UNEMPLOYMENT is spreading like an epidemic in Maharashtra. Agriculture is in deep crisis, MNREGA has been severely affected, the manufacturing sector has slowed down, lakhs of vacancies in public services remain unfilled, contract workers are being over-exploited.
Extreme commercialisation of education is another sickening reality of the state. More than 1300 government schools have been closed. Educational institutions in the public sector are deprived of funds. Increasing numbers of children are not able to attend school. Higher education has become too expensive for students from families of low income groups. Private schools and colleges are on a looting spree. With permission being given to companies to start educational institutions, commoditisation is reaching its peak.
The DYFI and SFI in Maharashtra have been organising intermittent campaigns and agitations against government policies that have brought about these crises. Efforts are on to impart greater momentum to the movement for education and employment. In order to arouse students and youth, three state-level jathas were organised by DYFI and SFI state committees jointly. These three jathas covered 25 out of 35 districts of the state from February 4-11.
The first jatha started from Prakasha in Nandurbar district in northern Maharashtra and toured Nashik, Palghar, Thane, Mumbai, Raigad, Pune, Satara, Kolhapur and Sangli districts, culminating in Solapur city. The second jatha started from Nanded city in the Marathwada region and toured Hingoli, Parbhani, Beed, Jalna, Aurangabad, Latur and Usmanabad districts to reach Solapur city on February 11. Another jatha began from Nagpur in the Vidarbha region and toured Gondia, Bhandara, Nagpur, Wardha, Amravati and Buldana before joining the Nanded jatha at Beed.
The Nandurbar jatha was jointly led by DYFI state secretary Preethy Sekhar and SFI state secretary Balaji Kaletwad. Kiran Gahla, Suvarna Ugde and Prateeksha Pawar were the other permanent members. They were accompanied by a cultural troupe consisting of Praja Natya Mandali comrades from Solapur. The jatha started off from Prakasha in Nandurbar. It was inaugurated by Prof. Prashant Bobade, a prominent academician of Nandurbar at a well attended public meeting. Kumar Shiralkar and Jaising Mali were also present on the occasion.
For the next eight days the jatha was welcomed enthusiastically at Chandwad, Nashik city, Dindori, Talasari, Dahanu, Charoti, Palghar Phata, Vikramgarh, Wada, Shahpur, Khardi, Kalyan, Dombivli, Thane, Vasai, Bhayander, Mira Road, Malwani, Goregaon Shravista Buddha Vihar, Jogeshwari, Marol, MIDC Subhash Nagar, Powai, Sonapur Bhandup, Ambedkar College, Wadala, Dharavi, Mumbai University, Ghatkopar Ramabai Colony, Mankhurd, Vashi, Uran, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Pune University, Junnar and Kolhapur city.
ABVP goons tried to disrupt the jatha reception at Pune University. Around 12 ABVP activists surrounded the jatha shouting ‘Modi Zindabad’ and ‘RSS Zindabad’. Youth and students who had gathered to receive the jatha resisted and defeated their attempt to thwart the programme. In the reception programme at Pune University, Ramesh Kamble, a former teacher of Pune University was the chief guest. At Junnar, the jatha leaders and the activists burnt the circular from the state government introducing cash system for adivasi hostels in protest.
Ulka Mahajan, Dr Ram Puniyani, Yuvraj Mohite, Prof. Ramesh Kamble, Tejal Kanitkar were some of the well-known public intellectuals who participated at various jatha reception points.
The Nanded jatha was jointly led by DYFI state president Sunil Dhanwa and SFI state president Mohan Jadhav. Along with them was a cultural troupe consisting of Praja Natya Mandal comrades from Solapur. The jatha started off from Nanded. Prof. Laxman Shinde, a prominent activist of Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti inaugurated this jatha. The inaugural meeting attracted several people, especially students.
The jatha continued successfully for the next eight days with big receptions at Islapur, Wai, Kinwat, Mahur, Kalamnuri, Parbhani, Kolhe, Manwat, Selu, Partur, Jalna town, Jalna University, Aurangabad, Talkhed, Nitrud, Majalgaon, Sirsala, Sonpet, Pimpri, Ambajogai, Balbhim College Beed, Wadwani, Dharur, Kaij, Kalamb and four spots in Solapur.
The Nagpur jatha was jointly led by DYFI state leader Krunal Sawant and SFI state leader Rahul Khandalkar. It was inaugurated by Prof. Baganrao Taiwade, teacher and senate member of Nagpur University at a well attended public meeting at Anand Talkies Chowk.
For the next five days, the jatha was given rousing receptions at Khapri chowk in Nagpur, Kelzar in Wardha, Wardha city, Ashti, Tivsa, Shendurjana Bazar, Mauli Takli, Amravati City, Nandgaon Khandeshwar, Panchsheel Homeo College in Khamgaon, Deulgav Mahi, Deulgav Raja, Sakarkheda and Nitrud. This Jatha merged with the Nanded Jatha at Nitrud.
These jathas culminated at Solapur on February 11 where a massive rally and public meeting was organised. The public meeting was addressed by DYFI all India president P A Mohamed Riyas, SFI All India secretary Dr Vikram Singh and CPI(M) Maharashtra state secretary Narasayya Adam apart from the jatha leaders.
MOVING TOWARDS A MILITANT STRUGGLE
Specific demands as regards employment popularised through these jathas included filling vacancies in state government offices, public sector undertakings and local self-government institutions across Maharashtra; proper implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and increase in remuneration under this scheme; bringing in a similar national level employment guarantee programme for urban areas; modernisation of employment exchanges; making it mandatory for private companies to notify their vacancies through employment exchanges; job reservation for Muslim youth as per the Ranganath Mishra Commission recommendations; establishing modern industrial units in adivasi areas; preventing the issuance of bogus ST certificates; extending job reservation to private sector; and regular publication of unemployment statistics.
On education, the demands include radical improvement of facilities in schools, colleges and universities; hostel facilities to all needy students; all vacancies of teachers to be filled up. One of the major demands is to strictly implement the Right to Education Act’s provision to give 25 per cent admission and free education to children from the poor and socially disadvantaged families. There is also the demand to curb private colleges from exploiting students by extracting donations and capitation fees. The higher education sector in Maharashtra is already in the clutches of rapacious education barons and hence the move to allow private universities must be abolished.
The SFI and DYFI state committees are determined to arouse youth and students in all parts of Maharashtra and rally them in a massive movement against the government’s disastrous policies that have led to total commercialisation of education and caused unemployment to spread like an epidemic. In this regard, the February jathas have given immensely energising experiences to the youth and student movement and have helped in triggering an effective movement against unemployment and commercialisation of education in Maharashtra.
DYFI and SFI units of Maharashtra have called upon a rally of youth and students in Mumbai on March 23, 2018, the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. It will be one of the biggest student-youth mobilisations in Maharashtra in recent years on the question of education and unemployment. The SFI and DYFI are determined to carry forward this struggle. The Yuva Vidyarthi Jagar Jatha has been a big success in inspiring the activists as well as the general youth and students in Maharashtra.