The 16th All India Conference of Students Federation of India has successfully come to an end at Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. The conference has been concluded by taking the historic mission to complete a target of 50 lakh membership by the 50th anniversary of the organization. SFI completes 50 years in 2020. The conference has been dispersed by forming necessary plans to add around 10 lakh members more in the organization to achieve this. In fact, the most important aim would be to reach out the areas where the presence of the organization is weak.
It is for the first time in the history, Shimla has become the host of All India Conference. Moreover, it is for the second time in a row SFI’s highest conference is happening in Hindi states/northern states. Among the three All India Conferences held in north India, two were held during this period of time. This can be seen as the sign of influence and development the organisation could make in these areas. The conference reviewed that after the 15th All India Conference held at Sikir, Rajasthan, SFI could strengthen its presence and influence in new places. Apart from being elected to the union leadership in central universities such as JNU, Pondicherry, and HCU, the activities of the organization are extended to the Central University of Gujarat and Karnataka. Recommence of organizational activities in Gujarat after 14 years, the formation of the union in Jammu University and the emergence of SFI as the single largest organization in the first election conducted in Ambedkar University are achievements worth mentioning. Apart from the sweeping victories in the union elections in Kerala and Tripura, SFI could win the students union elections in Rajasthan, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Tamilnadu.
The conference called upon to expand the organizational activities in north eastern areas- which is now largely limited to Tripura and Assam- to all the states. It has also decided to vitalize the activities in Jammu. Formation of State Committee in Jammu Kashmir, Jharkhand, Manipur, Chhattisgarh and Odisha is one of the major goals. It is pertinent to enter into the private educational institutions which strategically keep the student politics at bay. These institutions are the fertile land for widespread looting and rampant violation of democratic rights and ethos. The government is not yet ready to come up with necessary legal measures to limit such moves.
The conference has given a resounding mandate to fight the increasing case of sexual harassments occurring inside the campuses. The conference pointed out that, lack of democratic spaces and lack of sensitisation against gendered crimes and the existing power structure inside the campuses and many other factors create a hostile situation for the women students. To handle this out, there is a need for institutional mechanism such as GSCASH inside the campuses. The conference condemned the strenuous attack against such institutions, for instance replacing well functioning GSCASH with ICC in JNU.
An integral part of democratisation of campus is ensuring gender justice in all the spheres and to break the patriarchal hegemony which is normalised in such spaces. Conference decided to have a transparent and democratic internal mechanism to address this kind of issues within the organisation. SFI hence becomes the first student organisation to take such a historic decision.
From 30th October to 2nd November 2018, the 16th All India Conference of SFI, has critically evaluated the political and organisational tasks lying ahead. The conference passed 15 resolutions on various issues including the ones mentioned above. The conference discussed various issues such as the challenges faced by school education and the danger in forming higher education commission by sabotaging UGC and many other.
The Conference welcomed the supreme court verdict on Sabarimala and pledged to strengthen the fight against the brahmanical-patriarchal Sangh parivar forces which is desperately trying to destroy the secular social fabric of Kerala. The conference extended solidarity to the efforts of left forces in Kerala to upheld the values of Kerala renaissance. This conference also mandated to build a broad spectrum resistance against the increasing mob frenzy and communal violence. Conference underlined the role of students in the struggle for ensuring equal rights, a life with dignity and social justice. This conference expresses it deep concern over the increasing number of suicides in IIT’s and other professional institutions and demanded laws to be formulated in order to check the physical and mental harassments faced by students particularly who are coming from marginalised backgrounds and gender. This is also important to make sure a healthy campus atmosphere where a vibrant political and cultural activism increase the inner democracy of campus life.
The student community expressed its solidarity to left-wing governments across the world fighting continuous imperialistic interventions, blockades and attempts to create internal disturbances, through anti-capitalist policies & tenets in their home countries. The struggles at Palestine, Syria and the persecution of Rohingyan refugees at Myanmar were taken up for discussion at the Conference.
The amendment to have National Conferences every three years was agreed upon. It has also been decided to have State Conferences every two years and other conferences every year. The Conference put forth demands for the extension of research scholarships and their timely distribution. Increased scholarships should be awarded to students from economically & socially weak backgrounds in general and women in particular. Transgender-rights and the rights of other sexual minorities should be protected.
Another crucial demand, for a widespread political alliance of the country’s left-leaning students’ organizations was also put forth, at a separate session with the national leaders of organizations like the All India Students’ Federation (AISF), All India Students’ Association (AISA), All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO) etc. In order to resist the privatization and communalization of Indian education, it was reiterated that there is a pressing need for a regional-level strengthening of this political alliance along with venturing into a concerted national-level fight with the larger student community of the country.
The All India Conference was inaugurated by P. Sainath and Prof. R Ramakumar. While Sainath spoke of the unprecedented rise of Indian inequality and how India was on its path to become one of the most unequal societies in the world, Ramakumar briefed us about the historical process of privatization of education in capitalist societies around the world. Seminars on communalism and higher education were inaugurated by Prof. Ram Puniyani and C. N. Bharati, [General Secretary, School Teachers Federation of India (STFI)] respectively.
Former leaders Nilotpal Basu, K.N. Balagopalan and V. Sivadasan shared their experience of leading the organization. Former all India president M.A. Baby also greeted the conference later. Former leaders released the book published by the Central Executive Committee on the history of SFI. M. A Baby released the conference special issue of student struggle monthly. Ashok Dhawale (President, AIKS), Suneet Chopra (Joint Secretary, AIAWU), Abhoy Mukherjee (General Secretary, DYFI), Kashmir Singh (Secretary, CITU) greeted the conference with warm words filled with hope and confidence in student movement.
647 delegates from 24 states participated in the Conference which was held at the manch named after martyr Abhimanyu Maharajas. Parijith, brother of SFI leader Abhimanyu who was killed by islamist fundamentalists in Kerala also attended the inaugural session of the conference. Unlike the earlier conference, there were delegates from Manipur, Sikkim and Gujarat this time. Vikram Singh presented the draft political-organisational report before the delegates. 58 delegates spoke in the seven hour long discussion session, representing 24 states, four sub-committees and Tribal students union.
Conference elected 93 member Central Executive Committee with 9 vacancies. There are 24 girls in the Committee. The All India Secretariat Consists of 19 members with 2 vacancies for Bengal and Kerala. VP Sanu has been re-elected as the President of the committee and Mayukh Biswas has been elected as the General Secretary.
A vibrant student rally through the valley of Shimla took place after the conclusion of delegation session, and culminated to a public meeting attended by a massive crowd. Both the rally and public meeting turned as a show of strength of student movement in the valley. The crowd was addressed by Nilotpal Basu, Rakesh Singha, Mayukh Biswas, Vikram Singh, VP Sanu and Dipsita Dhar. The Shimla conference has definitely been written in the history of student movement for providing a further push to the politically conscious students to spread across to new areas with a stronger organisation.
We were standing startled in front of a small room until someone from the locality told us. “This is the place where Abhimanyu was born and brought up. There were five people living in this room till two days back. But now only four remains.” No one in the group could resist the tears rolling down the eyes while entering the room. A mother, father, brother and a sister were sitting muted in front of the photo of our comrade, his bloodstained mobile phone and his note-book. In my wildest imagination, it never struck me that five people can together stand straight in such a small space. What must have been the depth of love they shared in that one room-home!!! What could have been the closeness between hearts he enjoyed till his last breath!!!
An unforgettable daybreak
Early morning of 2nd July 2018 is still a horrific memory for those who believe in a democratic and creative campus spirit. By 2 o clock in the morning news about the attack on SFI activists and death of a student at Maharajas College came out as a shockwave. Whoever heard the news wished it was all a bad dream from which one could wake up. No one ever associated with SFI in Ernakulam could digest that, a student was stabbed to death inside Maharajas, the most romanticised campus in Kerala. As every student of Kerala, Maharajas was a dream of Abhimanyu, which he attained with his own efforts. He plunged into its heart, with his natural and innocent smiles. He was captivated by the unbreakable bonds of friendships and comradeship he earned from the college. By singing and dancing along with his friends, he enlivened his campus.
That night, the Maharajas was getting ready to receive its new guests. The students were busy in finishing the decorations to extend a warm welcome to their juniors. Those happiest moments were the time they chose to eliminate Abhimanyu from the earth. How cruel they were to destroy the happiness of a family, the hopes of a community and the joy of an entire campus space with just one stab. What could have been the trauma of the newcomers who were eagerly waiting that night to land into their dreamland next day, instead stepping into a campus dampened and reddened with the blood of comrade Abhimanyu. The Centenary auditorium of Maharajas which was all set to welcome the new entrants of the campus turned into a farewell space for Abhimanyu. The auditorium was echoed with the mourning of his parents. The hall has reverberated with the slogans raised by his comrades bidding adieu to him.
July 1st was a very much normal day. Nothing unusual was reported that entire day, except for a usual scuffle between students about a wall writing. The Campus Front wrote its name on the wall booked by SFI. There was an argument between students over this issue. To mark the protest against the undemocratic behaviour of Campus Front, SFI activists painted “Reject Communalism” on the wall writing of Campus Front. Citing the evening squabble as the reason, later in the night, a thoroughly prepared plan was implemented by the NDF-Popular Front forces to create an insecure atmosphere in the campus. The NDF-Popular Front criminals from outside the campus entered Maharajas with deadly weapons and started attacking the SFI activists. Hearing this news of the assault on his comrades, Abhimanyu, who reached the campus just a few hours back after fulfilling his organisational responsibilities in his native place, ran to the campus from the hostel. The specially trained killer-wing of Popular Front proficiently ensured his death with only one stab. Comrade Arjun who was injured badly along with comrade Abhimanyu had a very narrow escape. After many days of treatment in the hospital along with his strong determination to fight against the forces which killed his dearest friend, Arjun came back to life by defeating the death. Comrades Abhimanyu and Arjun are the victims of an intolerant politics, which cannot endure dissenting voices. The criminals have attacked Arjun and Abhimanyu for referring Campus Front as communal, for publically writing “reject communalism”. What else should have they addressed an organisation, which has its political base only on religion.
The entire episode was a perfectly scripted one to create panic among the student community of Maharajas who out rightly rejected the Campus Front for its communal ideology. This incident should be read along with the efforts put by Campus Front for the past few years to gain a foothold and to make a unit in the Maharajas College, in which they had been unsuccessful due to the dearth of students support. The attack was a part of the strategy of disrupting peace and harmony in college campuses of Kerala, the dominant sources of resistance against all kinds of communal politics. Although one of the accused in Abhimanyu’s murder had recently enrolled as a student in the College, most of the others were not students, with some being more than 30 years old. Some of the group members were not even from Ernakulam district, the fact which clearly points to the planned nature of the assault.
Through this attack Popular Front and NDF aimed at instilling fear among the SFI activists, who play the lead role in combating their communal-fundamental agendas. But they failed to understand that these students are the holders of the flag of an organisation which garners strength from countless brave martyrdoms. They forgot to realise that the attacks on this largest student organisation of the country, do not demoralise the activists, but strongly remind them about their unending responsibility to fight communalism and their incessant obligation to strengthen the secular left fabric of the society.
Comrades in Vattavada remembers Abhimanyu’s hastiness in reaching Ernakulam on the 1st of July itself. He set out to Kochi in the afternoon, just after attending the DYFI village conference. Since the transportation facility was scarce in his area, he started the journey in a vegetable cart came to transport vegetables from his place. He was very adamant in reaching the college that night itself as he wanted to join his comrades to adorn his dearest campus. Yes, that was the commitment he always maintained towards the organisation which he belonged to.
A Dalit-first generation learner from a remote village of Idukki district, who struggled throughout his life to reach a renowned college of Kerala for higher studies, smiled vividly, danced and sang with his friends without a tint of inferiority complex. In two districts, separated by unmeasurable distance, he intervened politically regularly. He was a complete political personality.
One would amaze at the political clarity acquired by a young man with only 20 years of life experience, who spent his entire life in a remote village room that did not have enough space to cry alone or to enjoy a dream in solitude. His writings on social media trace his political evolution. His facebook notes reveal the politics on which he puts faiths to fulfill his dreams of equality. They underline his unending commitment towards his organisation, the politics of which he imbibed till his last breath. His writings echo his unyielding resistance against communalism. His most progressive ideas about gender justice and pseudo-morality. His assimilation of energy from the martyrdoms. His in-depth understanding of the need for campus politics. His unbound love towards his college, his locality. His firm belief in the role of left politics in resisting the penetration of communal forces in the campus.
He was someone who showed full justice to the slogan of “study and struggle” raises by SFI. He struggled for studying, struggled along with studies and studied for struggling. The walls of his village were filled with the posters of SFI, which must have pasted by Abhimanyu himself. Just beside those posters, his smiling faces were looking at the people who came to pay last tribute to him. The criminals struck down not only Abhimanyu, not even a family but the dreams of a community which remained alienated from all sorts of the development process. They chopped off a future scientist who has gained the life-experiences to understand even the smallest needs of the lowest strata of the society. Yes, Like Rohit Vemula, he dreamt of becoming a scientist and to utilise his expertise in improving the life of his community. To attain his dream, he worked during nights, weekends and vacations.
The number of responsibilities he shouldered along with his academics and his part-time jobs is unimaginable for many of us. Maybe, the struggles with life must have equipped him with enough strength to endure any pressure. Whatever he achieved in his life were the fruits of his own endeavours. In 2018 itself how many responsibilities he had assumed newly. Got elected as the first secretary of SFI Vattavada local committee. Became the member of Idukki district committee of SFI. Chosen as the mess secretary of Maharajas boys’ hostel. Abhimanyu’s teacher who is also the NSS coordinator of the college shares her memory of an efficient NSS unit secretary who at the same time enthusiastically indulged in the Chemistry department association activities. With sleepless nights and tireless days, he conquered everyone with his pleasant behaviour, friendly nature, and his commitment.
The people in his neighbourhood told us that whenever he came to the village, he kept on inspiring each and every child of that locality to gather more and more knowledge. They remembered his strenuous efforts to convince the parents to send their children to the new worlds for higher education.
He shows us that a person living with half-filled stomach can laugh full-heartedly. He proves us that a young man who experienced all sorts of backwardness throughout his life can radiate incredible energy to others standing around him.
Attacks on SFI activists
The martyrdom of comrade Abhimanyu points out to the necessity to intensify the fight against communalist forces in campuses and society. Across the country, SFI activists are the targets of all the fundamentalist-communal forces; be it ABVP/RSS or NDF/Popular Front/Campus Front Forces. In their broad politics, RSS and NDF (Popular Front) are not different, but the two sides of the same coin, which build their entire politics on religion and hatred.
NDF and Campus Front has a dark history of spreading communal venom in society and Campuses. There has been a series of attacks unleashed by NDF on SFI activists in last many years. No one has forgotten comrade A.B. Bijesh, the then joint secretary of SFI Thrissur district committee, who was brutally murdered by the NDF goons in 2009 for rallying people against their fundamental activities. The murder of Abhimanyu was the latest among them.
However, the blood-thirsty communal goons didn’t stop there. The very same day of comrade Abhimanyu’s murder, just after the protest demonstration over the barbarous incident, SFI activists in Alappuzha were attacked by the Popular Front with swords and knives. While this piece was being written, an SFI activist from Madappally college comrade Sajith has survived a murder attempt with deadly weapons by Popular Front of India goons.
It is not surprising that all the communal-fundamentalist groups get discomforted by the growing acceptance of SFI politics among the student community, as SFI is the strongest barrier that deters their infiltration to campuses and thus defeats their efforts to communalise our educational institutions.
Responses to the incident
The gruesome murder of a 20-year-old boy shook the consciousness of humanity. A public outcry over the incident has sprung up from all corners of society. A widespread solidarity against the NDF-Popular Front communal politics was built up under the leadership of SFI and other left forces. SFI Central Executive Committee has called for a national protest day by all its units the next day itself to mark the strongest resistance against the brutal assaults took place in Maharajas. In all district centres of Kerala, protest meetings were held to project the political violence of Campus Front. In all campuses, SFI undertook various programs to explain the dangers of communal politics and the violence attached to it. The large mobilisation of the student community in all these programmes indicates the growing antagonism of students against the communal forces which distort the peaceful atmosphere of campuses.
The fund collection campaign for Abhimanyu’s family was very well received by the public. From the nook and corner of the society, people contributed to register their dissent. Within 2 days, SFI Kerala state committee has collected 33 lakh rupees only from the campuses. To accomplish Abhimanyu’s vision of bringing the new generation of Vattavada into the mainstream, for which he believed education and knowledge as the only means, various campaigns and programmes have been initiated by SFI. Across the world, people enthusiastically participated in the book collection campaign to fulfil Abhimanyu’s dream of having a library in his village.
As a tribute to Abhimanyu, SFI achieved thumping victory in college union elections in all universities of Kerala. The students of Maharajas kept their promises to their beloved comrade by voting down all the communal forces in the campus. SFI has swept all seats in the Maharajas college union elections with a huge margin. News of incomparable victory has emerged from Rajasthan and other parts of the country. Students in JNU celebrated their unparalleled victory over ABVP by raising slogans about Abhimanyu and wearing t-shirts printed with his immortal smile.
Across the country, more and more students are getting rallied under the flag Abhimanyu held to his heart till his end. The slogans he raised are being shouted by more and more tongues. Countless fingers are joining together to achieve his dream about a “world that belongs to the alienated and the oppressed”. Comrade Abhimanyu continues to be a symbol of resistance. He remains to be an eternal source of inspiration for the struggling masses. He lives immortally in the hearts of generations to come.
For every single country, the bed rack of future is paved in the campuses of school, college and universities. As the future defenders of our countries from every walks of life evolves from the campuses. If these future brigades are neglected, country’s fate really renders in plight. For such majestic significance, student community are accredited with the vehement importance by the revolutionaries across the globe. On the other hand, conservationists or centrists always tend to restrict the emergence of student community. Naturally, they are the scathing critics of student movement. Our dear organisation SFI always encourages to build political environment amidst the campuses and prompts the student community to scrap the bondages of repression and exploitations. Consequently, the brave-hearts like Com Rohith, Sajin Sahul and K. R. Thomas become the martyr of Hindu fundamentalist atrocities. On the other hand Muslim fundamentalist forces snatched the life our comrade Abhimanyu. Secessionists butchered Niranjan Talukdar and Surya Debbarma. The autocratic rulers stifled the voice of Sudipta Gupta and Saifuddin Mollah. Actually these firebrands dreamed of a new India with a radiant provision of education and employment for all. Unfortunately in contemporary India, reality marks the opposite picture!
In a country like ours, 73% of the total resources are accumulated into the fold of 1% people. At the same the gross resource increment of the 67 crore people of India figures to only 1%. In fact on the last year, 17 new billionaires took entry into the club of billionaires of the country whose properties got increased from 15774 crore to 20678 crore in Indian rupees which is worth to 85% of total state budgets in the sector of public health and education. The tenure of “Acche Din” has gifted the 50% growth in the deposits of Swiss Bank on behalf of India. But while in his election campaign, our PM Narendra Modi committed to salvage the black money deposited in the Swiss Bank and also declared to distribute that restored money through crediting Rs 15 lakhs to the banks accounts of each of the citizens. When it is just few months left to complete his tenure as a PM, those commitments are simply sounding like fake promises. Day after day, discontents are arising out of the student community regarding the issues of scholarships. Youths have dumped by the void promises of creating 2 crore employment per annum. Central Government is suggesting to the youths fry pakodas instead of creating scopes for their employment. A lion share of the Indian demography is currently belonging to the age group of under-forty. Unfortunate the scopes of employment are gradually getting reduced. Foreign Financial Corporations have already withdrawn an amount equals to 70 crore from the Indian market. Last year 4.4% of production has been reduced at the manufacturing sector. The prices of basic equipments and ingredients essential for the agrarian sectors like seeds or fertilizer has been hiked vehemently in the recent times. Even for the first time in the history after the independence, this year India witnessed the lowest production of kharif crops. The poor and middle class are currently under the severe plight. Naturally, it has become a notion of luxury before them to afford their wards’ education to be pursued from the private institutions. In this circumstance while student movements are seeking questioning the government addressing their plights and Government is trying to destroy democratic space of the campuses. They are keen to put down the battle of ideas amidst the campuses.
We observed that the Governments of all colours since 1991 have been arguing that at least 20% of the total expenditure on higher education should be recovered from students through higher fees which would tremendously increase the hardships on the students. The real motive behind the withdrawal of state from education sector is to give free hand to private corporate houses to use education as a profit making venture. As we know that India has now one of the signatory to the GATS and has provided special provisions in the education sector in the negotiations through the commerce ministry. The private corporate houses target higher education mostly. But the interference of these private players would alienate a large section of students who would not be able afford the high fees in such institutions and would rob the higher education off its social values. The festival of loots in education sector is now reaching at the utmost point in this era of Modi raj.
Recently Modi raj is eager to introduce New Education Policy which is one of such tools to eradicate the constitutional rights guaranteed earlier under the aegis of education system. Modi government declared to enact the new Education Policy within the next 100 days of just after coming into the power. Their draft education policy tends to communalise, privatise and centralise the entire education system of the country. They draft policy revealed their meticulous blue-print of educational plunder in the name of privatisation and simultaneously their forceful introduction of the manuwadi in the courtyard of the Indian education system. They are consciously letting the lanes of education to be shrunk before the students coming from the lower income groups. Consequently, budget allocation in the educational sector is gradually brought down by the government. The budget allotted for the purpose of education has been reduced to 0.45% of GDP in the academic year 2018-2019 as compared to that of figuring to 0.71% in the academic year of 2014-2015 denigrating the recommendation of Daulat Singh Kothari commission to spend the 6% of GDP for the purpose of education. Likewise, Modi government has reduced their budget allotment for education to 3.7% of the National Budget in the financial year 2017-2018 while they had allocated an amount of 6.15% for that purpose in their very first National Budget. Even in the academic year 2017-2018, 29% of budget allotment has been reduced in the schemes like ‘Sarva Siksha Avijan’. These directly affect the classrooms across the country.
Scenario of school education has been rendered under threat. In many places, provisions of mid-day meals are getting closed. Troubles are also arising out of the issue of digital ration card. In such a perilous predicament schools are offered to the hands of private ownership by the government through the scheme of PPP (Public Private Partnership) Model. In Rajasthan BJP government has put 225 government schools into the private hands following such model. 15000 government schools in Madhya Pradesh and 13905 government schools in Maharashtra has been occluded by the BJP led state governments in those states. The state governments of Himachal and Haryana are the sincere followers of them. Although there necessitates at least a separate school for each of the separate villages, government majestically declaring of ‘Ekalabya Schools’ out of each blocks. As per considering the current socio-economic scenario and the state of security of the students in the rural India, it is of next to impossible before the parents to send their child to a school located far from their place. It has brought the school education in remote parts of the country before an uncertain question. Teacher crisis is perpetually getting acute as both the state and the central government are displaying serious indifference. It is near about 105000 schools across the country where there is no single other teacher. In the state like West Bengal has set a record before rest of the country through completely collapsing the process of appointing new teachers from the primary to the higher education. Few appointments which had been conducted under her tenure also resulted in wide corruption. At the same time,text-books provided by the state government are found with seriously mistaken information where saffronisation is given highest priority. Manuwadi outlook of BJP government is aimng to scrap the numbers of hostels and schools at the Adivasi-dominant areas. In the remote areas of country, the picture is much more pathetic. In accordance with the NCDHR report, since the last three years provision of various scholarships for the tribal students has been largely decreased. There is lack of permanent teachers in the colleges as the process of appointment has been stayed off since the last few years. Contemporarily, many colleges are in front of the crisis of expertise teachers for diverse subjects offered to be taught.
A large number of seat-cuts have been taken place in the field of research in the universities including JNU as per the UGC gazette notification 2015. Under the tenure of this government, budget allocations have been ruthlessly cut for purpose of higher education and research. This government is deliberately enabling to ease the advent of privatization and centralization of education through dismissing other various autonomous institutions which decides the policies of education. As a consequence, MHRD is eager to collapse UGC through replacing it by Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA). ‘Choice Base Credit System’ (CBCS) and ‘Rashtriya Ucchatar Siksha Avijan’ have been introduced also. These are gradually becoming the regulating authority on the issue of monetary sanctions. It is solely depending upon them whether they will grant monetary support to any state or academic institution. The condition is that corresponding institution must have to be run in accordance with the conditions applied by these authorities. Naturally, that in turns curbs the autonomy of those aided institutions. So far, central government has granted autonomy in favour of 60 academic institutions including 5 central universities, 21 state and 24 deemed universities and let them to introduce and run new courses and to set up new centre or campuses without any support from the government. Instead the government is clearly mandating them to manage the financial resources by their own. They are widening the avenues for privatization of education before all and sundry thus easing the inevitable introduction of tuition fee hikes through the mode of self-financing.
Central Finance Ministry on their 2018-2019 budget, has declared that the government will sanction credits not aid to the educational institutions. Terms have been imposed in such a manner that the corresponding institutions are responsible to pay off those through fee hiking or selling research-patents. Thus the government institutions will also eventually be commercialised and that in turns will pursue the commoditisation of education. Meanwhile, government has sanctioned a grant of rupees 1000 crore to the proposed ‘Jio University’ of Ambani Groups before the foundation from the tax payers’ money.
Government has taken the strategic stance of ‘divide and rule’ in order to suppress the rage of discontent into the classrooms. Modi government tends to play communal cards among the campuses and classrooms. In cases of most of the Central Educational Institutions, government is appointing RSS members or sympathisers. Intentionally they are highlighting the ‘Puranas’ through deforming the history of our country. RSS-led schools and ashramas have been largely expanded all over the country since last few years. Mainly in adivasi belts, students from the lower economic groups are invited through the allurement of money. RSS organs have been followed a massive growth in Bengal at this TMC regime. Even armed rallies have been conducted by the children for observing the religious occasions on the soil of Bengal. Across the country, girl students and the students belonging to dalit and minority groups are paying the price of their manuwadi communal violence in the campuses. Few years back, in Hyderabad Central University, dalit scholar Rohith Vemula had been compelled to commit suicide. Caste and communal violence are rapidly rising among the campuses. While the government is keen to popularize the slogan of “Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao” at the same time Yogi Adityanath government in UP had backed the predators of sexual harassment on the girl students of BHU. Blue print was prepared to shut off the only university for women in Assam. Finally they discarded their decision before the movement of SFI. Also, in Bihar, UP, Haryana and Bengal the consistency of sexual violence is accelerating gradually. Wrath of privatization in the education sector of Andhra Pradesh- Telengana took several lives of the students. In West Bengal, Mamata regime added an additional peril of donation in the ruling party fund while taking admission into the colleges and universities. In accordance with the hikes of petro-goods, downfall of currency and introduction GST, donation rates for honours courses are gradually increased following a consistent growth! At the same time we observed the attack from the ‘Gestapos’ of this Modi government. The ABVP goons attacked our comrades from Kanshmir to Kanyakumari as the SFI comrades has always been taking the front role to resist fundamentalist forces in all battlegrounds.
Such circumstances have given birth of densely organised student movement through-out the country demanding for educational rights under the banner of SFI. Locally, struggles are carried on a large of local issues. Our comrades are marching on the streets against the bus fare hikes in Tamil Nadu or tuition fee hikes in Himachal and struggling for the demands of students’ hostel in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh or raising voice for the security of girl students in Assam. In Kerala, SFI comrades have raised their hands beside the flood affected people. Naturally, the student communities from JNU, Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan has casted their verdict in favour of SFI and organised student movements during the union elections. Although, being attacked every time by the tyrant state government, the students of Bengal leading this battle of ideas following the legacy of indomitable spirit of organised student movement. Since the last few months, students from the Jadavpur University, Presidency University and Medical College have snatched their attainable demands from the despotic government. United student movement has won in such battles. SFI is raising the day to day demands of the students in districts to metropolitan centres. Recently SFI completed its jatha which was started from the four corners of India,demanding ‘quality and scientific education without discrimination’. The growing consciousness of the students are being now seen as a threat to the government, while the PM blabbers about making India the best in the world, his followers are on a run to challenge the spirit of the students. From the City of Joy to the Pink City, from the Paradise on earth, to God's own country, the attack on the minds continues to uphold a gimmick of superiority without free thinking. SFI has been meticulously and tirelessly fighting for the students and building a scientific temperament across the country. In times, when the shadows of the Rightist minds tend to overtake our thoughts, SFI stands out with a beacon of hope.
Time has come to fight the battle on the demands of education and employment. Vehement unity of students-teachers-researchers-non-teaching-staffs and guardians is the need of hour. Our patience, humanity, creativity, courage and most importantly our ideology will guide to fulfil our goals. The ideals of ‘study, struggle and sacrifice’ will defeat the money muscle power, and will bring back a brighter dawn. Heralding the message of resistance, SFI 16th All India Conference will start from October 30th to November 2nd has added an additional strength to the voice of resistance and alternative ideas across the country. We have pledged to save the education, the country and defeat communalism. So, we have promises to keep. We have miles to go otherwise history will not pardon us.
SFI is to organise a one-day national convention of students studying in the universities which has been listed for grating autonomy by the UGC. This is a stingent attack on the public funded higher education. The convention will take place in Delhi on April 7th.
Modi government whose track record is filled with uninterrupted attacks on higher education , has unleashed another brutal attack by their latest decision to provide autonomy for 62 higher education institutes. It is alarming that instead of democratically discussing this decision in Parliament and addressing various concerns of other stake holders, they have unilaterally decided to impose this on us through UGC.
Autonomy: An Excuse for Self-Financing and Privatization
The UGC Notification which deals with autonomy is unambiguous on the meaning of autonomy. The University will have autonomy to start new courses, new centres, off campus centres, incentivize talented faulty by additional pay etc. But they categorically state that no funding will be provided by the government for this purpose. A cursory look on the clauses make this evident.
Clause 4.2 states“Universities may start a new course/programme/department/school/centre in disciplines that form apart of its existing academic framework without approval of the UGC, provided no demand for fund is
made from the government on account of starting the new course/programme/department/school/
Caluse 4.3 states“Universities may open constituent units/off-campus centres within its geographical jurisdiction,
without the approval of the UGC, provided it is able to arrange both recurring and non-recurring
revenue sources and does not need any assistance for the same from the UGC or the Government.”
Caluse 4.8 states“Universities, while following the pay scales as laid down by the Commission, shall build in an
incentive structure to attract talented faculty, with the condition that the incentive structure shall have
to be paid from their own revenue sources and not from Commission or Government funds .”
Mobilsing funds for these purposes can be possible only through Self-Financing. From examples of universities in the West, it is clear that Self– Financing would invariably result in changes in fee structure and increased role of private players. This would mean that only a privileged few can access higher education in India. Doors of Universities like JNU which is already closed to marginalized sections due to the draconian 2016 UGC Notification will remain forever closed.
Increased Role of Private Players-The UGC notification also states that Universities can have increased collaborations with private players. But private players are not innocuous entities. They have their own market centric agenda rooted in profit. They would have no incentive in supporting critical studies, which Universities like JNU are known for, resulting in reduced fund allocation for these departments.
Saffronisation of curriculum– The timing of these notifications is perfect from the view-point of RSS. They have appointed their men in almost all the leading Universities of this country, giving them a free hand in deciding different courses. Although UGC states that statutory bodies should be consulted for these changes, from the experience of JNU, we know how these bodies are misused by the administration.
Obsession with Foreign faculty and Students– The policy of this government to use autonomy of higher institutes to attract foreign students and faculty to India makes no sense. It is the same government which overlooked competent individuals and appointed Sanghi stooges in Universities like JNU. Appointment of foreign faculty members would require additional resources which would further bleed students. The notification also states that there can be 20% reservation for foreign students. This is a significant number. Ours in developing country, where the primary motive of the government should ensuring that maximum students from deprived background access quality higher education. We are in no position to turn our higher educational institutes into educational hubs catering international market.
Incentives to talented faculty members? The Notification also states that the University can give incentives to talented faculty in the form of extra payment. But there is clarity on how this talent is measured. Ultimately, this would mean that Sanghi Chamchas of the government/Vice Chancellors, who are invariably incompetent, would be given incentives for their loyalty.
Overall, the autonomy clause is a merciless and brutal attack on higher education. It should be noted that many of the clauses in this notification have been purposefully made ambiguous for ensuring maximum impact. For long, the WTO has recommended withdrawal of Indian government from institutes of higher education. Modi government has made this a reality. But they forget that it is unbridled privatization which has made students across the world hit the streets against their governments. The same will happen in India.