September 25, 2022

March for Education: Save India, Save the Constitution, and Save Education-II

Mayukh Biswas

THE war between Ukraine and Russia showed the state of education in the country. About 25 thousand Indian students went to study medical science in Ukraine, because there are not enough opportunities to study medicine in the country. Meanwhile, the ratio of doctors to the population is very low in India. There are not enough medical colleges even. Those who went to study in Ukraine, Russia, or Eastern Europe are not those who belong to rich families, but mostly from middle-class families. The cost of studying medicine in private medical colleges in India is much higher than in former socialist countries, forcing Indian students to travel outside the country. There is also no hurdle to practising in many European countries, including Germany, after completing studies. Despite having good marks, all these students had to go abroad to study medical sciences because they did not get the opportunity to study in their own country.


According to the National Medical Commission report, there are 605 medical colleges in India (about half of which are private). The number of seats for MBBS is only 90825. But as of 2022, NEET exam candidates numbered around 19 lakh. That is, only 1 out of every 19 examinees gets a chance to study medicine. Not everyone is lucky enough to study at a private medical college, where the tuition fee is more than Rs 1 crore on an average. The cost of studying in a private engineering college is also around 15-20 lakh rupees, as a result of which many hardworking students are forced to give up their dream of studying medicine or engineering due to a lack of money. The year 2018 saw a nationwide student movement against fee hikes in institutions across the country. But by making Corona a weapon, the cost has been increased many times in both public and private educational institutions. Surprisingly, the NEP says that the government will not say anything about the increase in fees! As a result, the cost of the application fee, admission fee, and examination fee has increased. The annual cost of studying at Delhi's Jamia Millia on an average is Rs 35,000; one lakh rupees for admission in Mumbai's IIT and eighty thousand rupees per semester. Tuition fees in IITs have increased by nearly five hundred percent; semester fees have increased by nearly one hundred and fifty percent. Along with this, there is an increase in hostel maintenance costs and hostel bed costs, whereas the scholarship is not matched. A large number of students in West Bengal have been deprived of the Swami Vivekananda scholarship this academic year. Meanwhile, the cost of education in Bengal has more than doubled in the last ten years. There have been several discrepancies in the scholarships given by the central government to the minorities, backward castes, and tribal students. The allocation for tribal students has decreased as well. The central and state governments have further imposed the system of credit-based grading in accordance with the formula of the National Education Policy. However, we have repeatedly seen the experience of foreign countries, where very high rates of interest for education loans and even higher rates of unemployment have created a huge burden on students instead of providing relief.


Meanwhile, a large number of reserved seats are vacant in educational institutions under the central government. Almost all the IITs have violated the reservation policy, with not a single tribal scholar admitted to the PhD course in the country's three major IITs, according to information given in the parliament by the government itself.  Although the reservation policy says that 15 per cent seats should be reserved for SC students and 10 per cent of seats should be reserved for ST students, none of this is implemented in reality.  But this policy remains in the books only.

In addition to that, policies regarding syllabi, curriculum, and entrance examinations have further aggravated the plight of students. Particular types of examination in the English medium-centric CBSE model are increasing the profits of coaching centers. Poor and rural students who mostly study in state government operated boards' schools and colleges will be severely disadvantaged, as is evident from the last few years. Already the NEET test is showing it with fingers in the eyes. This increases the mental stress and puts the students in rat-race-like competitions . Unable to bear the huge cost of education and the cost of coaching centers, thousands of hardworking students are dropping out of this eliminatory, exclusive education system.


Researchers are in grave financial trouble, in addition to the already imposed curbs on the topics and objectives of research. Among researchers who belong to financially backward families, the problem has become acute. Soon after the BJP came to power, it decided to cancel various fellowships, citing 'lack of funds'. Many researchers are solely dependent on the fellowship to continue their research. The government is not interested in funding research anymore, in spite of the broad-based consensus that funding for research is very important for the development of the entire education system as well as the research and development sector. On the one hand, the BJP belatedly gave tax breaks to Ambani-Adani. Thousands of crores of rupees are spent on building Central Vista. However, they cannot pay for the education sector. Students from marginalised and poor families depend on these scholarship programmes that are being discontinued. To carry out research, money is needed for books, magazines, library fees, internet services and many other aspects. Closure of such programmes and schemes means the future of research is in question. It does not end here. The government also wants to decide what the topic of the research will be about.


The former vice president of the country himself said this. This shows how BJP leaders have come to accept mediaeval ideas through the new national education policy. The constitution says that education is designated as a concurrent list subject. But this policy has been undemocratically imposed on us by completely ignoring the opinions of academicians, scientists, teachers, and students from various levels of society. And the policy itself says that students, teachers, and other stakeholders in educational institutions will not have the right to democratically elect themselves. From conducting exams to preparing a syllabus , everything will be done by one organisation. RSS's chief will sit at the head of the system! India will be an example of an ideological state apparatus manoeuvred by the RSS. They want to put bans on student politics, activism, and movements in educational institutions as well as in the broad societal sphere. An 18-year-old student can elect the government, but not fight for her rights! 

All these vital policy decisions are being taken by the RSS head office in Nagpur. With decisions regarding syllabus, coaching, and research, among other fields, being taken by them, they are determined to implement the 'Saffron Taliban' rule in this country. This policy is attacking the roots of democratic-secular education. The likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Premchand, and Bhagat Singh are left out. Searching for gold in dung is a science now. Asharam Bapu, who is accused of raping a minor, is on the list of 'great saints and sages'. "Secularism", "socialism", "republic", "social equality', "gender equality"—these important words do not feature in this policy. There is a latent impression of casteist-brahminical and patriarchal-discriminatory mentality across the policy document. As if this policy is a vision for their 'Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan' model.


Save education, save the constitution, save the country—with this slogan  students carrying the flag of "independence, democracy, and socialism" have marched out from the five corners of the country. The "march for education" started in Kashmir and Kanyakumari simultaneously from August 1–September 14. For the first time in history, such a journey has started from Kashmir. The flag was inaugurated by Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami. We invited Pinarayi Vijayan, the chief minister of the Left Democratic Front government of Kerala, to the closing ceremony of the southern jatha. This government is the only one in the country showing the alternative. Around 10.5 lakh students have enrolled in government schools in Kerala in the last 6 years, in contrast to the dismal performance of public educational institutes , where thousands of students have dropped out across the country. Schools are not closed. Rural schools in Kerala have also been converted into international level schools. The left-government has also built reading rooms for students from scheduled caste and tribal families in several places. This is how we want the government to spend on education. Only then will the country move forward.

And as the crowds increased in our ranks of the jatha, there were more and more attacks. The BJP in Assam and Tripura and Trinamool in Bengal tried to stop us, only to fail and find our jatha moving ahead with greater vigour and courage.

Despite heavy rain in western areas and scorching heat in the northern part, our jatha participants were determined.

But just as poetry stirs others and remains stable on its own, this jatha is giving impetus to the student society of the entire country after overcoming the stagnation of the pandemic. In debates and discussions organised as part of the all India jatha, students from Agartala to Ahmedabad, Patna to Mumbai, Chennai to Jaipur, Shimla to Guwahati meet, share, and collaborate on ideas and notions.On September 2, a huge student rally was held in Kolkata to conclude the jatha of the eastern and north-eastern regions. SFI's first general secretary, Biman Bose, was present in College Street, Kolkata, where the humongous gathering took place.

Before the Corona period, we were fighting in unison with various non-sectarian student organisations across the country against the anti-people education policy brought by the BJP-RSS government. This jatha, or 'march for education', has rekindled that struggle. The fight will not stop. With the likes of Surya Sen, Bhagat Singh, and Pritilata in our hearts, Nathuram's successors will never be able to snatch from us our country, its constitution, and education.