University Grants Commission (UGC) came with a new notification on the MPhil/PhD admission which was published in the gazette on 5th May, 2016. The disastrous impact of this notification on the social justice, autonomy and inclusive nature of the universities is in front of all of us. Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University have recently authoritatively pushed this notification, overriding the impact that it will have on the students from the deprived sections. Similarly, we also have the experience of Kerala University, where the VC (appointed by the UDF government) implemented this notification authoritatively and this led to drastic reduction in the seats.
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.
The Notification says clearly that higher educational institution “shall admit candidates by a two stage process through: An Entrance Test shall be qualifying with qualifying marks as 50%. The syllabus of the Entrance Test shall consist of 50% of research methodology and 50% shall be subject specific. An interview/viva-voce to be organized by the institution when the candidates are required to discuss their research interest/area through a presentation before a duly constituted Department Research Committee. The interview/viva voce shall also consider the following aspects, viz. whether: the candidate possesses the competence for the proposed research; the research work can be suitably undertaken at the Institution/College; the proposed area of research can contribute to new/additional knowledge.”
At a time when the Abdul Nafey committee constituted by the JNU administration has itself come to a conclusion (based on the analysis of the admission related data) that discrimination based on caste and ‘social group’ is indeed a reality. Hence, it recommended that the viva marks be reduced from ‘30% to 15%’ to mitigate this discrimination. There are similar empirical data on the caste based discrimination in other universities as well. Now, we are being pushed towards 100% viva.
The fact that the “entrance test” will have uniform qualifying marks of 50% across the categories, will in effect mean that in many of the universities there would be a real possibility of ‘no student from the reserved category” found suitable for the interview. Hence, this model will act as a ploy to restrict the implementation of the constitutionally guaranteed reservation policy.
The template based approach in deciding the question papers to the interview content will erode the academic autonomy of the universities.
Further, the notification also lays down strict rules regarding the eligibility of “research supervision”. It says: “A Research Supervisor/Co-supervisor who is a Professor, at any given point of time, cannot guide more than three (3)M.Phil. and Eight (8) Ph.D. scholars. An Associate Professor as Research Supervisor can guide up to a maximum of two (2) M.Phil. and six (6) Ph.D. scholars and an Assistant Professor as Research Supervisor can guide up to a maximum of one (1) M.Phil. and four (4) Ph.D. scholars.”
This basically means that there are will be a drastic reduction in the available number of MPhil and PhD seats in all our public universities.
The CEC of SFI strongly denounces this disastrous gazette notification and demands that it be taken back immediately. We do understand that there is a need for review of the prevailing admission norms in our universities and research institutions. However, any change must lead towards greater representation of the students from the deprived communities and not the contrary. At the same time, an overarching mechanism which erodes the autonomy of universities can’t be accepted at all.
This assault is part and parcel of the RSS-BJP’s agenda of attack on social justice and public universities. SFI calls upon all its university units to build robust movement against this attack.
The shocking incident of the death of Jishnu, a first year Engineering student in a private college run by the Nehru Group of Institutions at Thrissur, Kerala is an another brutal example of the undemocratic character of the self financing institutions in our country. Jishnu committed suicide on 6th January 2017 following the mental and physical torture that he underwent at the hand of some teachers and the management after he was accused, without any evidence, of malpractice in the examination hall. The latest report exposed the fact that no report of malpractice by Jishnu has been sent to the examination controller. It has become clear that the accusations against him was completely manipulated by the teacher. The unfortunate death of Jishnu also reveals the inhuman attitude of the profiteering private educational institutions towards the students. The self financing colleges are transforming into jails where students are imprisoned with no rights or voice. Feudal atmosphere is set up in almost all such campuses and students are treated as slaves under the authoritarian managements. This is yet another example of the vulnerable position of students in a privatised education sector which promotes depoliticisation and alienation of the student community. Students are denied even their constitutional rights of association and freedom of speech. Neither any democratic forums nor elected students unions are allowed in these institutions. Jishnu's death is not a suicide. It is an institutional murder. This hunt on students by the private managements cannot be tolerated for any democratic and progressive society.
The Central Executive Committee of SFI demands the Kerala Government to speed up the enquiry to punish the culprits in this particular case and ensure justice to Jishnu. We also recognize that this is not an isolated incident. A legislation must be enacted by the parliament to ensure the campus democracy and elected student unions in all educational institutions in the country. No self financing managements must be granted this scoundrel free run. SFI appeals all democratic and progressive sections to join in the ongoing movement for justice for Jishnu.
The decision of the central government to demonetize the currency notes of 500 and 1000 from the midnight of 8th November has turned out to create havoc among common people across the country. People are forced to stand in long queues outside banks and ATMs. The recent statements of finance minister and Prime Minister Modi make it clear that there is no end in sight for these problems. Most hit have been the people from working class and the poor sections. It is clear that this authoritarian decision has been made without any due preparation. Mass anger is building among the people against this disastrous step.
It is being argued that this move will help check ‘black money. This argument in itself is completely erroneous, since the ‘black cash’ is only a small part of the overall black economy. If the government is indeed serious about black money then it should make public the names of all the big corporates whose loan defaults in the public banks today runs in lakhs of crores. Most of the black money in the country is in gold and in real estate. Many economists of varying ideological positions have pointed how this move will not be able to check black money. Further, they have also pointed to the fact that the difficulties created by it are much more than its benefits.
Students, living away from their families have been hit hard by this move. It is shameful in such a scenario that ABVP has come out it support of this ruinous decision.
SFI units in many states including Kerala and West Bengal are already with the people by setting up help desks near the banks and the ATMs. CEC calls upon all its units to make necessary measures to help the people who are in distress.