ahead by not one, but quite a few steps to make a ridiculous comment that all of those attending Yakub Memon’s burial are ‘potential terrorists’. What the disciples of Nathuram Godse conveniently chose to forget was that this was not the first time that India saw people thronging the funeral of a condemned individual. Three years back, the same old streets of Mumbai saw flood of people grieving the death of Bal Thakrey, the man who orchestrated the killing of hundreds of people during the Mumbai Riot; the only difference being that three years back the colour of the procession was saffron.

But at that time not a single sane person thought or stated that the people who gathered in Bal Thakrey’s funeral could be ‘potential rioters’. Majority of the people who assembled then were the ones whose wrong beliefs and regressive consciousness had made Bal Thakrey appear as ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ to them. Disciples of Godse would always try to propagate these wrong beliefs. But the job of the left and progressive forces in the society is to try and fight the forces of regression to cultivate the culture of scientific values and ideas in the minds of people and in the society as a whole.

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his autobiography that while communalism of the minority is easy to be recognized, communalism of the majority can often take the camouflage of nationalism. And what we are seeing today in the events that are taking place surrounding the capital execution of Yakub Memon is the exercise of this very concept of aggressive nationalism.
There are many who believe that capital punishment is too primitive an idea to exist in modern human society. Several opine that Yakub Memon, not being the main conspirator in the bomb blast incident, did not desrve death penalty. Again, many including B. Raman, the former RAW officer who took Yukub Memon under custody, believe that since he surrendered and provided valuable information and evidence to the investigators, it should have been considered as mitigating circumstance to exempt him from capital punishment and be given life imprisonment instead . But one thing is clear. In case of Yakub Memon the debate was between death and imprisonment till death. The debate was never between death and acquittal. So to say that all those who are criticising the hanging are actually in favour of giving safe passage to terrorists, is a characterized effort by the saffron brigade to spread deliberate falsehood.
However, in spite of all the debates, what apparently remains true is that Yakub Memon was a man involved in terrorist activities. He was a participant in a heinous act of crime against humanity that killed hundreds of people. He was no holy soul on earth whose mortal remains has to be grieved upon by thousands of people. And here perhaps lies the most important of the questions that this entire episode has raised before us. Then why did we see what we saw? Why did the streets of Mumbai get flooded that day by thousands of people, who are as ordinary citizens of this country, as anyone else?

What we all know is that the Mumbai Bomb Blast in 1993 was a reaction to the infamous Mumbai Riots that happened in the previous year. And this is not a theory that has been put forward by the leftists or anyone else. Rather it is a specific conclusion that has been laid down in the report of Justice B. M. Srikrishna Commission that was formed by the Government of Maharashtra to investigate into the Serial Bomb Blast. However, the responsibility to show the reaction to the riots did not lie with Yakub Memon and his aides. What they did was an act of terrorism. The responsibility to react lies with the government. The responsibility of bringing the rioters to book lies with the judiciary. In one word, it is the duty of the state to prevent riot at every corner of the country and to ensure suitable punishment to all those who architect riots, irrespective of their religious identity.

23 years have passed since the banks of the Arabian Sea witnessed one of the worst communal violence of 20th century, where more than 900 people got killed and thousands injured, majority of them happening to be from the Muslim community. Today if someone who had lost his or her kin in the riot stands up and asks, how much longer he or she will have to wait to get justice; the answer doesn’t seem to be ready with the state.

And the question is not only of the personal emotion of someone who has been a direct victim in the riots. Outside that ambit, there remains a vast section of the population for whom uncertainty is created everyday by the series of events, as they unfold. When the demolisher of Babri Masjid becomes the Deputy Prime Minister of India, when the main perpetrator of Mumbai riots is given state funeral, when a person climbs up mounds of dead bodies in Gujarat to hoist the tri-colour from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the creation of this uncertainty becomes inevitable. That these people might ever get punished for their crimes seems to be a bizarre idea.

Within two years after the riots, BJP-Siv Sena alliance got elected to form the government in Maharashra, riding on their electoral promise to ‘safeguard the Hindus’. The first thing that they did after assuming office was to throw away the Srikrishna Commission report into the dustbin. The commission had recommended action to be taken against policemen whom they found guilty of facilitating the riots. Every such policeman was exempted by the government and some were given promotions as well! And Bal Thakrey, who was supposed to be landing of in jail for perpetrating riots, became the de facto chief minister and supreme controller of the government. And the survivors of the riots had nothing to do but to watch these developments with sigh of helplessness.

Justice B. M. Srikrishna, while commenting on the treatment of the riots and blasts cases in an interview published in the Indian Express on 1st August, ’15 has categorically stated that, “It is distressing that instead of being looked at as incidents of crimes, the two sets of acts got dealt with disparately depending on the communal inclinations of the state apparatus.”
It is natural for a person, who has directly or indirectly been affected in any incident of crime, to possess a subjective opinion about the nature of intervention of the state. But when someone who has been serving at the highest level of integral state machinery like the judiciary complains of “state bias”, it underlines the fact that something is horribly wrong with the way the system has been functioning.

A small piece of statistics might attest the apprehension raised by many like Justice Srikrishna on the role of the state. In the Mumbai Bomb Blast incident where 257 people got killed, 100 have been convicted and one has been served capital execution. And in the Mumbai riots where more than 900 people died, only 3have been convicted and the punishment ordered for the convicts was one year of imprisonment.

It is because of this one sided approach of the state that several people lose their faith in the system. Some get driven to believe that sooner or later they will be facing atrocities as well. No one is there to save them. And the state is not going to ensure them justice. From this disillusionment towards the system takes birth one kind of panic and insecurity that makes the Yakub Menons messiah in the eyes of some people. “The state did not punish those who killed my child. Rather, they were given gun salutes. May be the path that Yakub Memons took was wrong. But at least they had taken my revenge”. This way of thinking has devastating consequences for the society. But century old wrong beliefs on one hand and relentless build-up of fear and insecurity on the other hand shall force some people to think this way. So whether one likes it or not, if the role of the state characterise bias, the Yakub Memons will become ‘icon’ for some people in the society. The darkness on earth will get deeper.

   During general election of 2014, students of our country were hoping for a change in the policies at the centre because there was great anger against the UPA government’s policies during the last ten years. New government came to office on a high note and media was busy in projecting a new era in Indian History. Our prime Minister on various occasions in his vibrant and imaginary speeches also promised big changes. Gradually time has passed but nothing has changed on ground, apart from repetition of speeches and declarations. After this span of six months public of the country along with students’ community is facing the heat of the same anti-people policies like the UPA government which are being pursued with even greater pace by the BJP-led NDA.
   Our Prime minister is mostly busy in foreign visits and state elections. But even in his busy schedule whenever he finds time he attends parliament to introduce anti people polices. Generally he loves to do this through ordinance passed in cabinet without discussing it in the parliament. It suits their ideology as well as saves them from the discussions and questions of representatives of largest democracy of world. In the last six months there has not been any appreciable growth in GDP, problem of price hike remains unaddressed. BJP government has showed its commitment to foreign finance capital and cap on foreign direct investment has been increased in defence, insurance, health, while coal, railways and other sectors are on privatisation agenda as well. 
   BJP is busy to distract the attention of common public from these agendas through religious polarisation, issues like Love Jehad and Ghar Vapsi. In fact RSS lead BJP is creating such an environment throughout the country where people are not able to identify root cause of their sufferings. Leaving aside all present problems there is an emphasis to glorify our past. For this they are ready to rewrite history. To hide the weaknesses of our social composition, blame is given to the invaders or more precisely to other religions. This is the reason when RSS family is championing the idea that root cause of sufferings of the dalits in India is the miuslim invaders in our past. Otherwise it is known fact that this saffron brigade is very much committed to the Chatur Varna and Manu Samriti. 
   In the education sector also BJP government is pursuing the same agenda of commercialisation. But more dangerously central government is also taking agenda of communalisation of education very seriously. 
 
State of education 
Enrolment levels are high in primary education covered under Right to Education (i.e. 6 to 14 years), but there is high dropout. 15.9% of boys and 17.3% of girls of age 15 to 16 year olds are currently out of school. 27% students drop out after V, and 41% drop out after VIII. According to the official census of 2011, 8 Crore children are out of school. 
   Students who are going to school even those can’t be said to in the right track of educating themselves. This is reflected buy the achievement level of students revealed in ‘The Annual Status on education Report 2014’ of NGO Pratham. According to ASER in 2014, in class III, only a fourth of all children can read a class II text fluently. This number rises to just under half in class V. Even in Standard VIII, close to 75% children can read class II level text (which implies that 25% still cannot).
   For maths also in 2014, at 25.3% of class III children could do a two digit subtraction.  For Standard V children, the ability to do division is 26.1% in 2014. The percentage of children in class II who still cannot recognize numbers up to 9 has increased over time, from 11.3% in 2009 to 19.5% in 2014. In 2014, about 25% of children enrolled in Std V could read simple English sentences. This number is virtually unchanged since 2009. Std VIII could read simple sentences in English (2014,) this figure is 46.8%.
In higher studies Gross enrolment rate is 20.7%. The GER for males (22.1) is higher than GER for females (19.4), resulting in the gender parity index (GPI) of 0.88. There are a total of 687 universities across the country, with state public universities constituting the highest share (44.5%). Out of this 344 are general universities (55.4% of total), 88 technical universities (14.2%), 68 other universities (11.1%), 38 agricultural universities (6.1%), 29 medical universities (4.7%) and 18 law universities (2.9%) with all other universities comprising (5.6%). India has a total of 34,852 colleges (7.7%). Apart from this there are 11,157 stand-alone institutions. Stand-alone Institutions are those that are outside the purview of the university & college and they require recognition from one or other statutory bodies. As can be inferred, the highest share of enrolment (81.7%) is at under-graduate level, followed by post-graduate (9.1%) and Diploma (7.6%), with all other levels forming only 1.6%.
   If we analyse this enrolment in relation to our social structure we will find a different picture. Females are 48.5% of the population of India but their enrolment as student is only 44.6%. The GER of SCs is 12.2% which are having 19.9% share of population and STs is 4.5% having 8.6% share of population. Same trend is seen for OBC and Muslim minorities, OBC’s are 42.3% of population having 30.1% of enrolment and Muslims are 12.9% of population having 7.0% of enrolment as student. Not only in enrolment as students but as faculty and non teaching staff, these social differences are reflected. Females are only 39.0% of teaching and 26.8% of non teaching staff (48.5% of population). SC’s have 6.9% of teaching and 12.4% of non teaching staff. ST’s have 2% of teaching and 3.5 % of non teaching staff. Muslims are 3.1% of teaching and 3.2 % of non teaching staff (Annual Status of Higher Education of states and UT’s in India, 2014). 
 
New Education Policy of BJP
   Our MHRD minister is continuously campaigning for new education policy. But till now there has been no discussion on the form and structure of this new education policy. May be it is being planned in closed doors under the chairmanship of Dina Nath Batra. But primary indications are conveying that this so called New Education Policy will only be the extension of old agenda of privatisation adding a fresh flavour of saffronisation. After the withdrawal of Four Year Under graduation Programme in Delhi University with active involvement of UGC and MHRD, there were impression that long struggle of students and teachers of Delhi University will be successful. Next step this process was the removal of Vice Chancellor of Delhi University as enough proves were provided to UGC and MHRD about his financial and administrative corruption along with his undemocratic style of functioning. But quite amazingly VC has managed the ministry by pleasing RSS persons through various social functions, where these RSS functionary were invited as guests. Also it looks like VC has given commitment to implement the agenda of safronisation of education. 
   MHRD has taken a U turn on his position and has issued a notice to universities to strengthen semester system and to implement ‘Choice Based Credit System’. This CBCS is nothing but the blue print of the provisions of FYUP to be completed in three years. This reflects the commitment of this government to the same agenda and withdrawal of FYUP only a political stunt. The CBCS is only a cafeteria-approach based system which is designed facilitates “seamless student-mobility” between courses and universities. It is identical in its course structure to the FYUP (repeat pattern of Foundation, Core and Elective Courses), except the fourth year. It will lead to continuous fluctuation and flux in workload, particularly in light of the fact that there is no proposal to change the rigid workload norms for creating teaching posts. Basically this system is designed on the basis of American system which runs on students’ loan and on the shoulders of add-on professors (contractual). This is only to woo and facilitate the foreign institution in India. 
RUSA
   Any discussion education is not complete without the mush problematic campaign ‘RUSA’. There is much discussion on the provisions of RUSA. But the experience of its implementation has proved our concerns. In the states where it is fully implemented like Himachal Pradesh and Assam, there a colossal discontentment is there in student and teaching faculty. whole of the education process right from class room teaching to evaluation of examination is in pathetic condition. In Himachal Pradesh students have been awarded scores of 70% without even appearing in the exams. There are gross irregularities. Numbers of teaching hours have drastically reduced. There is very less time for co curricular activities like sports, culture, NCC and NSS. We have already witnesses a broad based and very strong opposition to this scheme. But BJP government is not ready to take any lessons and is on the same way of last central government. Implementation of CBCS is also a step in this direction. 
 
Commercialisation of education
   Indian education system is already over commercialised, which is having adverse impact on the reach of students from poor and middle class. An important step for commercialisation of education was taken by the last NDA government when in 2004, just before its electoral defeat, the BJP-led coalition compromised a constitutional right and offered education as a consumable commodity to the World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade and Tariff process, thereby drastically diluting the state’s responsibility in education and opening the door to privatisation. 
   Presently contrary to the general belief our education system is running by the private players whose motive is only to cater degrees and earn profits. There is rampant privatisation of education in India which is replacing the government education system. It is quite deliberate on the part of successive governments which provided favourable environment to flourish these private players and extract huge amounts from the students. Even after the implementation of Right to Education through long struggles the pace of privatisation is on increase. This private education is not only commercial but also unequal as private schools never follows the norms of social justice. This privatisation is on continuous rise. In the year 2005 there were 17% private school in rural India. This percentage rouse up to 27% in 2013 and this number has reached to 30.8% in 2014. Percentage of girls and boys clearly conveys the impact of privatisation of education on girls. In 2014, in the age group 7-10 years, 35.6% of boys are enrolled in private schools as compared with 27.7% of girls. For the age group of 11-14 years, 33.5% of boys are in private schools as compared to 25.9% of girls.
   The pace of privatisation is more rapid in the area of higher studies. More than half of the students’ enrolled in higher education today are under private educational institutions. 66% of students in general education and 75-80% in technical education are enrolled in private, self-financing institutions (Planning Commission document, 2013). These institutions are taking huge fees from the students apparently students from the backward and poor sections are not able to access these institution. These private institutions either in primary sector or higher education are not ready to implement the provisions of social justice like reservation. There is no control over the admission process and fee structure by the governments. Recently in Delhi NCR, court has given freedom to schools to decide their admission parameters. There is a provision of admission of economically backward candidates in these schools but it has become another way for money making. Most of the seats are vacant in the schools. 
   Commercialization of education has already led to huge distortions in the educational landscape, both social as well as spatial. Education priorities cannot be left to vagaries of market forces. Commercialization entails that quality education becomes synonymous with affordability. The goals of equity and inclusion, the fundamental pillars of policy making in any democracy, might be the first casualties if unbridled profit making is instituted as a norm for the educational institutions in the private sector.
   This is a very dangerous condition in a social welfare state where through different committees it is suggested that fee hike should not be there but at the same time it is there. One of such recommendation came from Kothari Commission. It stated, “It is undesirable to regard fees as a source of revenue. They are the most regressive form of taxation; fall more heavily on the poorer classes of society and act as an anti-egalitarian force.” 
Private education widens inequalities not only in education, but also in economic and social spheres. After all, no private institution in India will be ready to promote equity on a satisfactory level, grant access to the weaker section, or provide liberal scholarships. Education loans have replaced scholarships in policy discourses on higher education. It is argued that even needy students need not be given scholarships; instead, they can be asked to go for education loans. 
Communalisation of education
   Communalisation of education for communalising the whole society is an integral part of the New Education Policy of Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani as introduced by her in a symposium titled 'Restructuring of our education system with Bharatiya perspective of values' in Hyderabad. According to her Indian education policy is not relevant in present time so “a new education policy is required to build a resurgent nation which would be stronger, resilient and humane”. This new education policy is much inspired by the ideological source of RSS i.e. Hitler who believed in the phrase 'catch them young'. The Nazis lead by Hitler also had done similar experiments with education system and had changed the entire educational syllabus to pursue their agenda of racial hatred and Aryan supremacy. 
   If we analyse the developments of last six months this intension of RSS/BJP becomes clear. Much has been discussed about the political commitment of BJP to this agenda and acceptance by BJP leaders in open and even in parliament. 
 
   Using education to corrupt the future generations is an art that Hitler had perfected with the phrase, 'catch them young'. The Nazis had changed the entire educational syllabus to pursue their agenda of racial hatred and Aryan supremacy. It is the same phrase and similar ideology that inspires RSS and BJP to use education as a tool to indoctrinate the young minds with communal venom. Leaders of the BJP are on record announcing their intention to change the textbooks and syllabus. Special incharge for this project is Dinanath Batra, National President of the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN). We are not discussing here Batra’s views and content of books written by him which are presenting a whole new science and history in front of students with a specific communal agenda.  
   In the last NDA government these kinds of efforts were also there. But present BJP government is much more aggressive and staunch. Because presently Prime Minister is heading the comparing and teaching new science not only to general public but also to the topmost doctors and scientists of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a group of scientists in Mumbai, claimed that organ transplantation was known in ancient India-he gave Ganesha with his elephant head and human torso as an example. Surprisingly nobody was there to resist the statement. Second example is of 102nd Indian Science Congress in Mumbai, in front of top most scientists in a symposium on “Ancient Sciences through Sanskrit” he said that India had jumbo aircraft that flew between continents and planets 9,000 years ago (some 4,500 years before Harappa and Mohen Jodaro). Message is very clear, when scientific fraternity can’t resist all this rubbish, a new science will be taught to young minds which will gradually convert them into a creature without any rational content and a mere follower, ready weapon for religious war. 
 
Budget
   Education is not priority for any government at centre whether it UPA or present BJP government. That is reflected by the by the allocation for education in the successive central and state budgets.  The 10% budgetary allocation and 6% of GDP expenditure on education continues to remain an elusive dream and tall claims of expansion in terms of numbers fall flat when we see the actual allocations, which have remained more or less stagnant in the absolute monetary terms. 
   Same trend is also followed by the Modi led BJP government in their first general budget.  The UGC has borne the brunt of a serious assault by the government with a drastic 32% cut even in absolute terms. Even after adding the allocation for the Rashtriya Uchcha Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) (a problematic scheme in itself) along with the allocation for the UGC, the fund cut amounts to nearly 5% in real terms. Technical education has suffered a 12% fund cut in real terms. Science education and research would suffer as the allocation for the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research has been cut by 15%. The direct result of such fund cuts will be the deterioration in the quality of public education in the country, and can be seen only as a precursor to further commercialisation and privatisation of education, thus rendering education inaccessible to the vast majority of students in the country.  Even in the revised budget estimates for year 14-15 government has reduced the funds on higher education to the extent of Rs. 3900 crore. 
   Per student public expenditure on higher education in nominal terms has increased in the post-independence period but the real expenditure has registered a negative growth for the period from 1990-91 to 2002-03. States such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa show consistent increase in expenditure, while Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh show declining expenditure. 
 
Democratic rights and Lyngdoh
   Political activism of students will always remain an essential part of a healthy university. University administrations should actively encourage student participation in university affairs. University faculties need to do more to cultivate critical and heretical ideas about the world we live in. And students need to participate actively in asserting their critical role in the university.
   Democratic rights of the students in the campuses are facing a very serious threat with the onset of the neo-liberal era. The Birla Ambani Report (2000) and the proposed Model Act for Universities during the tenure of the BJP-led NDA government viewed students’ unions as an impediment in the path of implementing the privatisation and commercialisation agenda. In the name of preserving the academic ethos, they took a stand against elections. Due to widespread opposition, both these initiatives were eventually dropped.
   Lyngdoh committee, in its report submitted on May 23, 2006 upheld the right of student organisations to work freely among students. It advised flexibility in the conduct of elections to students’ unions as per the requirements of different campuses. In fact, the Lyngdoh committee made it mandatory for all educational institutions, including private ones, to hold students’ union elections in some form or the other.
   However, most educational institutions in our country continue to ignore these basic recommendations of the Lyngdoh committee. Even at the stage of preparing its report, the committee anticipated this problem. It felt that certain state governments prohibit political activity or students’ union elections and that it would “be prudent for the central government and/or the Hon’ble Supreme Court to lead the way in the matter, and to impress upon the concerned state governments the need for a healthy student democracy, and, consequently, the need to amend any prohibitory statutes that may be in place.” Unfortunately, no proactive measure has been undertaken by the judiciary or the central government against the violation of this basic recommendation. Student union elections are currently held in only few states and 10 central Universities. Recently elections in Himachal Pradesh University and affiliated colleges have been banned. Erosion of the democratic rights of teachers and students has become an indispensable part of the neo-liberal assault on public education. We have to take this issue of democracy seriously in university centres. There is also a need to review the recommendations of Lyngdoh committee itself. 
   This is the burning situation of Indian education system which is n more deteriorating in the BJP regime. Being a responsible students’ organisation it’s our responsible to take the challenge and organise students against these policies to wage a strong struggle. Keeping this in mind Central Committee of Students’ Federation of India will be organising a national protest on 26ht February at Parliament with a slogan “Combat commercialisation and Communalisation of education- Intensify Struggles”. 
 
Vikram Singh 

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