Rise Up Against Modi Govt’s All-Out War against Public Education System

esi collegeThe Modi sarkar promised ‘achchhe din’ for India’s youth, in order to come to power. But instead, students and youth as well as poor and working people are facing times that seem to become worse with every passing day. Every day of Modi Sarkar brings job cuts, shrinking opportunities of dignified and stable employment, Ordinances to facilitate land grab from the poor peasants and adivasis, proposed cut-backs in food security coverage, and billion dollar loans from public banks to crony corporates like Adani! It is amply clear that the Modi regime intends ‘acche din’ for the super-rich corporates who funded his massive media make-over –  but the worst possible days for ordinary people.

This govt’s tenure started with the betrayal of and police brutality on students protesting against the discriminating pattern of CSAT in UPSC. Then came the covert job cut in IBPS through 10% cap on waiting list of qualified candidates. Now, in a fresh set of assaults on avenues of public funded education and research: CSIR-UGC NET-JRF application fee has been hiked by a whopping 150%, 13 ESIC medical colleges are being closed down, CSIR has announced shunting out of hundreds of Trainee Scientists! Even as the Lyngdoh committee recommendations continue to scuttle students’ democratic rights and campus democracy, the central government is mooting an extremely dangerous piece of legislation to do away with all the autonomy of central Universities.

Proposals to Destroy University’s Autonomy: Under the new government, the UGC has proposed a new Bill that seeks to nullify all the Acts which created individual universities such as JNU. As per this proposal, existing acts such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University Act 1966 will be replaced by a SINGLE overarching Act – which will guide all the decisions and functioning of all central universities. Clearly, this is a calculated move to destroy the unique character, autonomy and academic independence of educational institutions. Through this legislation, everything from faculty appointments, entrance exams for students, academic curriculum and policies will be micromanaged and dictated by the Central Government, according to the whims and fancies of the MHRD.

There are several highly problematic clauses in the proposed legislation. For instance, there is a clause to allow the arbitrary transfer of faculty members across Universities, which will not just compromise academics but will also open the doors to vindictive punishments of faculty members who raise their voices against the establishment. Moreover, the Act is designed to make it easier for the MHRD to manipulate syllabi and course content in all universities and thus force their own version of ‘history’, ‘culture’, ‘science’, economics and ‘skill development’. We are all witness to the manner in which ideas of RSS ideologues such as Dinanath Batra are being promoted by the present MHRD, and this move is clearly a step in the direction of institutionalising the likes of Batra in our syllabi! This Act moreover goes against the fundamental democratic principle that each University should be allowed the space to independently analyse and respond to local, national, regional and international events.

Assaults on Public-funded Education and Research: In the recent past, the Modi government has taken several decisions to further curtail public-funded education and research. 13 medical colleges run by the ESIC are being arbitrarily shut down. This has jeopardised the future of several students, and is a massive wastage of medical college infrastructure built through public funds. This is in fact part of the government’s plan to systematically weaken quality health care in ESIC hospitals. What we are seeing under the hype of Modi’s ‘Make in India’ is an unmaking of future of medical students and teachers, unmaking of public infrastructure in medical education and unmaking  of health care provisions for workers.

And now, in a new move, the CSIR has undermined its own recruitment policy and arbitrarily shunted out 250 CSIR Trainee Scientists! CSIR refuses to appoint them as Scientists, even after they fulfil all eligibility criteria. In 2011, CSIR amended its Scientist Recruitment and Assessment Rules of 2001, allowing the Trainee Scientists recruited in the 2 years training program to be eligible for appointment to the level of Scientist (Scientist IV(II)) on completion of training with distinction (above than 8 CGPA). Now, the CSIR has simply kicked out those who had joined under this programme. CSIR has stopped emoluments of Trainee Scientists since August 2014 without any prior notice and reason. CSIR is not even ready to give them an M. Tech degree, let alone the promised appointment as Scientists, despite 2 years of  rigorous lab based research after graduation.

150% Increase in Fees for UGC/CSIR NET-JRF Exam: The application fees for the UGC/CSIR NET-JRF has been increased from Rs. 400 to Rs. 1000 for general category candidates, from Rs. 200 to Rs. 500 for OBC candidates and from Rs. 100 to Rs. 250 for SC/ST/PH candidates.CSIR has already notified this hike. This will clearly prevent several students from deprived backgrounds from applying for these exams, especially as students often have to appear several times for these exams before they qualify.

Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations (LCR): Even as these anti-student moves are being forced on students and youth, the LCR continues to be used to curb the organised student movement. The MHRD refuses even to entertain demands that a comprehensive review of the LCR be undertaken – given the experience of implementing the LCR across the country. This, despite the fact that the Supreme Court judgement on the LCR itself allows for such a review. JNUSU is presently in midst of campaigns in different parts of the country against LCR and for Campus Democracy. As part of this campaign JNUSU and its teams are visting various campuses in the country holding meetings with students, student unions and student organizations to mobilize them against the LCR towards a national mobilisation in Delhi during the upcoming Budget session.

We can overlook or ignore the pattern only at our own peril. It is simply an all-out war on public-funded education and research, on the democracy and autonomy of institutions and student bodies, on the future of students and youth. The present context demands concerted mobilisation and resistance.

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