Thursday, 02 February 2023

   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. 
   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. 
   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