4 YEARS OF SYSTEMATIC DESTRUCTION OF EDUCATION SYSTEM UNDER THE MODI REGIME- II : VIKRAM SINGH
This is the second part of the two-part detailed article on the state of education under the Modi regime, which completed four years few days ago. You can read the first part here: https://blogsocialistindia.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/4-years-of-systematic-destruction-of-education-system-under-the-modi-regime-i-vikram-singh/
Dismantling public education system
The last two decades have seen concerted attempts to destroy public sector and pave way for private institutions- starting from schools, the process has been repeated with precision in all spheres of education. The process has reached deadly scale during the last four years. The Government of Rajasthan has taken a decision to run 225 schools in Rajasthan on PPP model, which essentially means handing over public schools to the private sector. The Madhya Pradesh Government has planned to close down 15,000 government schools because there are supposedly fewer children to study in them. Similarly, in Maharashtra, the state government has decided to close down some 13,905 schools which have a student count of less than 20. Similar reports are coming in from many states including Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana etc. where the governments have decided to close down huge numbers of government schools. There is no attention to employing teachers in the schools considering the fact that there are more than one lakh five thousand Government Schools, with single teachers.
Replacing grants with loans: converting education into commodity
The Budget speech of Finance Minister for the current year clearly shows the intention of replacing the grants given by the Central Government by loans, and this will inevitably degrade the autonomy of the institutions. The funds for infrastructural development will cease to exist and loans generated through HEFA will have to be taken for the same, which will essentially put the burden on institution and hence the students. HEFA is supposed to finance education institutions through a 10-year loan. Already HEFA has approved projects for Rs. 2,066.73 Crores for six institutions– IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Kanpur and NIT Suratkal. Now, educational institutions aren’t industrial units that can repay these loans through the profits. While we find the NPAs from the defaulting big businesses piling up, government is forcing educational institutions to take loans- which essentially force them to look for avenues through which profits can be generated. According to HEFA, the principal portion of the loan will be repaid through the ‘internal accruals’ earned through fee receipts, research earnings, etc. The central government will serve the interest portion through regular plan assistance. This is a clear effort to convert our public education institutions into commercial units, thus converting education into a commodity to earn profits.
Complete de-regularisation of higher education
The HRD Ministry has proposed for Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA), which will replace UGC and AICTE. BJP is following the path of neoliberal dogma which was pushed by the Congress for 10 years- only with even more aggression. Indian bourgeoisie is desperate to generate more and more profit from higher education which requires it to accelerate the process of commodification of education and bringing the entire apparatus of educational administration under its control. Being a late starter, Indian bourgeoisie is still far behind its imperialist counterparts, none the less with a regime at the centre which is aggressively pushing its interests the moment could not have been more suitable than this for it to go full throttle. The attempt to push HEERA is part of this push.
. The Government in the last four years has completely dismantled the fundamental tenets of research in the universities through fund cuts. The issue of seat cut in JNU and other universities after the UGC Gazette Notification, 2015 has seriously affected research. Judiciary has also worked at the behest of the ruling order. This is a clear ploy to reduce opportunities in research – universities, which were capable of engaging students in research with their existing infrastructure. It is a well- established fact that huge numbers of faculty posts are lying vacant in universities, further reducing opportunities for research. There is a reduction in funding for research to CSIR labs as well as universities, research fellowships have been reduced, non-NET fellowship is mostly irregular by the UGC, post-matric fellowships are not being distributed to students in the absence of allocations from centre, NET exam schedules have been changed, and education is increasingly being centralised. All this has acted to exclude a large section of students to enter academic research- the overwhelming majority of which are from the oppressed sections.
Exclusion is the guiding principal for BJP
The policies of NDA in education are depriving the students coming from the deprived sections of the society. Welfare hostels for SC/ST students in various states are being closed and privatized. In the want of sufficient funds the condition of these hostels are simply inhuman to live. There is a continuous attack on the fellowships and scholarships for the students from deprived sections. According to the NCDHR report scholarship arrears of the last three years for SC/ST students amount to Rs. 11156 crores (Rs. 8000 crores for SCs and Rs. 3156 crores for STs). The education of around 71,36,934 students – 51,03,243 SC students and 20,33,741 ST students – would be thrown into uncertainty if the amount is not released on time. There are “centres of studies of social exclusion and inclusive policy” in 35 central universities with the stated objective of including the socially marginalised sections into mainstream studies. These centres are also on the verge of closure in absence of funds from the central government. The notification of UGC to change the unit of 200 point system of reservation for faculty recruitment and making department as unit of reservation has directly reduced the opportunities for the aspirants from reserved category.
Communalisation of education
Hindutva being the guiding light of RSS’ approach to education, communalization of education has been an integral part of the policies in the last 4 years. People like Dinanath Batra have been given a free hand to change the school syllabus. In the BJP ruled states, books has been already been contaminated with communal venom, however, now attempts are to replicate it at national leavle. We are aware of efforts of RSS family to rewrite the history and propagate pseudoscience using the national platform like Indian History Congress and Indian Science Congress. This is a broader project of RSS and now they are implanting it openly and in an accelerated manner.
Packaging failures in glittery package
The last four years of Modi regime have been four years of destruction of education. BJP has mastered the art of packaging the most anti-people policy in fancy names- something we witnessed with demonetisation and GST. It has tried to do the same with education as well. The utter failures are being seeked to be covered by fancy media campaigns on Eklavya schools, HEERA and HEFA.
However, the education community is clearly seeing through the designs of the regime and this can be seen in the mass mobilizations of the students and teaching fraternity against these policies during last four years. The authoritarian dictate of the BJP government has met with valiant resistance of students throughout the nation in various campuses. Student movement is preparing itself to carry forward the momentum during the next one year and ensure that this government is ousted in 2019. However, what we seek to oust is not only the ruling Party, but also the policy which it has been pursuing.
( This is the second and final part of the two- part article.)
About the Author:
Vikram Singh is the General Secretary of Students’ Federation of India (SFI).