Modi govt set to destroy public higher education in the country!

UGC- studenst-protest

University Of Hyderabad Teachers’ Association has condemned University Grants Commission’s (UGC) decision to scrap non-net fellowships and the use of brutal police violence on protesting students, accusing the government of depriving the rights of higher education for the marginalized

By Team FI
University Of Hyderabad Teachers’ Association (UHTA )has condemned UGC’s decision to scrap non-NET Fellowships by the government. In a press release the Association has accused the government of nullifying “the principles of the Indian Constitution” and stated that this is step would mean that higher education would become even more difficult for the marginalized section of the community. The Association placed the decision in context with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with the World Trade Organisation/GATS set to happen in December 2015, where the Association predicted, the “final deals with respect to privatization of higher education in India are supposed to be brokered.”

The press release stated that “the biggest casualties of these measures are of course going to be students from marginalized caste, gender and religious backgrounds. In June 2014, Out of 7 lakh candidates who appeared for the NET exams, a total of around 25000 qualified. Thus, clearly, this decision of the UGC is going to leave more than 96% of our students (who were anyway receiving only a meagre amount of Rs. 5000 for MPhil and Rs. 8000 for PhD) with no scholarship support to pursue their education.”

The following is the full text of the press release:
THE decision of the UGC to scrap non-NET fellowships across the country comes in the wake of the meeting of PM Narendra Modi with the World Trade Organisation/GATS coming up in December 2015, where the final deals with respect to privatization of higher education in India are supposed to be brokered, and the gates are going to be officially opened to imperialist attacks on higher education in this country. Through this decision, the UGC has, in one swift stroke, nullified the principles underlying the Indian Constitution, and sent out a clear message that higher education in this country is no longer meant for the marginalized. Higher education is now being made into a commodity available to only those who can pay for it.

IN 2014 itself, the UGC had off loaded its responsibility of conducting the NET exams to the CBSE, which is a school board, with no prior experience of dealing with University matters. This is in line with the overall attempts of scrapping off the UGC as a whole, by successively curtailing its roles and responsibilities, and keeping the huge number of recently mushroomed private colleges and universities outside of its purview.

In April 2015, an Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) panel recommended complete scrapping of the UGC, and the setting up of a new body which would be under direct control of the MHRD. Such preparations are essential for pushing policy measures, such as the Central Universities Act, the New Education Policy, fee hikes, privatization, GATS-WTO agreements, grabbing of University lands and resources for private purposes in the name of Public-Private Partnerships, Choice-Based Credit System, etc.

The main motive behind such measures is to centralize powers at the hands of the Central Government, and pave way for unhindered privatization and brahminization of education. The Education Budget of 2015 already saw a jaw dropping budget cut of 17%! In the revised estimates for 2014-15, while school education allocation was cut by around Rs 80,000 crore that of higher education was slashed by Rs 4,000 crore.

With public education infrastructures rendered unviable and inaccessible to majority of the population, and with MoUs being signed with private enterprises for setting up private colleges and universities through treaties such as GATS, etc., the only option that will be left to most will be to seek exorbitant “education loans”, and thus spend a large part of their lives in repaying those loans, even if they somehow get to complete their education and get employment, both of which are anyway going to be unlikely for the bulk of the student population.

THE biggest casualties of these measures are of course going to be students from marginalized caste, gender and religious backgrounds. In June 2014, Out of 7 lakh candidates who appeared for the NET exams, a total of around 25000 qualified. Thus, clearly, this decision of the UGC is going to leave more than 96% of our students (who were anyway receiving only a meagre amount of Rs. 5000 for MPhil and Rs. 8000 for PhD) with no scholarship support to pursue their education. MPhil and PhD students are research workers, which also involves travel expenses to field sites, libraries etc, purchasing of books and other materials, arranging for accommodation and food where there are no free hostels and messes and so on. Even access to many online journals and articles are privileged and one has to pay if one is outside the privileged circles.

The elitist ‘logic’ that justifies a lower payment to a factory worker compared to a manager is the same ‘logic’ where JRF and non-JRF students’ getting differential compensation for the same work finds justification. That too, the lines are being drawn on the basis of the NET exam, whose unscientific mechanical way of evaluation, devoid of any kind of critical analysis, is perhaps one of the worst ways of evaluating knowledge in disciplines such as social sciences and humanities. It is solely based on rote knowledge, and success in the NET can be practically bought using money or cultural capital.

Our education system needs to be overhauled for a better one, and we understand that will not happen in isolation while the society continues with its classist, casteist, ableist, patriarchal, elitist practices. But our hope is that those from the oppressed sections who have managed to get some access, at the cost of a lot of struggle, to this elitist education system, will teach the rest of the society how to be egalitarian and democratic. These measures of the Government to exclude the marginalized from these educational spaces are fatal blows to the democratic aspirations of those who are the victims of this violent socio-economic-political structure, and therefore those of the rest of the society.

THE State looks determined to push these policies through. On the one hand, the Brahmanical rhetoric of “merit” and “entitlement” is employed to gain ideological support from the elites, for such draconian measures. On the other hand, repression through policing of campuses, physical violence, suspensions, rustications, threats, etc., legitimised by circulars such as the UGC Guidelines for Safety and Security of Students, are being inflicted upon students who are struggling against such brutal policies of the Government.
This is also not unrelated with the recent spate of direct physical violence across the country, including even murders, against rationalists, writers, poets, journalists and anyone who is raising questions. The aim is to engineer a conformist socio-political arrangement by weeding out all voices of dissent, together with a compatible education system which is nothing more than a business, accessible to only those who can pay for it. The technocratic idea of “education” that the WTO believes in is “Education (which) is the key ingredient for absorbing new technologies and adapting to change”, as quoted in a WTO document titled ‘Education Policies to make Globalisation more inclusive’, even if the “technology” and the “change” are against people. The “education” that we believe in is the one Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy talks about, when he says, “Only education, self-respect and rational qualities will uplift the down-trodden”. It is a conflict of basic understanding about what education means, and this conflict, in today’s circumstances is inevitable.

UHTA strongly condemns UGC’s decision to abolish non-NET fellowships, along with other such policy measures in the recent times, aimed at destroying public higher education in this country. UHTA is in solidarity with everyone struggling against such measures, and is determined to oppose this till the end. We demand the immediate revoking of this decision. We also demand that the non-NET scholarships be increased, and that UGC be separated from direct control of the Government of India, and all attempts of privatization, communalisation and Brahminization of higher education be immediately stopped!!

University of Hyderabad teachers Association

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