IN a novel form of protest against increasing unemployment and commercialisation of education, human chains were organised on October 21, at 50 locations spread in 20 districts of Maharashtra. Roughly 40,000 people participated in all the human chains taken together.
The theme of these human chains was to unite the people of every segment of the society cutting across caste and religious barriers to fight for job and education opportunities. Had the ruling establishment in India chosen to address questions of providing minimum opportunities to the youth in a straight forward manner, they would have brought policy corrections against increasing commoditisation of education and unemployment. Instead of doing that, the ruling classes have chosen to pit youth against youth, dividing them along caste and religious identities. Overcoming such divisive barriers is a pre-requisite to build people’s unity.
The Maharashtra state committees of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and Students’ Federation of India (SFI) had appealed to various youth, student and citizens forums to form ‘Human Chain Organising Committees’ for organising the October 21 protests.
On the employment question, the major demand was that the several lakh vacancies in state government offices, public sector undertakings and local self-government institutions across Maharashtra must be filled up immediately. Proper implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, increase in remuneration under this scheme, 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, filling SC/ST quotas in public service jobs on a war-footing, establishing modern industrial units in adivasi areas, preventing the issuance of bogus ST certificates and extending job reservation to the private sector were some of the other demands.
As regards education, stop closing down of schools, appoint teachers, improve facilities in government schools and colleges, provide school admission to children under the RTE Act, raise income ceiling for RTE admissions to Rs 3 lakh per year, curb private colleges from extracting hefty donations and capitation fees – these were the main demands.
Till recently, these demands and slogans were confined to platforms of SFI, DYFI etc. But with the human chain initiative newer sections of people joined the movement all over Maharashtra.
Protesters had gathered in 20 districts viz., Palghar, Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Pune, Solapur, Kolhapur, Satara, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Jalgaon, Beed, Aurangabad, Jalna, Parbhani, Nanded, Hingoli, Yavatmal, Nagpur, Wardha and Amravati. Human chains were formed in 17 locations in Mumbai, seven locations in Palghar, three locations in Beed, two locations each in Thane, Pune, Nasik, Wardha, Parbhani and Nanded and one location in the rest of the districts. Forty thousand people participated in the agitation and built human chains totalling 40 km.
This novel form of protest caught the imagination of the people. Several local organisations and many statewide organisations took active part in the struggle. The leaders speaking in the public meetings at various locations were highly critical of the central and state government’s neo-liberal policy framework which they said is the root cause of rapid commercialisation of education and acute unemployment. Huge contractualisation, outsourcing of jobs and re-employment of retired employees in the government and public sector has diminished the possibilities of decent employment even more. Speakers were highly critical of the extreme privatisation in the education sector and they called for a more widespread and intense struggle against the BJP-RSS regime.
It is hoped that this movement will grow fast in the coming days and make impactful interventions in Maharashtra’s employment and education scene.