September 27, 2020

SFI-DYFI hit the streets against unemployment and National Education Policy

Mayukh Biswas

IN this era of  'Achche Din', our country is witnessing an unprecedented rate of unemployment. Lakhs of government posts are vacant, and many of them are already abolished. The union government is systematically selling the PSUs, resulting in a permanent withdrawal of the government from the responsibility of providing jobs to the unemployed youths.  'Make in India' has completely failed to generate jobs.

In all probability, the economy would have barely grown this year, and unemployment would have stayed close to 10 per cent, even without the pandemic.  With the chaotic lockdown, the even more clueless opening up, and the fraud of a stimulus package, we are set for a huge fall in national income and 15 per cent plus average unemployment over 2020-21 and unemployment rate has reached an all time high of 23.50 per cent in April of 2020. Even on the occasion of Narendra Modi’s 70th birthday, Twitter users gave reminders to the prime minister of the growing joblessness and acute economic crisis that the country is facing. Modi and his government have completely destroyed the economy, lives and livelihoods.

The ever increasing unemployment, rising number of people affected with Corona, the slump in the GDP and destruction of existing education system make the situation worse. Also this anti-people Modi government is trying to implement one after another anti-student policies using this health emergency.    

The Modi government can force millions of students to appear for exams at a time India is reporting the highest number of Covid cases recorded anywhere in the world even after very very low testing.

The National Talent Agency (NTA) conducts the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) Mains and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), India’s two national-level entrance exams needed to qualify for engineering and medical studies. Approximately 25 lakh candidates appear in these to secure their careers, support their family and to serve our nation and the entire civilization. However, during the pandemic, our government decided to postpone the examinations which were supposed to be conducted in the month of April as overcrowded test centres could make the condition worse. In September, the condition is at its worst so far. India is breaking its own records over new Covid-19 infections each single day. They are conducting examinations physically ignoring the protest of students community.  

Also many regions of the states — Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Gujarat — have been severely flooded because of torrential downpour.

More than one in four candidates skipped the JEE mains held in this month amid the pandemic, which is more than four times the absenteeism figure usually witnessed, official data show.

The UGC, the NTA have been pushing for exams in this pandemic, showing an utter disdain for the genuine concerns of students. Time and again, these authorities have revealed the uncommitted attitude despite lakhs of applicants raising concerns and requesting to postpone in light of the pandemic through social media platform like twitter etc.
Central government agencies are trying to implement online education as an alternative to appease the big corporates like Amazon- Google and Jio, who have already invested huge amounts of money on online education. Only for this reason the UGC, NTA et al are adamantly trying to impose a homogenous national pattern of online/open book examinations where physical mode of examinations may not be possible under the conditions of the pandemic and lockdown. But internet connectivity in the country is still around 36 per cent only. Access to online classes or examinations does not exist for a vast majority of our students, particularly the marginalised and those living in remote digitally unconnected parts in our country. So SFI believes that digital divide in our education system is unacceptable.

Around 71 per cent of school children in West Bengal didn’t have access to online education, and the number of students in child labour doubled in the May-July lockdown period, shows a survey conducted by ‘rights groups’,  West Bengal Right to Education Forum (RTE Forum) and Campaign against Child Labour (CACL) — covers 2,154 children across 19 districts of West Bengal. Also there is no 4G network in Kashmir. We also believe connectivity, speed, accessibility of smartphone/laptop, proper electric supply are very important to establish online alternative. But this is a day dream in our country. The non-profit organization, Oxfam recently conducted a new five state survey which shows that more than 80 per cent of parents with children studying in government schools reported that education was “not delivered” during the lockdown. This failure was mostly because families did not have digital devices and access to digital mediums of education.

On the other hand, we have also observed the gross violation of democracy by the central government to impose a new 'National Education Policy' unilaterally bypassing all the objections and opposition recorded by various state governments, while demanding a "thorough discussion" in the Parliament before the implementation of the policy. Education is in the Concurrent List in our Constitution. But this unilateral drive is to destroy the Indian public education system with a policy that seeks greater centralisation, communalisation and commercialisation of Indian education.

While students are protesting on these issues, Modi government is threatening us and trying to throw students behind the bar. But the battle continues. We have launched this war against the anti-people Modi government which is synonym for unemployment.

On September  15, SFI-DYFI unitedly,  gave a call against unemployment and NEP across the country. Before that hundreds of street corners, motorbike-cycle rallies were organised by SFI-DYFI focusing on the local demands of the youth and students in different states like West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Assam and Delhi. SFI- DYFI demanded the Berozgaari Abolition Act 2020 which includes-
• The Government of India is liable to provide employment to all eligible unemployed youths in India.
• The government of India will not lay vacant any permanent post in any concern run by it more than one year.
• Scrap anti-student National Education Policy  
• Exemption from fees payment for semesters during pandemic
• Exemption from hostel fees - continuation of fellowship/scholarship
• No mandatory online education/ examination/ evaluation unless opportunities of online education for all is assured.

The Modi government has turned the pandemic into a golden opportunity to implement all its anti-people policies and Himachal Pradesh is the first state where BJP government is going to implement anti-student National Education Policy. So, SFI has been protesting against this NEP from the very first day. SFI Himachal Pradesh state committee organised a protest demonstration against NEP and other issues in Shimla outside the Vidhan Sabha. On September 15, SFI and DYFI protested in front of ministry of labour and employement (Shram Shakti Bhawan), New Delhi. Protests were held in other parts of India also. SFI and DYFI jointly organised protest demonstrations in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarpradesh, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana. As covid situation has been getting worse in Maharashtra, SFI - DYFI planned online protest there. There also SFI Maharashtra state president, Balaji Kaletwad was arrested at midnight by Nanded Police before the visit of Maharashtra education minister.

In Tripura, SFI-TSU-TYF-DYFI staged protest holding placards and banners in Agartala and organised rallies in 14 containment free divisions maintaining physical distancing.  

SFI-DYFI along with eight other left student-youth organisations organised hundreds of protest rallies in West Bengal demanding job and education for all. The protests continued in heavy rain and thunderstorms in Coochbehar. Former DYFI leader,  Mohammad Salim participated in that rally. Students-youth in Kolkata took out a huge march under the banner of SFI-DYFI and other left student-youth organisations with yellow umbrellas symbolising yellow card or last warning to Modi-Mamata raj. The march was taken out with the demands for education- employment for the youth and student. Thousands of activists took part in the rally. Almost all districts and local committees of SFI-DYFI in West Bengal and Kerala staged this protest. The common people also appreciated this protest as it connected with their daily experience. In some places, SFI coloured the sky with kites writing their demands for job and education.

The "demand day" was conducted in 202 area centers by SFI in Kerala in compliance with the Covid-19 norms. Thousands of students across the state took part in the agitation.

A nation, where millions are losing jobs, crores are financially indisposed, the government remains unstirred. These are times when voicing out is a necessity and not making yourself heard is a luxury! We really cannot afford to remain quiet and this time, the roads shall speak. Speak so loud, that the ones' posing for aesthetic photoshoots with peacocks and bodyguards shall shudder!