Vol. XLIII No. 07 February 17, 2019

Failure of Modi Govt in the Education Sector

Mayukh Biswas

IN the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, people gave singular majority to the BJP.Now, after almost five years, a lot of people who had believed the promises of ‘achhe din’, are probably biting their tongues and considering whether they did speak too soon? BJP wrote in its election manifesto in 2014,“25 crore employment opportunities will pull the on rising unemployment rate down.” The BJP had also promised that 2 crore new jobs will be provided every year in the run up to the 2014 election. However, the reality is different; 11 million jobs were lost in the year 2018. Unemployment is the highest in last four decades as per the NSSO report of 2017-18, which was not published by the government. Though there are 26 lakh vacancies in government posts, which the government is not keen to fill up. Economists have been writing for some months that, contrary to the claims of the government, there is plenty of data available that shows unmistakably that unemployment is high and rising. Though ‘jumlanomics’ of Modi government is trying to ignore all these facts.

India can be termed as “youngistan”, as 50 per cent of the population of our country is aged less than 25 years, and 65 per cent of the population is less than 35 years in age. In 2020, the average age of India is going to be only 25 years.The population which had the potential to endow us with a demographic dividend has turned out to be a demographic liability. As the government is reducing expenses in social security, the ability of the people to consume is decreasing. Due to the crisis in potential buyers, the production of produced goods is also reduced. Jobs would have been created if industries grew. On the contrary, the industries are facing cuts. According to the information of Central Labour Bureau, 152,000 labourers in unorganised sector have lost their jobs in the three months following demonetisation only. The farmer suicides have also increased. The employment in 100 days work(MNREGA) is also declining. Village after village is getting evacuated as workers from villages are immigrating to the towns. Educated unemployment has worsened. Situation is so awful that 4,600 engineers, MBA degree holders apply for 14 sweepers' job in Tamil Nadu assembly. It is this frustration and grudge of this young generation that is being misused by the religious fundamentalists. Hence, to wean off the youth from divisive slogans and to get them to the democratic demands the SFI is giving the slogan, “dharm ke naam pe mat todo-naujawanon ko rozgar se joro” (Don’t divide the youth in the name of religion- Unite them on the slogan of employment).

We also observed that all sections have faced misery and pain in past five years except the rich cronies who have looted banks and fled, or have had their unpaid loans of lakhs of crores written off by Modi government. Students have been one of the worst affected sections in the country under the NDA regime. Education is used as a means for ideological indoctrination by the RSS-BJP, for communalising the entire society to implement their strategy of establishing a Hindu Rashtra. Campus democracy has been attacked and a sense of fear and surveillance was instilled in educational institutions, instead of an atmosphere of free speech, debate and discussion.The culprits behind the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula are roaming free and JNU student Najeeb Ahmed, who was allegedly attacked by ABVP, is still untraceable.There has been a conscious attempt to destroy public funded universities and shift towards a privatized environment in the academic space.

The recent budget showed brazen neglect of education by the BJP government as merely two lines about education were mentioned in Piyush Goyal’s entire budget speech in the parliament. In this year’s union budget, there seemed to be no deflection from the sustained reduction in education expenditure. With a mere increase in 10 percent over last year’s education budget, the current proposed expenditure on education stands at 3.3 percent of GDP, which is far below the promised 6 percent in the BJP’s 2014 election manifesto. The budget allocated last year for Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) was Rs 2,750 crores out of which only Rs 250 crores were actually spent!

While on one hand this government passed the much-debated bill in the parliament proposing a 10 percent reservation for the poor among the unreserved categories, the allocation of total financial aid to students has dropped from Rs 2,600 crores last year to Rs 2,306 crores. The drop of funds allocated for prime minister’ girls’ hostel from Rs 30 crores last year to a mere Rs 13 crores this year speaks volumes of a government that boasts about women’s empowerment at any given chance. There have been massive declines in the budget allocated for the IITs and IISERs over the last year’s budget. The grants to UGC and AICTE have also declined severely. It should be kept in mind that all these figures are nominal, which means that when we take inflation into account, the decline is much steeper.The result of fund cuts reflects in our institutions. For example, the premier public funded institutions such as JNU have even stopped subscribing important academic journals by citing the scarcity of funds. Inflation has also added extra financial burden on the researchers. According to a report by RBI there has been an inflation of 28 percent in the last 5 years since 2013.Cuts in budgetary allocation in higher education which in turn-imposed cuts in financial aid to public universities as well as decrease in number of fellowships, followed by seat-cuts; all in turn resulted into added financial burden on students pursuing higher education.

Education is widely recognised as a potent tool for the “socio-economic mobility” of the vulnerable sections of the economy. But ‘Manuwadi’ central government is implementing the policies which are affecting the students coming from socially deprived sections. The suicide note of Rohith Vemula also suggests the policy of exclusion of Modi-raj. With a heavy heart he wrote, “I have to get seven months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy-five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that.” This is only a reflection of how the delays in government-sponsored scholarships drive the students from Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (SC/ST) communities into desperation. Also, recruitment of ad-hoc and part-time faculty adversely impacts quality of teaching and research. The SFIhas been consistently demanding that more scholarship in the post graduate level has to be ensured for the people who are coming from weaker financial sections of society with preference to those from marginalized communities. The notification for scholarship like MANF, RGNF or SVSGC which has a particular target population cannot be untimely and irregular.

The central government has given green signal to start self-financing courses in public universities and colleges, in the name of autonomy.While the government claims that autonomy gives greater academic freedom and allows universities to innovate; students and teachers argue that the ‘graded autonomy regulation’ ensures disproportionate financial and managerial powers to managing trusts and university administrations to cut costs, raise student fees, and start courses in the self-financing mode. It means the opening up of self-financing courses in these public funded universities and slowly ensuring only the 'rich kids' will secure seats there. This will also turn the campuses as the mortuaries of critical thinking, free enquiry and democracy itself.

The federal character of Indian education is under severe attack, with initiating central policies without taking the peculiarities of each state and their representation in decision making into cognisance. The holding of exams like NEET have led to a huge exclusion to the students from certain states such as Tamil Nadu.

The school education is in a pathetic condition. Nearly nine crore children in India still do not go to school; the highest in the world. In Gujarat, there are 32,771 schools, including 12,000 government schools run by just one or two teachers. Tribal students are denied their scholarships and the ST hostels are in a pathetic condition. None of these have been addressed, instead a statue was built with Rs 2,989 crores, the amount worth to build two new IITs or five IIMs or one AIIMS. The amount NDA government has spent so far for one of their big claims, ‘beti bachchao beti padao, is much lesser than the amount spent for advertising the same. And even the gender violence in campuses has also increased over the years.

Communalisation has been another severe threat to the secular fabric of education system. Syllabi have been changed drastically under the BJP governments in various states, which replaced science and history with myths and puranas. Historical facts are distorted and communal questions are brought into exam papers. Distorting all due procedures and merit the Sangh Parivar agents are appointed as the heads of different institutions and universities. The prestigious science congress, which was recently held, became a circus as RSS bent researchers brought in their unscientific theories to fore even rejecting Newton’s theory of gravity and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Today, the battle lines are drawn between two sides. Students of the country are in a struggle for a pro-student education policy focused on addressing the needs and requirements of the Indian education system. This education policy can only be evolved by the active participation of teachers, academicians and students, and not by the dictates of the RSS. After the historic protest marches of workers and farmers, the national capital will witness the rage of people in education sector on February 18 and 19. Students will be mobilised from across the nation for a massive student march to parliament on February 18. On February 19, there will be another protest action called by Joint Forum for Movement on Education (JFME-a composite body of teachers, students and parents). The major demand is to establish a nation-wide fully state-funded and free ‘commoneducation system’ from KG to PG. "More paathshalas, not gaushalas", “save education, save democracy, save nation” are the main slogans of the campaign. The march will reassert the alternative vision of education for a better India.