Students’ Voice of Resistance to Echo at SFI All India Conference

Mayukh Biswas

HERALDING the message of resistance, the Student Federation of India’s 16th all India conference will be held from October 30 to November 2 in Shimla. The conference aims to add strength to the voice of resistance and alternative ideas across the country.

With just few months left to complete his tenure as prime minister, Narendra Modi’s commitments to provide two crore jobs an year and deposit Rs 15 lakh in every Indian’s bank account simply sound like fake promises. Day by day, discontent among the student community over non-payment of scholarships and fee-reimbursements is on the rise. Young people are feeling duped by empty promises of creating employment. To add to the perils, the central government, instead of providing jobs, has suggested the youth to fry ‘pakodas’.

While a lion share of the Indian demography belongs to the age group of under-forty, it is unfortunate that the scope of employment is reducing drastically. The foreign financial corporations have already withdrawn deposits worth Rs 70 crore from the Indian market. Last year, the production in the manufacturing sector has decreased by 4.4 per cent.

The prices of basic equipments and ingredients essential for the agrarian sectors like seeds or fertilizers have been hiked vehemently in the recent times. For the first time in the history of India after independence, this year, India has witnessed the lowest production of kharif crops. Given these circumstances, it has become a luxury for the poor and middle class sections to afford their wards’ education at private institutions.

The festival of loot in education sector is now reaching the utmost point under the Modi led BJP government. This government has declared to enact the New Education Policy within the next 100 days of coming to power. Their draft education policy tends to communalise, privatise and centralise the entire education system of the country. They are consciously letting the lanes of education to be shrunk for the students coming from the lower income groups.

Consequently, budget allocation in the educational sector is gradually brought down by the government. The budget allotted for the purpose of education has been reduced to 0.45 per cent of GDP in the academic year 2018-2019 as compared to that of 0.71 per cent in the academic year of 2014-2015, denigrating the recommendations of Daulat Singh Kothari Commission to spend 6 per cent of GDP for the purpose of education.

Likewise, the Modi government has reduced budget allotment for education to 3.7 per cent of the national budget in the financial year 2017-2018 while they had allocated an amount of 6.15 per cent for that purpose in their very first national budget. Even in the academic year 2017-2018, 29 per cent of budget allotment has been reduced for the schemes like ‘Sarva Siksha Abhiyan’.  These directly affect the classrooms across the country.

The scenario of school education is grim. In many places, provisions of mid-day meals are getting closed. Troubles are also arising out of the issue of digital ration cards. In such a perilous predicament, schools are offered for private ownership by the government through the PPP (Public Private Partnership) Model.

In Rajasthan, the BJP government has put 225 government schools into the private hands following such a model. 15,000 government schools in Madhya Pradesh and 13,905 government schools in Maharashtra have been occluded by the BJP-led state governments in those states. The state governments of Himachal and Haryana are their sincere followers.

Although it necessitates at least a separate school for each of the separate villages, the government has majestically declared ‘Ekalavya Schools’ in each block. As per the current socio-economic scenario and the state of security of the students in the rural India, it is next to impossible for the parents to send their children to a school located far from their place.

Teacher crisis is perpetually getting acute as both the state and the central governments are displaying serious indifference. Near about 1,05,000 schools across the country are still run by a single teacher.

States like West Bengal have set a record by completely collapsing the process of appointing new teachers from the primary to the higher education. A few appointments which had been conducted resulted in wide corruption.

At the same time, text-books provided by the state government are found to contain wrong information where saffronisation is given the highest priority. Manuwadi outlook of the BJP government is aiming to scrap the numbers of hostels and schools in the adivasi-dominant areas. In remote areas of the country, the picture is much more pathetic. Scholarships for the tribal students have been largely decreased.

There is a lack of permanent teachers in the colleges as the process of appointment has been stalled since the last few years. Meanwhile many colleges are facing a crisis of expert teachers for different subjects offered to be taught.

A large number of seat-cuts have taken place in the field of research in the universities including JNU as per the UGC gazette notification 2015. Under the tenure of this government, budget allocations have been ruthlessly cut for the purpose of higher education and research.

This government is deliberately enabling the privatisation and centralisation of education through dismissing various autonomous institutions which decide the policies of education. As a consequence, MHRD is eager to dismantle UGC and replace it with Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA). ‘Choice Base Credit System’ (CBCS) and ‘Rashtriya Ucchatar Siksha Abhiyan’ have been introduced. These are gradually becoming the regulating authorities on the issue of monetary sanctions. The condition is that corresponding institutions must have to be run in accordance with the conditions applied by these authorities. Naturally, that in turn curbs the autonomy of the aided institutions.

So far, the central government has granted autonomy in favour of 60 academic institutions including five central universities, 21 state and 24 deemed universities and let them introduce and run new courses and set up new centres or campuses without any support from the government.

Instead, the government is clearly mandating them to manage the financial resources on their own. They are widening the avenues for privatisation of education thus easing the inevitable introduction of tuition fee hikes through the mode of self-financing.

The finance ministry in the 2018-2019 budget, has declared that the government will sanction credits, not aid, to the educational institutions. Terms have been imposed in such a manner that the corresponding institutions are responsible to pay through fee hikes or selling research-patents.
Thus the government institutions will also eventually be commercialised and that in turn will lead to commoditisation of education. Meanwhile, the government has sanctioned a grant of Rs 1,000 crore from the tax payers’ money to the proposed ‘Jio University’ of Ambani Group even before its foundation was laid.

In most of the central educational institutions, the government is appointing RSS members or sympathizers who are intentionally highlighting the ‘puranas’ and are distorting the history of our country.

The RSS-led schools and ashrams have been largely expanded all over the country since the last few years. Mainly in adivasi belts, students from the lower economic groups are enrolled through the allurement of money.Across the country, girl students and the students belonging to dalit and minority groups are paying the price due to the Manuwadi communal violence in the campuses. Few years back, in Hyderabad Central University, a dalit scholar, Rohith Vemula was forced to commit suicide. Caste and communal violence are rapidly rising in the campuses. While the government is keen to popularise the slogan of “Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao”,  Yogi Adityanath government in UP had backed the predators of sexual harassment on the girl students of BHU. A blueprint was prepared to shut off the only university for women in Assam. Finally they went back on their decision following agitations by the SFI.
Also, in Bihar, UP, Haryana and Bengal, sexual violence is on the rise. Privatisation of the education sector inAndhra Pradesh-Telangana has taken several lives of the students. In West Bengal, the state government has forced the students to make a donation to the ruling party fund while taking admission into the colleges and universities. Due to the hike in the prices of petro-goods, devaluation of currency and introduction of GST, donation rates for honours courses are gradually increasing.

At the same time we have observed the attack from the ABVP goons on our comrades from Kashmir to Kanyakumari as the SFI comrades have always been on front in resisting fundamentalist forces in all battlegrounds.

Struggles have been held on a large number of local issues. Our comrades are marching on the streets against the bus fare hikes in Tamil Nadu or tuition fee hikes in Himachal and struggling for the demands of students’ hostels in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh or raising voice for the security of girl students in Assam. In Kerala, SFI comrades have stood beside the flood affected people.

The student communities from JNU, Maharashtra, Kerala, Rajasthan have casted their verdict in favour of SFI and organised student movements during the union elections. Although, being attacked every time by the tyrant state government, the students of Bengal are in the lead in this battle of ideas. Since the last few months, students from the Jadavpur University, Presidency University and Medical College have won their demands from the despotic government. United student movement has won in such battles.

The SFI has been raising the demands concerning the students’ day-to-day life in districts to metropolitan centres. Recently, the SFI held a jatha which started from the four corners of India, demanding ‘quality and scientific education without discrimination’.

The growing consciousness of the students is now seen as a threat to the government, while the PM blabbers about making India the best in the world, his followers are on a run to challenge the spirit of the students.

The SFI has been tirelessly fighting for the students and building a scientific temperament across the country. In times, when the shadows of the rightist minds tend to overtake our thoughts, SFI stands out as a beacon of hope.

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