Close on the heels of Delhi’s Ramjas College, Savitribai Phule Pune University campus became the site of ABVP hooliganism last week. Students Federation of India (SFI) activists were attacked by ABVP goons on February 24 night inside the campus while putting up posters of a protest programme. Nasir Sheikh, PhD student and President of SFI’s Pune University unit, Sandeep Marbhal, MA student and Secretary of the unit, two other PhD students Satish Gore and Satish Padalkar and an MPhil student Satish Debade were brutally beaten. What is more, the injured SFI leaders were taken to police custody and a case slapped against them! The local police connived with ruling party elements to misrepresent the incident as a case of ‘clash’ between two student organizations but the truth is that it was a premeditated act of violence by ABVP. Apart from Ramjas college incident, BJP legislator Prashant Paricharak’s controversial comments in Solapur insulting wives of Army men, Education Minister Vinod Tawde threatening Polytechnic students and recent attack by ABVP on some Dalit students in Aurangabad university had caused much churning among Pune university students. The SFI was campaigning among the students on all these issues and had called for a protest demonstration inside the campus. It was certain that ABVP would be doomed in the campus if a democratic climate of open debate and freedom of assembly prevailed. That is why ABVP resorted to muscle power in Pune University.
But the violence that they unleashed has only galvanized the student and youth in a widening resistance against ABVP’s muscle flexing. On February 27, hundreds of students assembled in a protest demonstration organized by SFI in front of University gate denouncing ABVP violence, mischievous Police intervention and undemocratic stance of University authorities. Youth volunteers from Pune city under DYFI banner joined them. The police who sought to thwart the demonstration initially had to back out when the number of protesters swelled to many hundreds. SFI Central Secretariat member Datta Chavan, State President Mohan Jadhav, University Unit president Nasir Sheikh and DYFI Pune District President Jnaneswar Mote addressed the protest meeting. Later the leaders met the Vice Chancellor demanding strict action against ABVP goons and instituting democratic student life in the campus.
On the same day, students and youth under the leadership of SFI and DYFI came out on the streets in several towns across Maharashtra shouting slogans against ABVP, BJP and RSS, singing songs in protest and burning effigies. Demonstrations were held in Junnar, Karad, Jalgaon, Dindori, Solapur, Beed, Nanded University, Parbhani, Amravati city, Nandgaon Khandeshwar and many other places.
In Mumbai, renowned film maker Anand Patwardhan, AIDWA national General Secretary Mariam Dhawale, Firoz Mithibhorwala of ‘Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy’, CPI(M) leaders Ashok Dhawale and Shailendra Kamble and many other eminent citizens joined the student and youth protesters. Addressing the youth and students, Anand Patwardhan outlined the track record of ABVP, another arm of RSS which was formed when RSS was banned after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. They are now roaming around terrorizing students and teachers. Patwardhan said ABVP does not have any patriotic legacy, instead they have inherited the legacy of Savarkar who begged for mercy from British imperialism. Mariam Dhawale said the despicable reaction to Gurmehar Kaur is just an indication of pathological patriarchal mindset of ABVP and the entire Sangh Parivar. She said the government has nothing to offer to millions of people facing starvation and malnutrition but the ruling Party dictates what to eat, what to wear and whom to marry. Dr. Ashok Dhawle said that after BJP came to power in 2014, the liberal and democratic space in campuses have shrunk alarmingly in the country. The tragic experience of Rohith Vemula, the attack on JNU students, disappearance of Najeeb and the spate of incidents involving the ABVP at universities in Pune, Delhi, JNU, Allahabad Jadhavpur and other Universities demonstrate the intensity of attack on democracy in campuses. ABVP is spearheading this assault but it is no secret that it is acting under patronage of BJP government, he said.
It is a fact that majoritarian communal forces dominate politics and social life in Maharashtra today. But the way hundreds of students of Pune University courageously rallied against the attack on SFI leaders and the protests that occurred in various towns showed that resistance against rightwing authoritarianism is gathering momentum in the state.
Call it a ‘February Recurrence’ or another of the systematically planned attacks on University spaces by the right wing, the events that unfurled on the 21st of February at Ramjas College of Delhi University was yet again a brazen attack on the underlying democratic principles of a University-freedom of speech, debate and dissent. After JNU and HCU it was DU’s turn to witness the curbing of free spaces that are open to multiple voices.
It all began with the Ramjas English Department and the Ramjas literary society organizing a two-day seminar on the topic ‘Cultures of Protest: A Seminar Exploring Representations of Dissent’. Umar Khalid, a PhD scholar from JNU who was earlier labeled as ‘anti-national’ by the right-wing, was invited to deliver a talk on Adivasi rights along with Sanjay Kak and Bimol Akoijam. This led to protests by ABVP, following which the principal of Ramjas withdrew the permission for Khalid’s talk. The organisers of the event decided to continue the discussion without Khalid. What followed then was a shocking display of hooliganism by the ABVP goons who disrupted the event using violent means like stone pelting and breaking of glass panes of the seminar hall. The police force present there to ensure the smooth conduct of events proved to be a sham since they did little to stop the ABVP goons who were attacking the students and teachers, and instead evicted the people present in the seminar hall.
The events that transpired on the second day in the university were a firsthand experience of fascism for many students. The biased state machinery heavily cracked down on the students who were protesting against ABVP hooliganism. The professors, students and media persons were brutally attacked by the ABVP goons who were holding the tricolor on the one hand and were pelting stones, bricks, bottles and eggs with the other. The ABVP-Police nexus was clearly visible in the manner the police dealt with them, where the ABVP goons were practically “allowed” to climb on top of the the police van and threaten the protestors. An emergency-like situation prevailed in the campus that evening with the saffron brigade doing rounds of the university and thrashing people whom they’ve sketched during the protest. Female students who received rape threats both publicly and privately moved to safer places out of fear of being attacked. Isolated incidents of thrashing were reported unofficially. The students were forced to flee from their own PGs and hostels because rumours of the saffron brigade checking hostels and PGs were being circulated. Heavy police force along with CISF was deployed in the university.
A peaceful protest in front of the Delhi Police Head Quarters followed the next day, condemning the Delhi Police’s inaction during the protest and also their refusal to file an FIR against ABVP. The copy of the FIR filed by the police reported the whole incident as a “clash” between two parties, “with the rightists on the right side and leftists on the left side”. The fact that it was an assault on common students and professors by the ABVP goons was overturned by this narrative. From all this, one can be sure about a thing - Universities that open up spaces of debate, dissent and alternative discourse make the fascist state feel insecure and will in turn create extra-judicial situations, with paid media and state machinery for its aid.
The social media has surprisingly taken up this issue very well with twitter and facebook handles like #FightBackDu and #StudentsAgainstABVP going viral. Student community all across the country has extended support to DU and a mass profile picture campaign was also launched. The students shall hopefully struggle against the fascist forces and would reclaim university spaces. DU awaits redemption from hooliganisam and corrupt forces and together we shall move towards a progressive learning environment tha would encourage free thought, debate and dissent.
(Aparna is a B.A Honours student of Miranda House, University of Delhi)
Modi government has completed two and half years. The promise of ‘achhe din’ has vanished long ago and instead of that, we are seeing an all-out attack on life and livelihoods of common people. Students and youth had voted in large numbers for BJP in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 with the hope that it will provide relief from the unrelenting miseries imposed by the Congress rule. However, the experience of these two and half years has proved to be contrary. This government has relegated education and Employment- the 2 prime agendas of the students in this country.
We have witnessed during last couple of years an unrelenting authoritarian assaults on the campuses and students in the wake of the imposition of RSS’ agenda of Hindutva. This has also been period of growing struggles and resistance, with student movement emerging as a catalyst in the movement against authoritarianism. However, what have gone largely unnoticed is the increasing economic attacks on students.
Attacks on education:
The successive central governments of India have been demonstrating its stanch commitment to private capital and its neoliberal offensive. Present government is strictly implementing these neoliberal policies in the field of education which is weakening the hard earned public education system of India. These developments are nothing to be surprised at because they are part of the global campaign of the neoliberal capital. The impact of these policies is visible in rampant growth of private education institutions both at the level of primary and higher education. Due to commercialisation of education is becoming costly and more students are compelled to leave their education. On the other hand this impact is visible in poor condition of our education system and low achievement level of students.
According to the latest ASER report of Prathan organisation the overall enrolment in schools is 96.9% in 2016. However, in some states, the fraction of out of school children (age 6-14) has increased between 2014 and 2016. These include Madhya Pradesh (from 3.4% to 4.4%), Chhattisgarh (from 2% to 2.8%), and Uttar Pradesh (from 4.9% to 5.3%). In some states the proportion of girls (age group 11-14) out of school remains greater than 8%. These states are Rajasthan (9.7%) and Uttar Pradesh (9.9%). Joining them in 2016 is Madhya Pradesh (8.5%).
Nationally, the proportion of children in Standard III who are able to read at least Standard I level text is 42.5% in 2016. Nationally, reading levels in Standard VIII show a slight decline since 2014 (from 74.7% to 73.1%). In 2016, for the country only 27.7% of Standard III children could do a 2-digit subtraction. From 2014 to 2016, for class V children, the level of arithmetic as measured by children's ability to do simple division problems has remained almost the same at 26%. However, the ability to do division among Standard VIII students has continued to drop. This declining trend has been observed since 2010. The proportion of Standard VIII students who could correctly do a 3-digit by 1-digit division problem was 68.4% in 2010. This number dropped to 44.2% in 2014, and has further declined to 43.3% in 2016. In 2016, 32% children in Standard III could read simple words in English. In comparison, in 2016, 24.5% of children enrolled in Std V could read simple English sentences. This number is virtually unchanged since 2009. However, the decline in upper primary grades continues. For example, in 2009, 60.2% of children in Standard VIII could read simple sentences in English; in 2014, this figure was 46.7% and in 2016 this ability has further declined to 45.2%. In 2016, of those who can read words (regardless of grade), roughly 60% could explain the meanings of the words read. Of those who can read sentences, 62.4% in Std V could explain the meaning of the sentences. Both these levels are virtually unchanged since 2014.
The main reason for this low level of achievement of students in schools is the huge number of vacant posts in the educational institutions and poor infrastructure. We have a shortage of trained teachers as well as training institutes. There are 6 lakh posts of teachers vacant under the SSA. Even in the KVs, 7698 out of 44,529 sanctioned teaching posts are vacant; so are 50 per cent of positions in teacher-training institutions. The picture is even worse in higher education: Universities (both state and central), IITs, NITs, IIMs, are all suffering crippling shortages of teachers. According to the Government records the institutes of higher learning under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) face a faculty shortage to an extent of 35%. Even the top institutions of higher education are facing faculty crunch, IITs have 39% vacancies and Central Universities follow with 38% vacancies. In all the central universities 1,277 positions for the post of professor (or 53% of the total sanctioned positions); 2,173 for associate professor (46%); and 2,478 for assistant professor (26%) are vacant. Even Delhi University (DU), some 60% of faculty positions at the university are vacant. The situation of state universities and colleges affiliated to them is worst and beyond imaginations.
Government is continuously bringing various notifications through UGC and MHRD which is bringing education more towards central list undermining the rights of the states. Central University Act, NEET, RUSA, Central Syllabus etc. are such efforts which are aimed to have more central control on education. We can clearly see increasing thrust of centralization with the proposal of a separate testing agency to take all entrance exams in the country; while the existing bodies such CBSE, AICTE etc will be asked to focus on academics only.
BJP government is pushing its Hindutva agenda in education sector especially through the changes in text books. These changes range from distortion of historical facts to teaching of pseudoscience. Various attempts are there to give text books a colour of Hindutva. Numerous appointments are there of heads of different universities, educational and research institutes, who are vigorously implementing the agenda of RSS. This is the most dangerous aspects of the plans of Hindutva Brigade. They want to convert education institutions the centre of training the minds of future generation to think, visualise and comprehend India as Hindu Rashtra, centres where minds will be trained to hate people from other communities, to establish so called supremacy of one religion against the pluralistic character of real India of People from diverse cultures, castes, regions, languages etc.
Apathy of government towards public education can also be witnessed in the budgetary allocations and promises made in the education sector. While the education sector today requires massive expansion to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend, the present approach of this government will only lead to worsening of the quality in all spheres of education. India has decreased its spending on education from 4.4 percent of GDP in 1999 to around 3.71 percent, undermining the work done in getting more children into school, and its prospects for improving its poor quality of education. “Most of the developed world, having a more mature education system then India and higher levels of GDP are even today spending around 4.5 to 6 of GDP on education sector, realizing the benefit the education sector has on society, but in India, despite the massive demand-supply gap in the quality of education, still has not been able to reach those levels.
Education sector has seen remarkable reduction of budgetary allocations during the Modi regime. This downward spiral started from the first budget itself, which the Modi government presented. For the Dept. of School Education & Literacy, Modi Sarkar spent Rs.45722 crore in 2014-15, down by Rs.1134 crore over the previous year (UPA’s last year). Then in 2015-16 Rs.42187 is estimated to have been spent (revised estimates), further down by Rs.3535 crore and in 2016-17 budgeted allocation, the govt. has allocated Rs.43554 crore, up by about Rs.1367 crore over the previous year.
Story of the 2017-18 is same. One more important aspect of this year’s budget has been the decision to do away with the classification of plan and non-plan expenditure. This is in line with the government’s decision to dismantle the Planning Commission and replacing the Five-Year Plan mechanism by a medium to long-term planning system under the NITI Aayog. Apart from a more aggressive push towards market reforms, this move also means that this year’s budgetary allocations can’t be compared with the last year’s allocations.
While the fiscal deficit for the financial year 2016-17 was 3.2% of GDP, in the same year the tax forgone was a massive 3.18 lakh crore that is equal to 2.1% of the GDP. The social sector spending including that on education can be increased by reducing the concessions to the corporates and big businesses. Clearly during last three years government is pushing the agenda of triple ‘C’ in education system i.e. Commercialisation, centralisation and communalisation of education.
STATE OF DEMOCRACY IN CAMPUSES:
Basic ideology of BJP and RSS is against any kind of democratic process. This is visible in the functioning of the central government. This government takes most of its decisions through ordinance only and very less time is spent in parliament debates. Our Prime Minister and other central minister are not keen to participate in the parliament debates. Our vocal Prime Minister, who is known for his rhetoric speeches, always escapes when it comes to speak on relevant issues in the parliament. Even when he speaks, speaks like as he is speaking in election public meeting. Most of the sessions of the parliament are failed to do public business demanding presence of Prime Minister during important debates. We have witnessed, just before the every Parliament session government will take some controversial move and there will be deadlock in the house. It looks like these are deliberate efforts by the government to avoid the discussion and decisions on real issue of common man in house. Same is the practice of state governments which have BJP governments.
BJP government is adopting the same understanding in the educational institutions. There is an all round attack on the education institutions especially university centres. Our campuses are being converted into police stations in the name of providing security. UGC through notification have asked all the universities to establish police station inside the campus along with various other anti democratic measures. The real aim of all these steps is to control the student politics. This government do not like any dissent or question from any section of the society. Education teaches us to ask rational questions. Naturally students become the first target of this government because they raise their voice against any wrong policy of the government. Instead of addressing the genuine issues raised by the students, central government and MHRD is attacking the democratic culture of the campuses. Even students are being arrested for critical facebook posts. There are planned conspiracies in various universities to attack the democratic spaces of campuses and in all these incidents ABVP was a close ally of the government and administration. We have witnessed these types of attacks in IIT Chennai, FTII Mumbai, HCU, JNU etc.
There are physical attacks as well as ideological attacks in campuses by BJP government. In the name of love for nation and nationalism all sort of discontent are considered as antinational. There is a kind of environment in which either you are on government side or will be declared anti national. Autonomy of all the universities is in danger as autonomous decision taking bodies of the university are under scanner. Vice chancellors who are appointed by their political patrons are undermining the democratic meetings and even by passing the meetings. Typical example is academic council meetings of JNU, where vice chancellor in trying to dictate his opinion and taking decisions unilaterally despite of strong resistance by other faculty members. If this can happen in JNU, situation of other campuses can be imagined.
Student union elections are not being conducted in most of the campuses. Where elections are conducted, elected unions are not invited in policy making decision process. Administration of the educational institutions does not listen to the issues raised by the unions. Union leaders are met with various false cases and are being victimised. This attack on the democracy in campuses is lead and monitored by the Government Ministers who are preaching students to not involve in students politics in public meetings and through media.
The incidences of suicides have increased in educational institutions inside the campuses which reflect the anti democratic environment of the campuses. In most of the campuses administration is found directly involved in creating such conditions. In HCU there was a direct involvement of Vice chancellor and other government ministers to create such an environment which forced Rohit Vemula to end his life. In Nehru College of Trishur district of chairperson and vice principal are charged with direct involvement for suicide of Jishnu Pranoy and booked in police charge sheet. Girls are not safe in the education institutions. There are incidences of sexual harassment, rape and murder of girl students in campuses.
Our central government is trying to convert our education institutions into Gurukuls of their ideology having no space for democracy, where students will be converted into blind followers who will not question the caste or Varna system and will follow the dictates of the ruling class.
ATTCKS ON SOCIAL JUSTICE:
Education is widely recognised as a potent tool for the “socioeconomic mobility” of the vulnerable sections of the economy. But our central governments seems to forget this fact and is implementing the policies which adversely affecting the students coming from socially deprived sections. Prime indication of government priority is allocation in budget. This year (2017-18) the budgetary outlay for SCs and STs are 2.4% and 1.2% of the total outlay respectively, both of which are far less than their share in population. Similarly the gender budget spending is merely 5.3% of the outlay, which again is far less than the prescribed 30%.
These budget cuts have had direct impact on the students from the marginalized sections. In the last two years, we have seen steep fee hikes in numerous government institutions. The fees for the B.Tech courses in the IITs have been increased from Rs.90000 per annum to Rs.2 lakh per annum. The application fees for the CSIR-NET examinations saw a massive increase of 250%. It is not possible for the students from the socially deprived sections to pay these huge amounts of fees hence most of them are forced to leave education.
“I have to get seven months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that”, wrote Rohith Vemula in his suicide note. This is only a reflection of how the delays in government-sponsored scholarships drive the students from Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (SC/ST) communities into desperation. Fellowship schemes like Rajiv Gandhi National fellowship, Maulana Azad National fellowship, CSIR-JRF and UGC-JRF are the only means by which hundreds of students from socio-economically deprived backgrounds are able to continue their higher studies. Many such students have to send a significant portion of their fellowships back home also. But, over the last two years, the budget cut has translated into delays up to eight-nine months in the disbursal of the fellowships.
The students from socially backward sections are facing hard environment during this regime of BJP government. There are numerous incidents of caste based violence and brutal attacks on dalits and tribals in India during last two years. The incidence of Una, Gujarat is only one of its kinds. Same is the situation of our campuses. 19 students belonging to the dalit, advivasi and minority sections have committed suicides in our higher educational institutions in the last five years. The nationwide protests following Rohith’s death brought to fore this harsh truth that students from the marginalized communities have to face in our campuses. It is in this backdrop that the demand for a comprehensive legislation against the caste based discrimination in educational institutions has been repeatedly made.
STRUGGLE FOR PRO-STUDENT EDUCATION POLICY
It needs no reiteration that educational institutions today have become sites of neoliberal planning and execution of its business game plan. Privatisation has been on anvil for quite some time now and it is justified by the argument that it improves the quality of education and enhances the efficiency of teachers as well as students. This phenomenon is visible in the way the spread of private educational institutions has been happening.
The recent notification of UGC on the MPhil/PhD admission which was published in the gazette on 5th May, 2016 shows the direction in which this government is moving. This shows that government is avoiding the debate on education policy but is already implementing its vision in parts. The disastrous impact of this notification on the social justice, autonomy and inclusive nature of the universities is already in front of all of us in case of JNU. This UGC notification far from being a “guideline” is in effect a “straightjacket” with rigid examination criteria, admission rules and the criteria for the eligibility of research supervision. We are opposed to this understanding of privatised and commercialised education. Over the years this vision has failed to fulfil the requirements of the public of India. India needs a strong public sphere of education. Students community is demanding control and check on these private institutions. We were hoping that proposed new education Policy of BJP government will deal with this crucial need of ours. In fact, there is no proposed mechanism to monitor and check the private institutions. The student community is demanding for long to bring a central legislation to monitor the admission process and fee structure of private institutions but there is no mention of such provision in the draft.
Much has been written about new education policy. This new education policy is nothing but only a new document advocating the commercialisation, centralisation and communalisation of education. Fully undermining our social needs this NEP is new exclusion policy.
Students of the country are in struggle for a pro student education policy focussed to address the needs and requirements of the Indian education system. This education policy can only be evolved by the active participation of teachers, academicians and students but not by the dictates of Nagpur.
Under this scenario students of India are in struggle in different campuses of the nation. For last two years we have seen militant struggle on all these aspects against fee hike, to have state control on private institutions, for social justice, in defence of democracy. Students’ Federation of India is in forefront of all these struggles. On 3rd March thousands of the students will be marching to Delhi against the attacks on education, Democracy and social justice and for a pro-student Education Policy.
This March is happening not only against the RSS-BJP’s assaults on the autonomy, democracy, education and employment. It is to reassert the alternative vision of education for a better India. At a time when the Hindutva combine is attacking the very foundations of our education system to further its ideological agenda, it becomes very important that we build a movement with a positive agenda.
This year’s union budget has been presented in the backdrop of intensified economic crisis due to the disastrous demonetization, which was nothing but a ploy to increase the liquidity in the banks that were on the brink of collapse due to the massively piled NPAs by the big businesses. The economic survey as well the budget speech was an exercise in self-deception, which was not ready to come to terms with this concrete reality.
However, if we assess the budget from the perspective of the students and the education, then it becomes clear that it is not a priority area for the government. The superficiality of allocation under various heads gives way to sheer neglect when a closer examination is made. The speech had nothing on funds for schemes such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (for universal elementary education) or the mid-day meal scheme, which despite the problems in their implementation are crucial in our efforts to fully utilize the demographic dividend. There was no word on pre-primary or secondary education or training of teachers either. Neither the UPA, nor the NDA has made any preparations to handle the increase in enrollment in secondary schools due to the growth in the number of students after the Right to Education Act, 2009 was implemented. The neglect is seen in the nominal increase in the allocations made to the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan (RMSA). In fact, SSA, RSMA and Rashtriya Uchhtar Shiksha Abhiyaan (RUSA) were presented by our policy planners as three interlinked schemes which will work to make our education system more inclusive and help create trained labour force to increase the competiveness in the global knowledge economy. However, the actual outcomes & approach goes completely against the lofty goals.
Institution/HeadAllocation in 2016-17 ( in crores)Allocation in 2017-18 ( in crores)
For New IITs190350
Total Grant of IITs53887856
Total Grant of IIMs8571030
Total Grant of NITs28743440
Total Grant of NIITs228379
Assistance to states for implementation of 7th CPC recommendations1400700
SERB (Scientific and Engineering Research Board)767800
(All figures based on data from indiabudget.nic.in)
Neglect of non-professional courses
As the figures cited above suggests, this year’s budget has been marred by the apathy towards the non-professional courses, which has been a continuing trend by successive governments ever since the market conservatism was pushed in education following the National Policy on Education (NPE) of 1986. Even though the budget speech talks about emphasis on the ‘pure sciences’, the actual figures tell something else. In our country, the allocations for scientific and applied research are made through Department of Science and Technology (DS&T) and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), apartment from the allocations made under the MHRD. If we see the allocations figures and take the inflation & the increased burden of 18-20% due to the salary increase (owing to 7th CPC recommendations), then the increases would turn out to be insignificant. Further, there is an extra focus on the ‘centers of excellence’ like IITs, IIMs, NITs and NIITs, which in essence means that the vast majority of institutions even within the professional sector will have to strive for funds.
However, the more problematic aspect is the allocations made to the UGC, central universities and RUSA. The figures point towards stagnation in real terms and will have serious repercussions for our colleges and universities which are already under big shortage of faculty as well as the infrastructure. The centrally sponsored scheme, RUSA, launched in 2013 aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions. RUSA, which was introduced by the Congress-led UPA-II government and has been carried further by the BJP-led NDA government, replaces the pre-existing multiple funding mechanisms with one centralised mechanism. The funding then is linked to a set of conditions failing which the institutions/states will not be eligible to receive funds. These conditions include implementation of Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), semesterization and compulsory accreditation among others. In fact, north eastern states and the hill states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand were the first ones to agree to these compilations. The impact of these unplanned moves is already being seen in the form of complete withering away of the academic structure. Now, in such a situation the stagnation of funds will lead to more drastic impact on the higher education in these states.
This performance-based approach to funding will actually widen the existing gulf. RUSA has provision to divert funds to even such institutions, which do not fall under section 12B and 2(f) of the UGC Act. This translates into the provision of diverting the public money (tax collected from the working class and other toiling sections) to fund the private institutions, which are anyways free to charge exorbitant fees.
Autonomy leading to widened inequality
Finance minister talks about reforming UGC and then providing financial autonomy to the college and universities based on the ranking as per the mandatory accreditation. In fact, this whole concept of ‘autonomy’ is contradictory in itself, since this very government forced the universities to implement the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) 2 years back. Hence, while the academic autonomy has been snatched away, this whole talk of financial autonomy is nothing but a ploy to push the neoliberal agenda in education. This is in tune with the neoliberal push that we have been witnessing since the period of congress-led UPA-1. It will only lead to increasing the already existing wide gap in the various sectors of education. Finance Minister in his speech also talked about linking funding to ‘output-based accreditation and credit based programmes’, which implies the more state universities are going to be put under the ambit of credit based courses.
Deskilling in the name of ‘Skill Education’
‘Skill Education’ is the only area which got emphasis in the finance minister’s speech. He proposed to launch a Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion Programme for “market relevant training” to 3.5-crore youth. Rs 4,000 crores have been allocated to it. Another Rs 2,200 crores has been allocated to the Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement for 2017-’18 for improving the quality of vocational training in Industrial Training Institutes and to “strengthen the apprenticeship programmes.”
This thrust towards ‘Skill Education needs to be seen in the historical trajectory of the evolution of the dual education system in our country. The National Policy of Education (NPE 86-92) was instrumental in not only accelerating the privatization of education but also putting in place a dual system of education. It introduced non-formal education (NFE), as a low-cost alternative to be treated as ‘equivalent to schooling’ for the working poor, the marginalised and children in “difficult circumstances”. When the Supreme Court in its 1993 judgement (Unnikrishnan vs the State of Andhra Pradesh) stated that the constitutional Directive Principle 45 should be read in conjunction with Article 21, it established that the right to education flowed from the fundamental right to life thereby converting “the obligation created by the article (45) into an enforceable right”. This required the 86th Constitutional Amendment in 2002, which was tailor-made to coincide with neo-liberal dictates to reduce public spending on education. Two significant limitations to the “enforceable right” restricted it to children between 6 to 14 years of age and provided for education only “as the State may, by law, determine”. The limitations allowed a retreat from the original constitutional responsibility and denied millions of children access to quality education.
The present regime’s proposed National Policy of Education 2016 (NPE 2016) promises to accelerate this process. Amendments to the already flawed RTE 2009 will allow for ‘alternate’ schools which do not ‘require’ the basic infrastructural and pedagogical norms laid down in the Act, limit the no-detention policy to lower primary (class V) and vocationalise the elementary curriculum in targeted areas. Dove-tailed into the Skill Development Programme and the amended child labour law which now permits under14 year-olds to work in ‘family enterprises’, this ‘education’ policy will reinforce caste distinctions and ensure that the majority of India’s children from oppressed and marginalised sections will be condemned to a childhood of labour.
Finance minister also repeated last year’s promise to focus on learning outcomes – class and subject-wise minimum standards of learning children are expected to achieve in school.” However, what is being forgotten is that mere improvement in the ‘devises to measure teaching outcomes’ won’t serve any purpose when the fundamental question of infrastructural crisis in our primary and secondary education is not answered. The moot point remains is the government serious in answering this question? The resolution of this conundrum lies in a massive increase in the public expenditure, while successive governments continue to give the false argument of fund crunch.
Let us give some figures at this juncture. While the fiscal deficit for the financial year 2016-17 was 3.2% of GDP, in the same year the tax forgone was a massive 3.18 lakh crore that is equal to 2.1% of the GDP. The social sector spending including that on education can be increased by reducing the concessions to the corporates and big businesses. The fact that government hasn’t done so is only a pointer of its priorities.