In a meeting held this month, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to completely withdraw the UGC non-NET Rs 5000/8000 fellowships. The minutes of a UGC meeting held on 7 October clearly says: “Considered and resolved to discontinue the scheme [non-NET fellowship scheme]. However, the students who are already getting the non-NET fellowship will continue to do so as per existing guidelines” (section 4.01 of the minutes).
This blatant withdrawal of an essential sustenance-level financial assistance, which enables research scholars across the country to pursue higher education, must be stiffly resisted and the govt must be forced to retract its decision.
At the same time we must recognize that this retrograde step is NO aberration. Let there be no mistake:
- The 8% fund cut for higher education in the Union Budget 2015-16 is NOW translating into withdrawal of the Non-NET Fellowship!
- Also it is equally clear, these steps are a part of the Modi Govt.’s concerted agenda to cut subsidies and make India’s Higher Education sector compliant to WTO ‘conditionalities’ before the upcoming WTO Meeting in Dec 2015!
We have seen how ABVP, kept telling students that we were ‘fear-mongering’ and ‘rumour mongering’ about fund-cuts and the WTO offensive. The ABVP in fact promised enhancement of the non-NET fellowships. The student community now needs to ask ABVP: was this yet another ‘Election JUMLA’? ABVP, as well as the Modi government, have to be held accountable for this calibrated dismantling of equitable, affordable, quality education.
The Modi government’s policies concerning the country’s education system is nothing other than a wholesale, bloodsucking, across-the-board gutting of the Indian education system. Again and again, we witness how public funds and taxpayers’ money is shifted out of public institutions in the education sector, and siphoned off to feed corporate profits. The Modi government’s impending move in the upcoming Dec 2015 Xth Ministerial Meeting of WTO at Nairobi to ‘commit’ higher education as a ‘tradable’ commodity spells doom for students from financially and socially marginalized sections. Thousands of students in India are able to pursue higher education only through subsidized education provided by public universities, and through schemes such as the UGC’s Non-Net Scholarship. And now, according to the UGC and the Modi government, and of course, the WTO, such schemes are deemed as “unnecessary measures”!
This withdrawal of non-NET fellowships has only exposed what will be unleashed with greater force in the days to come: Under WTO regime, the government would be expected to be a facilitator for ‘free trade’ and ‘level playing field’ and not for ensuring inclusive education. And to create this ‘level playing ground’ for the private and foreign ‘traders in education’, fellowships, scholarships and subsidies for the public-funded institutions, will be steadily withdrawn! The Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM) of WTO will have every right to dictate how public policies in India should be ‘reformed’ according to ‘trade interests’. Thus the WTO ‘commitments’ will be used as an excuse by the UGC/MHRD etc to reduce subsidies and withdraw all schemes of financial assistance. All subsidized and enabling provisions of state-funded institutions such as JNU, DU etc will be steadily dismantled to bring them at par with private institutions such as Sharda, Lovely and other such education shops!
This is what WTO ‘commitments’ mean in practice, where, the Govt/ MHRD would be expected to be accountable to WTO than to the people of India, compromising people’s rights and country’s sovereignty!
The withdrawal of the non-NET fellowship is only an instance of the Modi government preparing the ground. This is also a signal by the Modi govt to its WTO masters and corporate traders that it is indeed working hard to change India’s domestic policies and subsidy schemes and is ready to barter away all students’ rights to make India’s higher ‘compliant’ to WTO diktats!
From CBCS (whose precursor was the infamous FYUP) now in full force at the Delhi University to RUSA, each altering of education policies reeks of the brazen assault to dismantle and downgrade country’s public education system, making education unattainable and unaffordable for millions of students.