The attacks at all levels and in different spheres of education have intensified further in the one year of Modi regime. The policy thrust of centralization, Commercialisation, and privatization of education, however, is not party-specific, but one that is supported by the entire ruling class to serve its interests. The Modi Government’s sinister agenda of saffronisation makes this toxic combination more lethal. Neoliberal assaults over education on one hand and aggressive communalization on the other are today greatest threat to our education system.
The Modi Government has slashed budgetary allocations for education by 16.5 per cent. It has halved the funds for ICDS, cut funds for mid-day meal schemes and for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan. Funds for higher education have been cut by 29%. Thus, even the limited gains of the past are being eliminated. Successive Governments have underfunded education, and public funding has stagnated at just 3 per cent of GDP. The failure to expand public investment in education has facilitated the expansion of the private sector at all levels, from nursery school to higher education.
Right to Education Act has proved to be means of siphoning public funds to private schools and allowing private school managements to hike fees. In the last 5 years since this Act has come into operation, the commercialization and privatization of school education across the country has intensified .It has institutionalized the multi-layered school education systemand increased the already existing inequalities.
Government schools have been shut down in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and elsewhere to make further way for privatization of school education. The absence of a statutory requirement that the Central Government provide the additional resources to ensure the implementation of the Right to Education, combined with the worsening finances of the States, is leading to a catastrophe. The Government’s claim that it is transferring more funds to States in the spirit of “cooperative federalism,” while actually slashing allocations for major centrally-sponsored programmes, is characteristic of the crisis. Acute infrastructural shortages, poor student-teacher ratios, cramped classrooms, insufficient hostel facilities, and inadequate laboratory and library facilities characterize all levels of education, from schools to higher educational institutions.
The Rashtriya Uchhtar Shiksha Abhiyaan (RUSA), the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), and the Common University Act are part of the agenda of privatization. Centralization has been used a means to push these agendas. In the recent case of the UGC order to implement CBCS in all universities from the 2015-16 academic session with centralized syllabi allowing only 20% deviation is an example of similar approach. CBCS, which is being pushed as an academic system which will give ‘choice’ to the students, will in effect, give choice to only those who have money. The real agenda behind it remains the ruin of public education, so as to create further space for the private sector.
RUSA replaces the pre-existing multiple funding mechanisms with one centralized mechanism. The funding is linked to a set of conditions failing which the institutions / states won’t be eligible to receive funds. These conditions include implementation of Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), Semesterization and compulsory accreditation among others. The same document makes it clear that the funding under RUSA will be norm based as well as performance based. This basically means that the state governments or universities won’t have any room to modify the system according to their specific conditions and all powers to determine their education are snatched away from them. This will go on to increase the already existing inequalities.
Indian government had agreed for ‘Market Access’ in ‘Higher Education Sub-Sector’ to WTO way back in August 2005 as a part of Doha Round Trade Negotiations which started in 2001. These have not yet become ‘commitments’ as the trade negotiations could not be concluded for the last 10 years. But now with a fresh momentum in the negotiations, there are plans expedite the process of the ongoing trade negotiations in WTO from the coming July and successfully conclude them in the ensuing Tenth Ministerial Conference to be held at Nairobi, Kenya from December 15 to 18 this very year. Since agreeing to WTO rules would also necessarily mean that Indian government will have to offer ‘level playing field’ to the private and foreign players, as well. The current policy level offensives are intrinsically linked to the preparations for offering this level playing field.
In the last one year, RSS has intervened in a host of educational and cultural bodies like ICHR, ICSSR, NBT and Sahitya Academy. There is a concerted attempt to push the hindutva agenda in various spheres. Apart from this, the various BJP-led state governments have been tampering the school text books. This has gone hand-in-hand with outfits like ABVP’s planned efforts to communalize the campuses.
The democratic rights of students and teachers are being curbed. Other than in a few States, student union elections are not held and students are denied the minimum democratic right to organize. Lyngdhoh Committee recommendations with their stated aim of ensuring the democratic rights of the students have went on to become a tool of depoliticization in campuses and limiting the fighting capacity of the unions against the adverse ruling class policies. The recent derecognition order of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras at the behest of MHRD, is only a pointer to the situation of democratic rights under current regime.
It is in this background, that we have come together to launch joint movement with on the following issues:
Build pressure on Indian government so that it doesn’t agrees to give ‘market access’ to ‘higher education sub-sector’ in the upcoming Nairobi rounds of WTO-GATS.
No to the trident of CBCS, Semesterization and RUSA, which have become tools of commodification of education.
Increase public expenditure in education to 6% of GDP, 10% of central budget and 30% of state budgets.
Uphold democratic rights in campuses. Reject Lyngdhoh Committee recommendations. Bring legislation calling for compulsory students’ union elections in all institutions.
Free universal compulsory quality school education and strengthening facilities for preschool
Replace the RTE in its present form with a new legislation mandating fully public funded school education. In the meanwhile, private schools can’t be given any leverage to deny the mandatory 25% seats for students from economically weaker sections.
Legislation to control fee structure and to ensure equal opportunities for students from socio-economically weaker sections in private institutions.
Stop the entry of foreign universities. No to FDI in education.
Ensure a secular, scientific and democratic educational system. No to any attempt of saffronisation of education.
We, the undersigned organizations, have come together to launch movement at the national level. Efforts will be made to bring students’ organizations and groups at the state, district and campus level who agrees with the basic understanding as outlined in this declaration.
ALL INDIA DEMOCRATIC STUDENTS ORGANISTAION (AIDSO)
SFI strongly condemns the police assault on students who gathered outside the gates of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to form the Ambedkar Periyar Forum in Delhi today. The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of SFI had given a call to form Ambedkar Periyar Forums in campuses across the country. It must be noted that after the derecognition of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras, several such study circles have sprung up in campuses across India.
Today’s programme in Delhi met heavy police repression. A few minutes after the Study Circle was inaugurated, the students who had gathered peacefully were assaulted and pushed into the police bus. They were detained in the Parliament Street Police Station for several hours. SFI All India President Dr. V Sivadasan, All India Joint Secretary Dr. Vikram Singh and Delhi State Secretary Sunand were among those who were detained.
The entire episode betrayed the deep anxiety of the Central government on this issue. The derecognition of APSC is a reflection of the Hindutva fascistic powers’ attempts to curb democratic voices, and brought to light the deeply undemocratic nature of the so-called guidelines in several such institutes which deny students the basic fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association. Campus democracy is something that has been absent in many of our top notch institutes. The developments surrounding APSC and IIT Madras have also brought to the fore the reality of caste discrimination in our premier institutes. In the last few years, scores of students have committed suicides in many of the premier institutes due to caste discrimination.
The SFI CEC resolves to struggles on these issues and to carry them forward to their logical conclusion.
Central Executive Committee of STUDENTS’ Federation of India strongly condemns the brutal lathi charge on the student-youth protesters of SFI-DYFI who were protesting outside the IIT Madras against the derecongnition of a students’ body named Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle at the behest of the MHRD. It needs to be noted that the Human resource development ministry has clearly breached a Central Vigilance Commission guideline in forwarding an anonymous complaint to IIT Madras. After the amendment last November, CVC rules make it clear that government departments “should not take action on anonymous/pseudonym complaints”.
The manner in which the MHRD clearly reflects displeasure of the current RSS-BJP regime with ideas which question them. On the contrary numerous media reports have pointing to existence of associations like Vivekananda Study Circle in that very IIT Madras campus, which continue to propagate unscientific and irrational ideas. Such a dual approach in an institute of national repute which is supposed to stand for scientific growth and rationality completely unmasks the regressive and retrograde face of RSS-BJP. While it is the battle of ideas which has forced the MHRD to act in such a partisan manner, the whole episode has also brought to fore the deep alienation that the dalit students face today in the IITs.
We would like to declare that the façade of ‘politics not allowed in IITs’ doesn’t hold any ground when administration and ruling class continues to propagate its own politics and ideology through numerous associations. We appeal all democratic sections inside the IITs, as well outside to rally in support of campus democracy and freedom of speech.A battle of ideas in unfolding and all those who stand for progress and scientific attitude must not yield a single inch to the forces of regression.
Released by Dr. V Sivadasan (President) Ritabrata Banerjee, M.P. (General Secretary)
Central Executive Committee of the Students’ Federation of India welcomes the overwhelming support of students, teachers, intellectuals and other democratic sections in favour of the students who had organized the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras. This study circle was derecognized by the authorities at the behest of the MHRD. Since then many groups and individuals have come out in protest against this arbitrary move to silence the critical voices.
Students of IIT Bombay have set up Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in their own campus in solidarity with the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle of IIT Madras. Students of IIT Kanpur have also come in support and formed a similar forum.
Today ‘Ambedkar Periyar Sadas’ was formed in Kadapa Collge, Andhra Pradesh through a well-attended public meeting. This meeting was presided by SFI state president Y Ramu. Meeting was inaugurated by SFI All India President Dr. V Sivadasan. All India Vice President Noor Mohammad also spoke on the occasion. With portraits of Ambedkar, Periyar and Bhagat Singh on the dais, the speakers resolved to intensify the struggle against the brahminical forces in every campus.
SFI CEC calls upon all its units to form 'Ambedkar Periyar Forums' not only in solidarity with the friends in IIT Madras, but also against the casteist-brahminical- regressive ideology of the sangh parivaar. In this battle of ideas, let thousands of such forums bloom!
Dr. V Sivadasan (President) Ritabrata Banerjee, M.P. (General Secretary)