Campuses are the citadels of progressive ideals which sing the songs of the dark time in India. The political support extended by the student community of the English and Foreign Languages University, (EFLU) and Pondicherry University, has once again demonstrated this. The victory of students’ federation of India, SFI in EFLU and Pondicherry University in last week is not merely a result in a campus poll but a strong political statement which the students of this nation are eager to send to the public. This inspiring triumph has to be seen as a continuation of the thumping victory of SFI in Hyderabad Central University and Kerala Central University this year. With these results, SFI has emerged as the leading force in students’ unions in four of the seven central universities where democratic elections are being held in India. Even though the democratic platforms are suppressed and banned in the majority of the central universities, the students choose democratic and progressive forces as their representatives wherever they have an option. It is also a strong rebuttal to the entirely false and fabricated notion ofa Modi wave among the youth and students and is a befitting reply tothe saffron brigade’s campaign of the ‘Gujarat model of development’as what the future generation of India is waiting for.The democratic sections in the country are looking at campuses with much more hope and expectations than ever before in the recent past. Students’ Federation of India, SFI moves to its 15thAll Indiaconference after winning the confidence of the student community at large through the conclusive victories one after another in a raw.
Both the varsity poll results reflect the long struggles waged in the campuses over the question of campus democracy and student rights. It was Allied Students' Action for Democracy-EFLU; ASAD-E backed by SFI that swept all seats in the EFLU. ASAD-E is a larger platform of democratic sections in the campus which questioned the attack on democratic rights of the students in the campus. Tony Sebastian is elected to the post of president and Ajay Mathew (SFI unit president in EFLU) is elected as general secretary. Tania Kar (Vice President), Noble Antony (Joint. Secretary),AnasRahman(cultural secretary) and Ashish Krishna (Sports secretary) are the other members in the union. Tania Kar, AnasRahman and Ashish Krishna are unit executive committee members of SFI. It is a rejection of the regressive view thatUniversities is the spaces to silently listen the lectures and mug up information. The administration was forced to hold the election after a gap of one year without any elected students’ body in the campus.
The way students had to tread till they reached the day of elections had never been smooth. It was only one week before the election that disciplinary actions were taken against 11 students including many SFI activists over their participation in a peaceful protest demanding students’ body elections in university. Ina deliberate attempt to curb the strengthening of the movement all those 11 students were barred from contesting students’ union elections when it was achieved after continuous struggles and interventions by the students including them. One another student was also served with a show cause notice few days before for his Facebook post criticising the 'SwachhEflu' programme sponsored by the administration. These incidents are not isolated ones in the campus. It has been for a long time that the developments in EFLU have become a matter of shame to any democratic polity. The questions were being replied with a brutal repression of democracy. The demands for the space for debates were met with authoritarian diktats and autocratic orders to keep mute. Campuses must be upholding the high values of democracy and promoting democratic platforms. It has been a scene of inspiration that instead of taking out a victory rally the students decided to wage a struggle under the leadership of newly elected union against the unjust disciplinary actions on students in EFLU.
SFI was awarded with a decisive victory by the student community of Pondicherry University.All the regressive and caustic agendas of ABVP, who won the student body election last year, allying with the anti-student administration, have been utterly rejected by the vibrant student community of the Pondicherry University. SFI had emerged as the single largest organization in the students’ council election held on 23rd November. SFI-ASA alliance won all 11 seats in the University union to which election was held three days after. Elenkeswaran and Jishnu EN (Unit President of SFI) are elected to the posts of President and General Secretary respectively. SFI Unit committee member Com. Anjali S won unopposed to the post of vice president. Com. Theyventhiran is elected as joint secretary. Regon, Medha Ramesh, MedhaSurendranath, Harsha, Vinoth, ThamizhKalayarasi are the newly elected executive members of the students’ union.
It is the first time in the history of the campus, that the white flag occupies the sky of triumph in student body elections in Pondicherry University. This should be seen as the continuation of a series of struggles that were fought in PU over the last few years. Since its formation few years back, SFI has been in the forefront in raising the issues of students and questioning the irregularities in the university. The yearlong fearless movement which started in 2013 against Ragging and Sexual harassment is what brought PU to the notice of the democratic circles in the country. Many SFI activists were served with disciplinary actions over their active engagement in the struggle against ragging and sexual harassment. They were also brutally beaten up by the goondas backed by administration. Two brave girl comrades, Vidya and Kavya, were suspended from the campus for complaining against such atrocities and for deciding to protest. It was only after an yearlong political and legal battle, with a favourable verdict from Madras high court those comrades could complete their course. The judge while appreciating the two girl students, said they ‘stood to their ground and refused to tender unconditional apology’ as per the order of vice-chancellor Chandra Krishnamurthy and pointed out that their action ‘showed their courage of conviction and a refusal to comprise at the cost of honour’. He lauded them for overcoming the normal tendency and temptation of lesser mortals especially girl students, whose whole career as well as life may be at stake, to surrender to the power of authority.
It was only a few months after the court criticized the PU authorities over their highhandness over the student's rights that anotherstrong agitation was launched in the campus demanding the removal of Vice Chancellor, Chandra Krishnamurthy who has submitted fake bio-data to gain the post. Citing the indefensible irregularities in the university after her appointment as VC, the students intensified the protest day by day and it received immense support from various corners of the country. Threats one after another, police lathi-charge, arrests and all other efforts could not stop the advent of the students raising the slogans of democracy. The central government was forced to send the VC on a compulsory leave. ABVP, the union office holders of last year was hiding under the caves of deep silence all the while students came to streets to protest on genuine issues.
Central Universities are more plural and diverse space due to presence of students from various parts of India and the world. Students belonging to different nationalities are an active presence in such campuses. The choice of the students in Central Universities should also be read in relation to their valiant assertion against the Sangh Parivar initiated attacks on the cultural diversity of the nation and as a strong voice rejecting the vulgar attempts to divide the society on the lines of beliefs, cultures, languages, regions and religions. Yes, campuses are speaking out loud and they are definitely taking sides. They do write, on the walls and on the banners of their wars, ‘when politics decides your life, decide what your politics must be.’
‘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.