PDSU, PSU, Students

Higher Education Under Attack: An All Out Attempt for Privatization, Saffronization, and Assault on Democratization And Rationality

Current relevance
Ever since Modi Government has taken over, Institutions of learning g are under constant attacks. We saw in case of FTII, where a person who was a soft porn star and only other known thing he has done is role of Yudhistara in serial Mahabharata has been made President of FTII. This has sparked long protest by the students; A group of students who made Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle and discussed among many things pro-imperialist economic policies and faced a ban which was lifted after country wide protests; Then came the Rohith Vemula incident followed by an outburst in country exposing both caste and communal bias of the government as well as its support to PEP. country wide protests fanned, putting government on back-foot. Even while it was going on, Famous JNU incident took place on 9th of February 2016. False propaganda, a ready machinery to blow it out of proportion and create a frenzy to cloud facts and rationality- the time tested methods of RSS were in full swing and attempt was made to create an atmosphere that JNU is a breeding ground of Anti-Nationals and should be shut down. There was an outburst of protest by democratic, patriotic people all over the country to counter this. This followed many such incidents like in Haryana Central University, where staging of a play based on Mahashweta Devi’s story was made an issue to intimidate professors of English department, many a places professor of JNU were bullied, Jaipur, Jodhpur, BHU etc. similar incidents took place. Latest big one being Ramjus College where out of nothing a story and again a frenzy was created by ABVP goons with the support of Police. These are not stopping and this list is not comprehensive and its growing.
Similarly they are trying to place their people everywhere. JNU Vice-Chancellor is an example. Whose only contribution is that he organized a Vigyan Chintan shivir of RSS in IIT Delhi and is shamelessly playing in the hands of RSS. Gajendra Chauhan has been mentioned earlier, ex cricketer and ex BJP MP Chetan Chauhan was given charge of NID, an unknown face from Kakatiya university has been made director of ICHR, Dinanath Batra advising education contents, and again this list is too growing and only gives a few glaring examples.
There is an all out attempt to saffronize both education content as well as campuses. Education contents are being modified and at school level it has already began in BJP ruled states. Distribution of saffron coulored bicycles in Rajasthan etc. are the ways of doing the same.
This all is done in the background of pressure of implementing WTO agenda and other dictates, privatizing and commercializing entire education in India and converting education to a purely ‘commercial service’. Cutting down of fellowships, last year which triggered ‘Occupy UGC’ protest and then massive seat cuts, cuts in funds of universities as well as IITs, introduction of CBCS etc. are just a step in this direction. In fact they are bent upon doing unfinished tasks of UPA government. This government is proposing a new policy on education, although not out formally, but the the input document that has come out for suggestions is indicative enough of the intent.
In the view of such recent attacks, we need to examine the issue today in greater detail.
Overall Background
It should be worth noting that education has been considered as profit making service by WTO. It was estimated that global public spending in higher education is about 1 trillion USD. Thus corporate sector jumped in to reap profits in this converting students as consumers, teachers as service providers and institutions as companies. This also means that learning in university is no longer for nation building but merely a business for profit making. GATS conceive of crating a open global market in all services (including education, particularly higher) and it should be done without discrimination between domestic and foreign players for all commercial or business purposes.
This process was initiated by UPA government. Prelude was there even earlier when Rajiv Gandhi government changed the name of Ministry of Education to Ministry of Human Resource Development.
First NDA government openly vouched for privatization. In 1998 UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education held at Paris, then HRD Minister M Joshi said “Major efforts have been mounted for mobilization of resources and it has been recommended that while the government should make a firm commitment to higher education, institutions of higher education should make efforts to raise their own resources by raising the fee levels, encouraging private donations and by generating revenues through consultancy and other activities,…. “It is not only justifiable but desirable to raise money from private sources in order to ease pressure on public spending.”
it is in this background Birla-Ambani Report – “A Policy Framework For Reforms in Education” appeared in 2000. this report sought to convert entire higher education a profitable industry and recommended full cost recovery from students, education should be controlled by corporate and denial of any political activities including usual Trade Unions. There was a wide opposition to this report and government could not dare to implement it openly.
While there was worldwide protests and in India to provisions of GATS met strong opposition, World bank crept in with vision document titled ‘Constructing Knowledge Societies: New Challenges for Tertiary Education’. It has noted fierce opposition to GATS and proposed to formulate a long term goal for tertiary education. It proposed to mediate between private players, governments and “The Bank can bring to the same table stakeholders who would not normally converse and work together.”. A Model Act was proposed for all universities with single regulatory environment. As state funding to progressively reduced, it proposed financial incentives, open system of education, credit transfer, tuition exchange, education loans, creation of virtual universities. Regulation should be only on some minimum entry quality and no other trade barriers. Funds should generated from the assets of Institutions, students, or third party.
This prompted NDA-I government to ask University Grants Commission (UGC) to bring a Concept Paper in October 2003 entitled “Towards Formulation of Model Act for Universities of the 21st Century in India” with a view “to prepare the Indian University system for the future.”
It says, “Indian Universities, like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, have been performing many additional functions now a days, e.g., undertaking sponsored R&D and continuing education, providing knowledge-based advice and consultancy, preparation / publication of educational material like books / study reports / research papers and extending services to society. Of late, the worldwide advances, particularly in new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), are greatly influencing the University system in the country. However, major issues like size, access, equity, relevance, quality and resource constraints continue to dominate the working of Indian Universities.” Since the “Universities are becoming complex institutions”, an appropriate strategy needs to be adopted “for their governance, organization and management.” It further noted that “to bring in some uniformity in the working of Universities” through a Model Act framework, so that the Universities accept the challenges of globalization to offer high quality education and other services in a competitive manner. The new Acts of Universities would be “flexible and responsive to rapid changes taking place in the society.” This will enable India to “become competitive nationally and internationally” and help “India to become a Knowledge Super Power by the year 2020.” it is easy to see that society means market and flexible means adaptability to market needs. This government was desperate to bring this act in 2003 but it was blocked in parliament. And in 2004 UPA took over.
UPA-I committed in 2005 that it will fulfill it obligation as WTO member and will include education as service as per norms of GATS. Ministry of Commerce (not HRD) issued a paper entitled “Higher Education in India and GATS: An Opportunity”. It sought a balance between domestic regulation and free trade. But GATS has identified barriers. Some of them are restrictions on free movement and nationality requirements of students and teachers, immigration regulations, types of courses, movement of teachers, modalities of payments or repatriation of money, conditions concerning use of resources, direct investment and equity ceilings, existence of public monopolies, subsidies to local institutions, economic need tests, exchange controls, non-recognition of equivalent qualifications, etc. Ministry of Commerce wanted to remove these. Implications are not difficult to guess. It means allowing of foreign students and teachers without restriction so that Indian institutes cam provide a cheap education to them and employ visitors rather than Indians. No control on spending and generating resources, removal of subsidies, reservation or other encouragements for deprived to be done away with.
Realizing it well that Model Act or direct submission to WTO dictates is not possible as it will create an outburst, Kapil Sibal brought series of bills to achieve the same. It should also be noted that there was massive funds cut in higher education in USA and UK and Europe. Following which there were many protest in these countries. There was lots of pressure on India to ease out the pressure by opening it doors. An Indo-US education Council was set up. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a joint statement with Obama in November 2009 to work together and launched a Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative between the US and Indian universities. Kapil Sibal and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met on 2 June 2010 in Washington. Appreciating Singh-Obama knowledge initiative, they noted “We need to establish a bi-national India-US Education Council having academics, entrepreneurs and government representatives as members.” Sibal also mentioned about the 14 Innovation Universities that are being set up in India and said, “The two nations could partner in setting up some of these Innovation Universities, one of which could be announced during the proposed visit of President Obama to India later this year.” They also discussed the interest shown by US universities in establishing institutions in India. Little later in 2010 UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Education is not just vital for national success, it is one of the best growth businesses of the 21st century34. I want us in Britain and India to pool some of our advantages for our mutual benefit.”
This was when he visited India with a trade delegation. It was also agreed that UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) will facilitate collaboration the two nations to join hands to set up new institutes, increase skills development programmes, hold leadership programmes and work on quality assurance of courses offered to students.
Government, now tried to push the WTO-WB agenda formally but without announcing so. It brought 5 bills related to education ‘reforms’.
1) The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry & Operations) Bill, 2010, : This bill to clear and facilitate Foreign players in education to operate in India. It defines Foreign Educational Institute (FEI) as “an institution established or incorporated outside India which has been offering educational services for at least twenty years in the country (of its origin)… which offers educational services in India or proposes to offer courses leading to award of degree or diploma or certificate or any other award through conventional method including classroom teaching method not including distant mode in India independently or in collaboration, partnership or in a twinning arrangement with any educational institution situated in India.” It gives free hand to FDIs and only control by a central Government body. It also allows them to makes profit as long as they impart a degree. They are not to come under scrutiny of UGC. No Affirmative Action etc. are certain key points in this.
The Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutional Institutions and Universities Bill, 2010,
3) The Educational Tribunals Bill, 2010: This bill envisage setting up of education tribunes for any disputes in educational institute at state and national level. Appeal of state level can be done only in national tribune. Which can be challenged only in Supreme Court. Thus an alternate redress system by passing the normal right of challenging in courts. It will look into service matters, affiliation related issues and any unfair practices by institutes. Since the tribune will be appointed by the government, it will amount to seeking justice from the parties allegedly doing injustice.
4)The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Education Institutions Bill, 2010. This bills is continuation of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) established in 1994. it says that after accreditation in many country state funding was reduced. It will have certain criterion which will make many state universities at low scale and thus making a ground to low funding. What is interesting is that while there were only 36 deemed universities till 80s, now this number has crossed 200 and mostly these are private institutions.

4) The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2010. Draft of this bill was introduced and it sought to have heavy control of central body over Higher Education in Research. It is dead against federal structure. It also propose to have a commission which will control everything with banking and corporate background persons and will also guide the disbursal of funds. Corporate control over state funds is not difficult to see. State Universities will have to struggle further.
5) The Universities for Innovation Bill, 2010. again a draft bill. This has provisions for establishing ‘Universities for Innovation” which will be established with full public funding, PPP or full private funding. Unlike the practice till now, they will not be created through an Act of Parliament but through signing memoranda of agreement (MoA) between the central government and the private promoters/ companies/ trusts/ foreign universities. They will be fully autonomous and not accountable to Government. Only their fee structure, admission policy etc. have to be there on website. Their dispute will be settled by an internal committee and not even to Education Tribune. Probably this was drafted as Foreign University Bill was finding it way a bit difficult. Notorious Four Years Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) was an attempt in this direction. It was abolished by BJP government only to bring its new avatar Choice Based Credit System (CBCS).

It can be seen that the WTO Agenda was the actual background for these bills. But these bills lapsed as there were obstructions in functioning of parliament at that time by then opposition party BJP. It is in this backdrop the New BJP led NDA-II government takes over. It had unfinished tasks of previous government to full fill to satisfy imperialist masters. More than willing to do so, with higher speed, intensity and with a cover of nationalism- the Government and RSS flung into swift and intense action. Attempt is to change the debate to saffronization and nationalism and quietly push the liberal agenda through.
Proposed New Education Policy too is an attempt in this direction. Though, Mr. Javadekar says it will take about a year to come out finally, the input document has imbibed all these lapsed laws into it.
Recent Assaults
It has been long cherished dream of RSS to change the content, direction of education to its whims. As the crisis of imperialism grows and forces India to make education a service and open it to foreign players, Such organizations grow as they have ability to hide the real agenda and indulge people in chauvinistic values driven activities. That is precisely what is happening. They have started their work in all campuses, particularity institutes of higher learning and centers of excellence. A Vigyan Chintan Shivir was organized by Dr. M. Jagadesh Kumar in IIT-Delhi. It was attended by RSS functionaries. As a reward Jagadesh Kumar was appointed new VC of JNU. They are organizing such shivirs all over the country. Recently an RSS backed organization Prajna Pravah organized a Gyan Sangam. It was addressed by Mohan Bhagwat and attended by about 700 academicians including 51 vice chancellors of the country. J. Nand Kumar, national convener of Prajna Pravah, said that there is lack of ‘indianness’ (read Hindutva) in our education. He quoted Mohan Bhagwat -“The exercise is not an alternative to the present educational system, which is aping the West, but it is a real nationalist narrative to imbibe Bharatiya perspectives in it”. Mohan Bhagwat discussed how to create non-governmental autonomous academic system. With RSS backed people (or people who succumbed to it) at the helm of all advisory or decision making bodies, the future of academics is not difficult to envisage. Obscurantism will replace Science, myths will replace history, rationalism will be replaced by obscurantism, nationalism will be as defined for upper-caste brhamanical Hindu communal order, democracy and right to dissent will be replaced with dictate to agree, discussions will be replaced with discourses.
Change in content
There are attempts to change the contents of education, wherever possible. They have replaced many chapters in texts of school books. Like chapter on Nelson Mandela was deleted in Rajasthan. Gujarat State has changed the text to not only to teach some negative aspects of Gandhi, but also to include next on glorifying Nazism and Hitler.
There are attempts to change science. Baba Ramdev dictated IIT to do research on genetic code of Bull and cow based agriculture. We had a special session on ‘Vedic Science’ at Indian Science Congress. Dina Nath Batra advises doctors to raise medical science to the standard of ancient India.
Change in symbols
Worst part is attempts to change the symbols in a subtle but well designed manner. Rajasthan Government distributed Bicycles to Girl students. Aping the Bihar Goverment, but they were saffron colored.
Communalization of campuses
In January 2016, Additional DCP sent a letter to Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) to be marked to all HODs, Directors, Principals and administrative heads and security officers. It says that JMI is a soft target of millitant attacks and therefore unarmed security personnel deployed are not enough. Armed police should be deployed and people should be sensitized to report any stranger to armed security personnel. This is a way to target Muslim youth in a ‘soft and concerned’ way.
Autonomy of colleges
This is interesting that while government is centralizing the control over education, it is trying to give autonomy to colleges. Actually in the garb of autonomy and freedom of colleges it is a way to commercialize and privatize e education. St. Stephens College of Delhi University is first example of same. despite majority opposed it it was passed by management. Teachers have alleged that the push for autonomy is a “sinister” move towards privatization of education. “Autonomous colleges will be asked to fund part of their expenditure, and this will force colleges to introduce self-financing courses that are geared towards getting jobs. Students who study these courses will be forced to take a loan as these ‘professional’ courses are more expensive. Traditional pure science and humanities courses will be forced to take a backseat,” said Saikat Ghosh, who teaches English at DU.
Others have questioned how DU colleges can be forced to apply for autonomy when the university is governed by the Delhi University Act, which does not have a provision for granting autonomy to colleges. We have examples where teachers, students reprimanded by private managements. Scope of dissent will also be further limited by such steps.
Fee hike/reduction in Fellowships/funds/ faculty
Fees of various universities is being hiked. There had been cut in number of fellowships by UGC, which has spurred ‘Occupy UGC’ movement last year. There is shortage of teachers and even IITS, IIIMs are not unaffected by this. As per records of HRD ministry, Institutes of Higher learning face a shortage of 35% faculty. IITs have 39% posts vacant closely followed by Central Universities with 38%. if we take the case of Delhi University the figure is 60%.
Budgetary allocation is on the decline. From about 4.4% of GDP in 1999 to 3.7%. It is worth noting that while developed countries, where education system is more mature and GDP is much higher, spends about 4.5 to 6% of GDP on education. The first budget (2014-15) of current government saw a decrease in allocation of money for education by Rs. 1134 Crore. A further decrease of Res. 3535 crore in 20115-16 and this year it is up by only RS. 1316 Crore. It is a clear indication of the priorities of the government.
Adaptability to foreign players cbcs etc
In October 2016, JMI when students decided to protest against the proposed visit of then HRD Minister, Smriti Irani, students were served show cause notices. We have seen what happened in JNU or HCU. Spread a lie, build a story, create a frenzy and engulf everything in that. No need of going to facts, listening to logic, whatever has been prpogated is ultimate truth and stories are built around that. All this where an opinion different than that of ruling regime tries to flourish.
Students’ Union Elections are not being held in many universities. Wherever, unions are not of the liking of administration, Unions are not given any hearing and attempts are made to implicate leaders. This is happening not just with students activities but in other bodies too. Examples can be seen in the academic council meetings or of similar bodies of JNU, DU, St. Stephens College etc.
Hooliganism and vigilantism is on the rise in the campuses. All with the active support and abatement by the administration including Police. A handful goons of ABVP decides which programme should be held, who should speak, what to speak. Enormous examples can be given. HCU, JNU incidents are glaring examples. Then harassment of English professor of Haryna Central University, insulting of many JNU teachers in different campuses like Gwalior, BHU etc. where they went to speak. Then Jaipur and Jodhpur universities, trolling of many professors of JNU, recent Ramjus incident, AMU Incident etc. are other examples. They are examples of many such incidents and pointer to the future that lies ahead.
UGC and HRD Ministry is continuously issuing notification to tightening the grip of central control on education. Various things like Central University Act, Central Syllabus, NEET, RUSA are steps in this direction. Even UGC is not spared and it powers are curtailed and Government will directly look into many matters. There is a proposal of a central testing agency to conduct all entrance exams in the country.
National Eligibility cum Entrance examination is now one centrally conducted exam for medical aspirants. It puts students from state board at disadvantage as there are different syllabii in different state boards.
RUSA is Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan started by MHRD. It will decide norm based and performance based funding to different universities. Therefore a curtailment of funds is on the cards for state universities. At the same time it also provide space for public funding of private institutions.
Central University Act propose to have a single central syllabus. This will not only be detrimental to diversity that is prevalent in different states but also abort the freedom of universities to decide its syllabus creatively and based on its profile or mandate. One central exam will again have similar problems. Divergent nature of culture and education will be ignored. Even appointments will be made centrally. Judging from government to government, anybody can guess who will be appointed. Factulty Transfer too is proposed. It will provide a powerful weapon to straighten the ”wrong line’ faculty members.
Control of Higher education.
Government is losing no opportunity to control Higher education whether directly or indirectly. We have already discussed interference of Baba Ramdev in IITs. Appointing directors/VCs or other controlling authority of their choices like in FTII Gajendra Chauhan), JNU (Jagadesh Chandra), ICHR (YS Rao), BHU (Girish Chandra Tripathy, A state level RSS pracharak made VC). ICCSR Chief was made a nearing 90 Lokesh Chandra who claim that Modi is greater than Gandhi and is reincarnation of God himself. Baldev Sharma former editor of RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya is now Chairman of NBT. These head will control and shape the things to come as well as appoint people under them with similar ‘qualifications’.
Wherever they cannot they are using dictum. Like they did in case of IIT-Chennai to close down Ambedakar-Peryar Study Circle, HCU to oust Rohith Vemula and others, JNU, JMI IIT-D etc. etc. This could be done because the administration of these institutes is either shares this ideology or run by people who are more bothered about their career and post retirement benefits rather than either quality of academics or academic reputation of their institutes.
On Dalit/women front
It should be surprising that gender based and caste based discrimination is increasing in educational campuses putting a big question mark on them being educational at all. BHU is one glaring example. Where irrational restriction on women students are made, like they cannot go out after 6 pm, they cannot eat non vegetarian food, can wear certain types of clothes. Imposition of Brahammanical values on women, various dress codes in the name of preservation of cultural values is throwing them back to medieval era.
With increasing privatization, reservation for SC/ST and other categories is diminishing fast. There is fund cutting and many center for studies on socially deprived sections have been closed by UGC. In last five years moire that 20 students belonging to dalit, adivasi or minority have committed suicide. Recent changes in admission policy of JNU is another example. This policy enabled students from remote areas to attain higher education. But not any more.
Attempts to shut down campuses.
Last Year after ‘JNU Incident’ there was a campaign by right wingers to shutdown JNU. And this year we see a drastic reduction of seats in M.Phil/Ph.D. Courses which is more than 80%. This followed closure of center of dalit studies. And it followed closing of Advanced Center of Women Studies in Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. This is not just closure but also an attack on the education where thinking, freedom of thought, dissent and creativity exists.
WTO etc Agenda and NEP
New Education policy input document just echos the spirit of WTO which was outlined above. Apart form this it has strong fraternization tone. It talks about great culture, gurukiu system, ancient values and many other things. It proposes to change the contents of education to suit dictates of WTO. It will have stratified education. Better education will be reserved for elite and privileged. Rest will be just able to acquire some skills to supply trained man power to MNCs. It will help ‘make in India’ and ‘skill India’. One may learn to fit electrical wiring, but not how to produce electricity. One may learn language so that one can translate/transcribe/interpret it but no need of learning literature. No need for any creative thinking, new development, to produce social leaders, but produce either servants of ruling class and imperialism or Highly paid managerial staff our some professionals working as outsourced material for MNCs. This is new avatar of Mcallauy.
The final document is yet to come. But there is a more serious point which needs to be understood. NDA-I tried desperately to implement Model Act but could not do so. UPA-I committed in 2005 on education to be included in GATS. But could not do so fearing protests. It brought bills to achieve the same, however bills lapsed. This government wanted to commit in GATS in December 2015, but country wide protest prevented it. But all the while, it has started implementing the agenda. Centralization, Single Act to control universities, privatization, reduced state funding and control, curbing political activities etc. is already on. While government want people etc wait for formal NEP to come and then start protests, it his already implementing the same.
It should also be understood that Saffronization and Privatization are two aspects of same coin. They cannot be fought separately. Fraternization is done to facilitate privatization. It is done so that people are either indulged in saffronization debate of feel proud in (pseudo)nationalism, the education is sold out to foreign companies.