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.
Democratic Youth Federation of India, DYFI has launched a campaign for security of women working in the IT sector. This campaign was launched against the brutal murdered of Rasila Raju OP, software professional. She was murdered inside the Infosys office in Pune on January 29th. The incident has once again brought to public attention the sad state of women's safety in the information technology and BPO sector.
DYFI is observing 22nd February as PROTEST DAY – “SPEAK UP IF IT IS NOT SAFE”. The Central Executive Committee of SFI extends its solidarity with the ongoing struggle for women justice and has decided to take this struggle to educational institutions. We are requesting our state units to undertake a campaign to send email messages demanding intervention from Government in this matter to Honourable Prime Minister of India on 22nd February, 2017. Write to Prime Minister at http://pgportal.gov.in/pmocitizen/Grievancepmo.aspx.
The text of the email message is following:
I am writing this letter in the context of the brutal murder of a Software professional, Rasila Raju OP, inside Infosys Company in Pune on 29th January. It is really worrying that atrocities against women are taking place increasingly even in places which were thought to be safe. We demand government to act without fail to punish the perpetrators of the crime, make a comprehensive investigation into the case and ensure that such incidents are not repeated.
Let us together make sure no women in the country ends up a life of Rasila Raju.
Central Executive Committee of SFI welcomes the verdict of Supreme Court in the PIL filed by us in 2014 on the issue of the mushrooming of ‘unrecognized’ private engineering and medical private coaching centres in violation of Right to Education (RTE) guidelines. The Supreme Court of India directed the Central Government to put private engineering and medical entrance coaching centres on strict restrictions. The Court has also observed that considering entrance tests as the sole criterion for admissions is primarily faulty. Court has directed the central government to put in a structure to regulate the functioning of these coaching centres.
It needs to be noted that most of these institutions have become money minting shops, with no check on the quality of education. Even though the court has observed that these coaching centres can’t be ‘closed’ at this juncture since many of the students are dependent on them, we need to reiterate that it is due to the dual system of school education that these centres are mushrooming. Government can’t shy away from its responsibility from giving quality school education, so that students do not have to depend on the private coaching centres. The struggle against the mushrooming coaching centres in essence is also a struggle for quality, common school system.
SFI will build movement across the country to ensure that government is forced to implement the court decision.
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 increase the liquidity in the banks that were on the brink of collapse due to the massively piled NPAs by the big businesses. However, finance minister in his budget has refused to even acknowledge the people’s woes caused by demonetization. Government claims that demonetization will have only short term impact and in the long run it will lead to ‘big, cleaner and real’ GDP. There is no economic rationale behind this assertion, at a time when demonetization has badly affected industrial output, agriculture and informal sector. In essence this year’s budget is an exercise in self deception.
The present situation required a massive increase in the budgetary allocations in social sector spending, so as to increase the domestic demand. However, the budget continues to be marred by neoliberal conservatism, with focus entirely on somehow reducing the fiscal deficit. 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.
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%.
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.
When it comes to education, finance minister’s budget speech is marred by absolute lack of attention and concern. No commitments have been made in increasing the budgetary outlays in any of the sectors. Instead we merely see some promises.
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. 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.
There is a talk of 100 international skills Centre with courses in foreign languages, Rs 4000 crore for skill acquisition and knowledge awareness and priority on science education. This too is in tune with the government’s empty rhetoric of ‘skill education’, while the actual trajectory of the educational policy is towards deskilling the youth.
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.
The CEC of SFI sees the union budget an exercise in self deception, which refuses to understand the ground reality of the masses. The same attitude can 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. CEC calls upon all its units to remain vigilant on the concrete manifestations of this budget in the campuses and accordingly make necessary interventions.