(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 05, 2009
THESE are examination times, not only for students but also for our country. Elections are an important means to protect, widen and strengthen our political freedom and democracy, which we got after a prolonged freedom struggle. As the students and youth form more than 54 per cent of our population, they play an important role in protecting and strengthening our political democracy.
According to Oxford dictionary, an examination means “a detailed inspection or investigation” of pre-planned syllabus by the examiners. In the same perspective, in the coming Lok Sabha elections, the UPA government will be examined by the people based on in its Common Minimum Programme (CMP), which is the syllabus developed by themselves after the results of the 14th Lok Sabha elections. The Left forces extended their support to the UPA government from outside in order to keep the communal forces at bay. The CMP declares to ‘preserve, protect and promote social harmony’. Let us review from the students’ point of view, the promises made by UPA government on education sector and their implementation.
BETRAYAL ON FINANCIAL ALLOCATIONS FOR EDUCATION
The well known Kothari Commission recommended in 1968 that 6 per cent of GDP should be allotted to education sector. But, for the past four decades, successive governments ignored this recommendation. The UPA government, which came to power on the promise to allocate six percent of GDP for education betrayed and failed to do it in the last five years. If we see the performance of UPA government, educational spending has not increased but declined further from 3.94 per cent of GDP in 2000-01 to 3.24 per cent of GDP in 2006-07.
According to a recent survey by Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera, “School books and uniforms also ranked high among people’s uses of NREGA earnings”. The NREGA has not reached all parts of our rural India. But the above survey shows that even wherever it has reached, the toiling masses are spending major part of their income on education. The UPA government, which has failed to implement its promises made in the CMP by not spending the required amount on education, is the sole reason for such a sorry state of affairs.
The CMP also promises to setup a National Commission on Education to allocate resources and monitor programmes. This promise too was not kept by the UPA government.
One of the highlights of the CMP is that nobody will be denied professional education because he or she is poor. Leave alone professional education, access to not even primary education is available to the common masses, thanks to the policies of the UPA government. The UPA government under the pressure of the Left initiated some steps to introduce the Right to Education Bill in parliament. But due to pressure from private lobbies and also the feudal-capitalist character of the state, the government is dillydallying with the Act that already has many lacunas.
Due to the people’s movement, the UPA was forced to approve 15 new central universities, which include six new IITs and one new IIM. But as per XI Five year plan, the private unaided educational institutions increased from 42.6 per cent in 2001 to 63.21 per cent in 2006. Thus the UPA government not only failed in providing school education for all and to stop commercialisation and privatisation of higher education, but, on the contrary, encouraged it. Thus, in UPA’s tenure only the rich had access to not only professional education but even school education.
There is a demand from student’s movement and state governments for a legislation to stop commercialisation and privatisation of education and to implement reservation in private institutions. By failing to enact such a legislation, the UPA government not only betrayed the people and the Left forces, but also the constituents of UPA, who demanded such legislation.
The UPA government, that had deviated from the position of ‘non-alignment’ and joined as a junior partner of American imperialism, gave a green signal to FDI in education sector also. Due to the strong resistance from the people’s movements and the Left in parliament, the UPA was not able to pass the foreign universities bill that serves the interests of the imperialist forces.
BETRAYAL OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY
The CMP categorically mentioned that “the UPA government is very sensitive to the issue of affirmative action, including reservations in the private sector”. The same UPA government passed a government order stating that the students from dalit community should get 60 per cent of marks to claim scholarship in higher education. Once again it is the strong student’s movement that had forced the UPA government to take back the order.
Not only in education, but also in employment the UPA government betrayed the people of deprived sections. The UPA government initiated and passed the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Reservation in services and posts) bill, 2008 in Rajya Sabha. It has betrayed the cause of social justice by hastily passing the bill that keeps teaching posts above Group A level in 47 institutes of excellence outside the purview of reservation for SC/STs.
The Supreme Court has directed the union government to implement Lyndogh Committee recommendations for holding elections in all the higher education institutions in India. Even though there are numerous criticisms and objections over the committee report raised by various democratic students’ organisations, one welcome feature is that it had indeed recommended for student unions in the campuses. Even this, the UPA government has completely failed to implement. Due to lack of democratic rights among students in various private institutions, there exists a mini-emergency, where the students’ rights are completely suppressed.
The BJP is still following the same communal, anti-people policies for which it was rejected by people in the last Lok Sabha elections. This is evident from the way in which BJP supported all anti-people policies of UPA in parliament. Whichever state they are in power, they follow the same pro-imperialist neo-liberal policies of UPA and also use communal agenda to divide and suppress democratic rights of people. In Karnataka, under BJP’s rule, in the name of protecting “Indian Culture”, common students and public were attacked in Pubs. On the other side, the BJP affiliated ABVP issued a diktat banning the use of Burkha by Muslim women in colleges.
The Left’s Fight for Alternative Policies
Due to the Left forces’ critical support to UPA on the basis of Common Minimum Programme, we were able to discuss and debate the peoples’ issues inside and outside of the parliament. The Left played a crucial role in bringing the issues ranging from nuclear deal to Employment Guarantee Act for discussion among the common people. Due to stiff opposition from the Left , the UPA government was not able to open up the national resources for foreign investors completely and sell our national sovereignty to imperialist forces.
Regarding more financial allocation for education, stopping of foreign universities in education, stopping the communalisation of syllabus and fight for social justice, right to education, the Left played a significant role. Thus it is necessary for the students’ community to strengthen the progressive Left forces in the coming elections.
This Lok Sabha election should be used as a means to protect and preserve the hard won political freedom, secularism and democracy. If we analyse the last five years of UPA’s tenure, the government has pledged India’s sovereignty by signing nuclear deal, allowing FDI in many sectors, and betrayed social justice by commercialising and privatising the state owned resources, denying reservation for deprived sections and suppressing workers and students’ movements.
At this juncture, after 60 years of political independence, we are in the midst of a neo-liberal assault on our economy, the communal divide and commercialisation and privatization of education. This is the time for Indian people to choose a pro people political alternative to not only protect democracy, secularism and sovereignty, but also to lend a helping hand to the toiling masses in their fight against these challenges. Therefore, the Students’ Federation of India appeals to the students’ community to unite and fight for a secular, democratic and pro people political alternative to the BJP and the Congress parties.