People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 36

September 05, 2010

Tamilnadu SFI Conference Calls for Militant Struggles


S P Rajendran


OPENING with a huge student procession and an impressive public meeting, the 22nd state conference of the Tamilnadu unit of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) resolved to take forward its resolute fight against the aggressive commercialisation of education in the state. The three-day conference took place at Nagarcoil, headquarters of Kanniyakumari district, on August 13-15. The district is a stronghold of the SFI.

On August 13 evening, nearly 5000 boys and girls, holding aloft the white flag of the SFI and chanting slogans, came out in an inspiring procession through the town. The procession culminated in a public meeting which the education minister of Kerala and former SFI leader, M A Baby, CITU state general secretary A Soundararajan, SFI president P K Biju, joint secretary G Selva and other state leaders addressed.

Earlier, Kanakaraj received the SFI flag which had been brought from the V K Puram memorial of martyr Comrade Kumar. Central executive committee member Jasmine Vinoja hoisted the flag. G Selva received the torch which had been brought from the memorial of martyrs Somu and Sembu in Madurai.




On August 14, the delegates session of the conference started with an inaugural address by Professor V K Ramachandran, member of the Planning Board of West Bengal. He criticised the wrong policies of the country’s rulers who have given the nation a high rate of illiteracy even after 63 years of independence. He quoted the comments of veteran communist leader Comrade P Sundarayya that “if there is no fundamental change in society, we will not able to provide minimum 10 years education for children even after 50 years.” According to the National Family Health Survey 2005, the median number of schooling years for men in rural India was only 2; for women, it was only 0; for Dalits also, it was 0. If the words of Comrade Sundarayya have come true, it is because there were no fundamental changes in the society, Professor V K Ramachandran added. He appealed the student community to take part in the struggle for social change and said, “If you are part of the struggle for social change, it means you are participating in the struggle against class oppression; caste oppression and gender oppression.” He also told the students that only the Left movement in India is waging a tireless fight against class, caste, gender and other forms of oppression. 

The conference discussed the work report and organisational report placed by K Kanagaraj, state secretary of the SFI, which detailed the continuous struggles by the organisation in the state, particularly for the cause of common school education, for educational loans and scholarship for the poor students, and other pro-education causes. It was evident that it was only due to the powerful struggle of SFI that the DMK government has begun the implementation of common school education programme from this year. For this cause, one may note, SFI cadres faced cruel attacks of the police and the government tried to crush their movement with brutality.

Discussing the organisation’s strengths in Tamilnadu, the conference noted that it has 1,56,917 members in the state, among whom 1,06,351 are school students. However, the delegates also analysed the weaknesses and charted out measures to further strengthen the organisation.

The conference decided to hold massive demonstrations all over the state on September 1 to press its demands, including that of proper implementation of the common school education programme.

A five-member committee headed by state SFI president N Rejees Kumar presided over the conference. Reception committee chairman and former MP, A V Bellarmine, welcomed the delegates and others while DYFI state secretary S Kannan, AISF state secretary Venkatraman and the leaders of teachers' movement greeted the conference. All India joint secretary G Selva addressed the valedictory session. D Samraj proposed the vote of thanks.

The conference elected a 78 member state committee, with K S Kanakaraj as president and J Rajmohan as secretary. R Stalin, Karikalan, Uchi Makali, Dhanushan and Jasmine Vinoja were elected vice presidents and Kumar, Samraj, Mariappan, Balachanra Bose and Josbin Viji are the joint secretaries.




As a part of the conference, a special convention was held on August 15. SFI general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee and former MUTA president Professor V Ponraj delivered special addresses at the convention.

In his address, Ritabrata Banerjee warned that the UPA II, which does not even have a Common Minimum Programme, has launched a renewed offensive in the field of education. This involves the twin attacks of commercialisation and centralisation of education. The UPA government not only seeks to push for increased commercialisation and opening up of the education sector to foreign players; it also aims at fundamentally changing the structure of education sector in the country. To put it in simple terms, the thrust is on fundamentally curbing the democratic values in the realm of education policy and make it subservient to the whims and fancies of the market bosses, he added.

After the UPA II assumed office in May 2009, the minister for human resource development has declared the aggressive neo-liberal agenda of his ministry, arousing strong protests from the stakeholders and various state governments. Several legislations have been introduced in parliament, including the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill which seeks to invite FDI in education. The Right to Education Act has been passed without committing additional funds to the state governments. Some other legislations are in the offing. The UPA government's agenda for education sector in going to lead to a) deregulation and centralisation of education b) taking policy issues outside the purview of the parliament/legislature and elected representatives and c) privatisation and commercialisation of education. All this will have far reaching consequences, the speaker pointed out.

The most dangerous step in this direction is the proposed NCHER and HER draft bills which have been brought by the government. The defining feature of these bills are that they would take away all rights of policy and decision making in education from democratically elected bodies like the parliament and state legislatures, and give sweeping powers to a seven member body. Such steps can also be seen in the field of school education where attempts are being made to undermine the autonomy of state boards by talks of uniform syllabi and curricula. All this is being done in the name of "reforming and rejuvenating" the education sector in the country and is being presented as a drastic reform of the otherwise inefficient education system prevailing in the country. While the government is not showing any inclination to increase the resource allocation for the education sector, it wants to acquire all powers to implement its own all-size-fit policies. This is yet another replication of the neo-liberal paradigm which tries to seek legitimacy for most undemocratic and regressive proposals in the name of reforming the delivery mechanism. Banerjee put forward the view that the goals of expansion, equity and excellence in education at all levels are mutually complementary and should be harmoniously pursued through greater public investment and public control over education. He demanded that adequate provision should be made by the central government for time bound implementation of total literacy and continuing education programmes. Expenditure on education must be raised to at least six per cent of the GDP. Quantum of the central financial support to the states should be enhanced substantially.




Banerjee pointed out that in a country like ours which is marked by large diversities, education cannot be straitjacketed. We require a participatory, democratic attitude to improve the sorry state of affairs which prevail today. It is absurd to think that some "enlightened" individuals sitting in Delhi can decide what policies should be adopted to address the problems of providing quality education to students in a remote village in the North East or in a big city slum. It is also meaningless to argue that a clique of some individuals, with no accountability to the common people, would get rid of the problems which are facing our education system today.

It is important to understand that the driving motive behind these measures is not an expansion of the system. The primary motive is to cater to the needs of the market and undermine the progressive content of education in the country. To take an example, the HRD minister recently gave a statement stressing the need for having identical syllabi for science and commerce streams at the higher secondary level across all states. But one might ask: why is there no felt need to include humanities or social sciences as well? The answer is clear. Science and commerce streams have a direct relation to the needs of the market today. The ruling elite in our country needs supply of skilled labour force to compete in the world market. That is not the case with social sciences or liberal arts, which in fact pose a challenge to the imperialist thinktanks which would want to reinterpret our history in a particular manner.

There is thus an urgent need to understand the threat these policies pose to our society. The speaker therefore appealed to the student community to wage militant struggles and press the government to commit more resources to the education sector and withdraw all plans to further the agenda of its centralisation and commercialisation.

At the convention, Ritabrata Banerjee inaugurated a new website of the Tamilnadu SFI,