Education must create minds free from superstitions, hatred and violence and become an important vehicle to cement national unity, social cohesion and religious amity. Our endeavour should be to inculcate moral, ethical and humanistic values in the individuals and the society.” These words are from the BJP’s elections manifesto for the 2014 parliamentary election. Now, four years down the line, it seems that either these words have a different meaning in the BJP’s dictionary or these too were ‘jumlas’ like everything else. The last four years have seen authoritarian assaults on our educational institutions -- HCU, JNU, FTII, IIT-Madras and BHU -- aimed at crushing the democratic culture and destroying every single voice of dissent. However, the assault on democracy is only one part when one begins to look for the “achievements” of the four years of the NDA government in the education sector.
The BJP-led central governmenthas aggressively pursued the policies of commercialisation, centralisation and communalisation of education. It is accelerating the neo-liberal educational policies of the previous UPA government, aimed at deregulating the education sector and increasing the avenues of profit maximisation for the private capital. However, at the same time it is destroying the federal character of Indian education and is attempting to control the entire sector from the Centre, as part of the designs to push the Hindutva agenda. This is reflected in appointing RSS personnel in key administrative bodies, rewriting of history, abrupt and irrational changes in syllabi, propagation of pseudoscience, so on and so forth. The brunt of these attacks is falling upon the students from the socio-economically exploited and oppressed section.
New National Education Policy
The Modi government had announced adoption of a new National Education Policy within 100 days of it taking oath. The hype created around it led people to believe that the new policy document will be instrumental in addressing the problems of the education system and will help rejuvenating it. Where do we find ourselves after four years? While the adoption of the new policy is nowhere in sight, the various draft documents that have come clearly portray the agenda behind the new policy document -- the agenda of privatisation, commercialisation and communalisation. The proposed NEP is in clear contradiction with the constitutional vision of a common education system.There is already a sanction to private education institution for open loot of students through different kind of fees. The student community has been demanding for longa central legislation to monitor the admission process and fee structure of private institutions.However, there is no mention of such a provision in the draft NEP.
Budget for Education
The budget allocation for education completely punctures the tall claims and propaganda of the BJP. Its election manifesto had reiterated the long-standing demand for spending six per cent of the GDP on education. The actual outcome, however, has been in completely opposite direction.
Public spending on education by central and state governments combined come to only 2.7 per cent of the GDP (as of 2017-18 budget estimates, according to the Economic Survey 2017-18). The rate of increase in budgetary allocation for education ever since the BJP came to power has not even kept up with the rate of inflation in India. The central government’s budget allocation for education has declined sharply as percentage of both the central budgetaryexpenditure and the GDP.
Neoliberal Dogma Continues
Along with these visible attacks, there is a silent conspiracy to completely dismantle the public education system in India. In the past four years, the policy paralysis of the government has gone hand in hand with the attempts to dismantle all decision-making bodies.The RashtriyaUchhtar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) was a UPA flagship programme which has been carried forward by the BJP government. It replaces the pre-existing multiple funding mechanisms with one centralised mechanism. The funding is linked to a set of conditions failing which the institutions/states won’t be eligible to receive funds.These conditions include implementation of Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), semesterisation and compulsory accreditation. The same document makes it clear that the funding under RUSA will be norm based as well as performance based. This basically means that the state governments or universities won’t have any room to modify the system according to their specific conditions and all powers to determine their education are snatched away from them.The government’s latest decision to provide autonomy to 60 higher education institutes includingfive central universities, 21 state universities and 24 deemed universitiesthrough a UGC notification is another move to push the higher education into the further heights of privatisation. This allows universities to do innumerable activities such as opening new centres, new disciplines and new off-campus branches. However, no fund will be provided by the government for any of these experiments. It clearly means that hefty fee hike is in the offing. This will make premier higher educational institutions into degree minting shops which will become the reserve of the rich and the poor will be permanently excluded. Autonomy is nothing but a code word for unbridled commodification through self-financing courses and fee hikes.
Dismantling Public Education System
The last two decades have seen concerted attempts to destroy public sector and pave way for private institutions. The process has reached an alarming scale during the past four years.The Government of Rajasthan has taken a decision to run 225 schoolson public-private partnership (PPP) model, which essentially means handing over public schools to the private sector.The Madhya Pradesh government has planned to close15,000 government schools because there are supposedly fewer children to study in them.Similarly, in Maharashtra, the state government has decided to closesome 13,905 schools which have a student count of less than 20. Similar reports are coming in from many states including Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.There is no attention to employing teachers, considering the factthere are more than one lakh five thousand government schools functioning with just one teacher.
Replacing Grants with Loans
The 2018-19 budget speech of the finance ministerclearly showed the intention of replacing the grants given by the central government with loans, and this will inevitably degrade the autonomy of the institutions.The funds for infrastructural development will cease to exist and loans generated through the Higher Education Funding Agency (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 worth Rs 2,066.73 crorefor six IITs.According to HEFA, the principal portion of the loan will be repaid through “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 Deregulation of Higher Education
The HRD Ministry has proposed for Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA), which will replace UGC and AICTE. The BJP is following the path of neoliberal dogma which was pushed by the Congress for 10 years, 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 NDA governmenthas completely dismantled the fundamental tenets of research in 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.It is a well-established fact that huge numbers of faculty posts are lying vacant in universities, further reducing opportunitiesfor research.
Exclusion is BJP’sGuiding Principle
The policies of the 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 orprivatised. In the want of sufficient funds, the condition of these hostels is simply inhuman.There is a continuous attack onfellowships and scholarships for the students from deprived sections. According to an NCDHR report, scholarship arrears of the last three years for SC/ST students amount to Rs11,156 crore – Rs8,000 crorefor SCs and Rs3,156 crorefor STs.There are“centresof 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 the RSS’s approach to education, communalisation of education has been an integral part of the policies in the past four years. People like Dinanath Batra have been given a free hand to change the school syllabus. In the BJP-ruled states, books have been already filled with communal venom.However, now attempts are being made to replicate it at national level.We are aware of efforts of RSS family to rewrite the history and propagate pseudoscience usingnational platformssuch as 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.
The last four years of the Modi regime have been four years of destruction of education. The 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 sought 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 mobilisations of the students and teaching fraternity against these policies. 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 the NDA dispensation is ousted from power in 2019. However, what we seek to replace is not only the ruling party, but also the policy which it has been pursuing.