People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 31, 2006
SFI Launched At Hyderabad Central University
IN what may be called a transformation, the University Discussion Forum (UDF), one of the leading left-democratic students’ organisations of Hyderabad Central University converted itself into Students’ Federation of India (SFI) in the first conference of SFI, HCU unit. The proposal to transform UDF to SFI was actually approved unanimously in the last general body meeting of UDF. Accordingly, the erstwhile members of UDF went ahead with a membership campaign among the student community to join Students’ Federation of India. It was heartening to note that within a span of four days, more than 250 students joined SFI.
Dr Chukka Ramaiah, eminent educationist and freedom fighter (popularly known as IIT Ramaiah) was the chief guest of the inaugural session. Professor A Murali, Head of the Department of History, University of Hyderabad was the guest of honour on this occasion.
The conference began with a clarion call to ‘protect intellectual self reliance and sovereignty of the nation.’
SFI flag was hoisted by K. Harikishore, secretary, SFI A.P. committee. The inaugural session started with the welcome remarks by Zikrullah Khan, the general secretary of the students’ union. Prof. A. Murali, while delivering the welcome message called upon the students of HCU to follow the ideals and objectives of Students’ Federation of India (SFI). “While it is imperative that the members of SFI take up students’ issues from time to time, it is equally necessary for all to engage in serious academic discussions and theoretical debates. Political debates must be carried on in a most healthy manner, as many issues directly related to our university are in fact the results of key political decisions taken by Government of India. Hence, the intervention of students in political issues and their association with a larger democratic student movement is vital,” he said.
In his keynote address Dr. Ramaiah began by encouraging students to participate in the student movement. According to him, if one believes in any idea then one need to be dedicated, determined and disciplined in the fulfillment of such ideas. Addressing the packed crowd of students at the Ambedkar Hall of HCU, he reminded that the students are the future leaders of our society. The purpose of education, according to him, is not personal academic achievement alone, but also for active participation in the process of social transformation. There are 270 universities, but only about 4% of the backward people of India are actually being helped by university education. Higher education sadly is still an upper class phenomenon. One of the major objectives for which HCU was set up, according to Dr. Ramaiah, was for the academic upliftment of the students of Telangana region. However, the statistics show that the objective has not been fulfilled. He called upon the students of HCU to be politically aware and take part in social transformation. This political and social awareness will only help make university policies friendlier and hospitable to the backward people.
The actual conference proceedings started in the second session. Masum Ali, former general secretary of students’ union and former general secretary of the organisation presented the political-organisational report. The report was divided into two parts – political and organisational.
The UDF, as an organisation, initiated its activities in 1998. Over the years, it has shown a steady progress, both in letter and spirit – being the largest student organisation in the campus. During the last year, we conducted eight seminars and a few documentary and movie screenings. We observed the International Women’s Day and the Gandhi Jayanti. UDF actively participated in the 12th All India Conference of the Students’ Federation of India held in Hyderabad. One delegate from HCU attended the All India Conference of SFI. That apart, a potential team of translators was provided by the UDF in the arrangement of simultaneous translation. To carry out several activities of the organisation, the secretariat and the executive committee had been functioning at various levels. However, it was the unanimous decision of the members of the UDF to transform itself to the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), the largest student organisation in our country.
Pertinent academic issues like placement, summer internships, enhancing department libraries, reduction of the price of the prospectus and application forms, etc. were represented in the recently held STAC meeting. The issue of increasing the amount of the Merit-cum-Means scholarship was represented. Abrupt increase in development fee for admission to the MBA course was strongly protested. As a result of our intervention the proposed hike in development fee of Rs. 5000/- was limited to Rs. 2000/-. However, we didn’t accept this meager decrease and once again represented the issue to the Executive Council, the decision of which is yet to arrive. The organisation also opposed the undemocratic manner in which the university authority, without proper discussion in the Academic Council meetings, is planning to ‘earmark’ a huge amount of university land (to the tune of 200 acres) to Care Foundation to set up a National Institute of Health Sciences and Translational Research.
ROLE IN UNION ELECTION 2006-07
The organisation went into an alliance with the like minded student organisations of the campus to prevent the communal forces from making any inroads in the students’ union election for the academic year 2006-07. The alliance led by the UDF panel was successful in retaining the 5 posts (vice president, general secretary, joint secretary, sports secretary and cultural secretary) of the central panel. However, it lost the post of president by 58 votes to an ABVP candidate. While analysing the election verdict, we find that a number of factors accounted for our loss of the presidential post. While we notice that most of our candidates in the UDF panel won with a considerable majority, we failed to retain the same vote percentage for the presidential post. In our analysis, the disgraceful campaign carried out by ABVP against the presidential candidate just because he belonged to a lower caste and thereby exploiting the biases that exist in our society to serve the vested interests was one of the major factors in this regard. The presidential candidate of ABVP campaigned openly and exploited caste sentiments. However, equally worth mentioning is the calculated and vicious campaign by a group of students led by the two expelled office bearers of the organisation to malign the UDF and mislead the student community through a process of continuous rumor- mongering. While the verdict clearly ensured the utter downfall of such elements, it is also necessary to remember that this negative campaign served to only split the secular vote thus giving the communal forces a chance to emerge.
The organisation had not been able to meet the demands on various quarters. There was a weakness in undertaking a proper membership drive during the academic year 2005-2006. The UDF faced serious challenges, especially (though not exclusively) internal, since one year. Individualistic mode of functioning has disrupted the spirit of collective action. This is one of the major causes of our loss of the post of president in the recently held students’ union election. Owing to internal disruption, even meetings became the greatest casualty. Consequently, hardly any issues were represented. The organisation also failed to discipline its cadres. This has led to the expulsion of the erstwhile president and one of the organising secretaries of the UDF. As a result, the organisation failed to give a desired back up to the UDF-led students’ union.
The transformation from UDF to SFI became imperative in the context of locating the campus issues in conjunction with the larger student movements worldwide. Henceforth, the committees of the SFI need to be more disciplined and should take up pertinent issues keeping the global factors in mind. The members of the SFI ought to be trained dialectically. The organisation should penetrate and gain hold in certain sections of the students – girls, dalits and various vernacular groups.
The SFI is determined to play a major role in its consistent struggle to demand and create awareness about the significance of increased state funding in higher education, to free education from all communal distortions, to lift immediately the ban on government recruitment, to oppose the ongoing commercialisation and privatisation of education and the recent Supreme Court verdict on professional education, etc.
The SFI believes that it is only by intensification and expansion of the day-to-day democratic struggles for the realisation of demands and rights of the students that we can effectively prevent communal forces from finding any space and consequently isolate them in the campus.
Intense discussion and debate took place after the presentation of the annual report. After the discussion session, Masum Ali responded to all the questions and comments raised during the discussion. In between proceedings various resolutions were also adopted. Prominent among those were resolutions against private and foreign universities bill, against caste-oppression, against gender discrimination, against the inflow of FDI into Indian Universities, to protect intellectual self-reliance and sovereignty of our nation and to implement BC reservation in all educational institutions.
A 25-member committee of SFI, HCU unit was elected later. The SFI committee, in turn elected the office bearers of the committee for the academic year 2006-07. Mr. Prashant. R (M.A. English) and Mr. Vikram C. (IMA, Economics) were elected as the general secretary and president respectively.
The First conference of SFI, HCU also adopted the following charter of demands.
Make every effort not to allow 10% fee hike every year and retain the same fee structure during the next academic year too
Internet connectivity to all hostels
Keep the Library open round the clock for the benefit of the students
Provide better and improved medical services/ facilities at the University Health Centre
Improve the overall placement scenario in the campus
Oppose the undemocratic encroachment of our university land by private and profiteering institutions like the Care Foundation
Spend 6 % of GDP and 10 % of central budget on education
Central government should enact the Right to Education Bill
Stop private and foreign universities and FDI in education. Protect intellectual self-reliance and resist imperialist onslaught on education
Free our country and the campus from all communal distortions
Chandra Mohan, vice president, AP state committee of SFI also spoke on this occasion. He called upon the new committee of SFI to take up students’ issues and strive for their welfare.
The conference concluded with a thanksgiving note by the newly elected president, Vikram Chukka.