Thousands of students from across the country marched today in Delhi against the attacks on education, democracy and social justice; for a pro-student, pro-people NEP. We have witnessed an unrelenting authoritarian assault on campuses and students in the past couple of years in the wake of the imposition of RSS’ agenda of Hindutva. This has also been the period of growing struggles and resistance, with student movement emerging as a catalyst in the fight against authoritarianism. However, what has gone largely unnoticed is the increasing economic attack on students. Successive central governments have been demonstrating their staunch commitment to private capital and its neo-liberal offensive. The present government is strictly implementing these neo-liberal 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 neo-liberal capital. The impact of these policies is visible in the rampant growth of private educational institutions, both at primary and higher education levels. The 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 Department of School Education and Literacy, the Modi government spent Rs 45,722 crore in 2014-15, down by Rs 1,134 crore over the previous year (UPA’s last year). Then in 2015-16, Rs 42,187 crore is estimated to have been spent (revised estimates), further down by Rs 3,535 crore. Clearly during last three years, the government is pushing the agenda of triple ‘C’ in education system i.e. commercialisation, centralisation and communalisation.
Education is widely recognised as a potent tool for the “socio-economic mobility” of the vulnerable sections of the economy. But our central government seems to forget this fact and is implementing the policies which are 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%.” 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. There have also been numerous incidents of caste-based violence and brutal attacks on dalits and tribals in last two years.
Students of the country are in a struggle for a pro-student education policy focussed on addressing 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, and not by the dictates of the RSS headquarter in Nagpur. For last two years, we have seen militant struggle against fee hike, to have state control on private institutions, for social justice, in defence of democracy.
The march culminated in a public meeting which was addressed by Sitaram Yechury, MP, Rajya Sabha & former All India President of SFI; Hannan Mollah, General Secretary, AIKS; Vikram Singh, General Secretary, SFI; VP Sanu, President, SFI; Mayukh Biswas, Joint Secretary, SFI; Madhuja Sen Roy, Vice-President, SFI; Dipsita Dhar, Convener, Girls’ Sub-committee SFI and Sunand, Central Secretariat member, SFI. Sitaram Yechury made a scathing attack on RSS-BJP’s assault on democratic rights across the country and expressed confidence that SFI will emerge victorious in this struggle by mobilizing widest possible sections of students in the campuses.
The march reasserted 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.