People's Democracy

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


No. 48

November 28, 2010




Forward to December 2

'March to Parliament'

Vijender Sharma


THE Congress-led UPA government came into power in 2004 with outside support of the Left parties. It strived to continue the drive of centralisation, privatisation and commercialisation of higher education launched by the previous NDA government. A large number of private institutions were given deemed university status. It had to withdraw Foreign Educational Institutions Bill in May 2007 due to the strong opposition of CPI(M). Under the pressure of the Left parties, it had to abandon the Model Act for all universities. It also could not bring an enabling framework common to the entire system of education.




The UPA government gave initial offers in August 2005 to WTO under GATS which was protested by all stakeholders. However, the commerce ministry circulated in 2006 a consultation paper on trade in education services. Titled “Higher Education in India and GATS: An Opportunity,” it was in preparation for the then ongoing services negotiations at the WTO.


The commerce ministry recommended “services negotiations (in WTO) could be used as an opportunity to invite foreign universities to set up campuses in India, thereby saving billions of dollars for the students travelling abroad.” Therefore, the consultation paper recommended striking “a balance” between “domestic regulation and providing adequate flexibility to such universities in setting syllabus, hiring teachers, screening students and setting fee levels”.


The WTO had identified certain barriers to trade. These barriers/obstacles include the 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. The goal of ‘free trade’ regime under the WTO was to get these barriers removed in order to further liberalise the world economy. Therefore, the commerce ministry’s recommendations about ‘adequate flexibility’, ‘balance’ between domestic regulations and ‘removal of barriers’ could prove disastrous for the Indian higher education system.

The trade in education has adopted an alternative route outside the ambit of WTO-GATS. The developed countries and education providers now directly negotiate with sovereign States wanting to import higher education. Quite often they put pressure on developing and transition countries to open up their education sector to the foreign educational players. Such pressures were mounting on UPA government. It could not do much due to strong resistance of the Left parties on whose outside support it depended.




The UPA-II government came into power in May 2009. It knew that a Model Act like enabling framework, as directed by the World Bank and WTO, was not possible due to the resistance of all stakeholders. Therefore, its 100-day agenda announced by the minister of human resource development included introduction of several bills in parliament and so called academic reforms. Accordingly, four bills regarding entry and operation of foreign educational providers, mandatory assessment and accreditation, prevention and prohibition of malpractices, and establishment of a tribunal to fast-track adjudication were introduced in the budget session of parliament on 3 May 2010.


In addition a draft bill was issued for the constitution of an overarching authority National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) based on the recommendations of Yashpal Committee and National Knowledge Commission. In the wake of strong criticism, this draft was revised and circulated as Higher Education and Research Bill. Another draft bill for starting ‘universities for innovation’ has been circulated.


Apart from these bills, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2009 was passed and it became an Act despite several shortcomings. Various problems remained in its implementation. An amendment bill was introduced this year for taking care of the problems of differently-abled children which is still pending.




The UPA-II government is changing the entire framework of higher education system in the country without required consultation and debate. The minister is pushing this so called “reform agenda” with tremendous haste without any regard to the opposition of academia and states. It is being questioned whether this agenda will ‘reform’ higher education system in India or ‘deform’ it.


The compulsion of the minister and the central government for pushing these “reforms” can be understood by knowing the situation obtaining abroad in higher education sector after the recent economic meltdown particularly in USA and UK. With ever growing strategic relationship with the USA in several fields, this government is also under its pressure and also of other developed countries including UK. These countries are looking for alternative destinations for export of their higher education and do business so that their crisis-ridden higher education systems could be bailed out. The prime minister and HRD minister are already engaged in high level talks with their counterparts in USA and UK in this regard.




In the new framework which will facilitate trade in higher education, there will be no social control over higher education institutions and no regulation of admission, fees, content of courses, examination, service conditions of teachers and other employees ignoring larger issues of social justice and academic accountability. For adjudication of disputes, teachers or other employees will be stopped at the tribunal level and they will be denied their constitutional right to take recourse to high courts. There will be no remedial mechanism for the solution of problems of students. Instead of giving higher education institutions freedom to regulate themselves on the basis of some guidelines, they will be mandatorily accredited. However, the central government can exempt the institutions from this mandatory provision which will help the foreign educational institutions interested in coming to India and set up their shops.


The foreign educational institutions will launch courses which the market needs, create false impression about their courses through advertisements, charge exorbitantly high fees for courses which have immediate employment potential. The Universities for Innovation Bill will provide an alternative route to foreign universities for establishing their campuses in India. This route will give them greater power, freedom and prestige with the removal of most of the restrictions, proposed in the foreign educational institutions bill. An all powerful commission is sought to be created for the centralisation of all aspects related to higher education including starting of a university negating the role of state governments and academia in strengthening the higher education system in their respective areas, states and country. With this single-window system, the foreign educational institutions will find it easy to start their shops in the country.




Under the neo-liberal agenda of the UPA-II government, the cherished function of higher education, for the search, creation and dissemination of knowledge and for instilling sensitivity or social awareness in its students in India is under fire today. With new agenda of the government in the name of expanding higher education and a series of bills, our higher education system is being thrown into the hands of private players, both local and foreign, for its trade and all round privatisation and commercialisation. This will lead to the dismantling of the State funded higher education system.


We have to force the government of India to protect education from these predators. It is the responsibility of the whole society to rise to the occasion and take measures so that the process of dismantling the higher education system in the country is reversed.




In this background a national convention of fifteen organisations of students, teachers, non-teaching employees and officers of schools, colleges & universities, youth, parents, people’s science movement and concerned citizens was held on  August 13 at New Delhi. It is unprecedented that so many organisations came together and resolved to fight against the anti-people policies of UPA-II  government in the field of education which are aimed at pushing centralisation, privatisation and commercialisation of the education sector in the country. Such policies will undermine the goal of expansion, excellence and equity in education which can only be achieved through increased public spending based on a democratic education policy.


A ‘National Forum in Defence of Education’ was formed in this convention. It called to hold a massive rally on December 2, 2010 in Delhi in front of parliament involving all stakeholders in order to force the central government to accept our demands and related issues. It appealed to all to reach Delhi on this day and assemble at Ramlila ground in the morning from where they will march to parliament where a massive all India rally will be organised.


Let us all respond to the clarion call given by the national forum in defence of education in large numbers and make the December 2 rally in Delhi a grand success.




The goals of expansion, equity and excellence in education at all levels are mutually complementary and should be pursued harmoniously through greater public investment and public control over education. The needs of differently- abled children should be fully taken care of so that they complete their studies. Special schemes for promotion of education of the children belonging to disadvantaged, deprived and minorities should be launched. There is a strong need to make the entire system of education democratic, participative and transparent. Following charter of demands, in addition to demands at the local levels, has been popularised all over the country.


·                   Allocate 6 per cent of GDP for Education as committed in the CMP of the UPA-I government.   

·                   Include pre-primary to senior secondary education under the purview of the Right to Education. Central government should bear all the expenditure for implementing the Right to Education. Increase the number of schools along with strong social monitoring mechanism involving local stake holders. Allow parents-teachers associations in non-aided institutions. Delete the provision, Section 35 of the Act, requiring prior permission for any prosecution. The 86th Constitution Amendment (2002) should be amended to make the right to education inclusive of common school and neighborhood school.

·                   Recruit quality teachers on a permanent basis. Remove the freeze on appointments and cuts in teaching and non-teaching positions. The para-teachers/ contract teachers should be absorbed on permanent basis.

·                   Oppose handing over of public educational institutions’ infrastructure and management to the private sector in the name of Public Private Partnerships.

·                   Reject fee hike. Fully subsidize students from economically backward and disadvantaged backgrounds.

·                   Enact a central legislation to bring all private self-financing institutions under strict social control.     

·                   Implement constitutionally mandated SC/ST/OBC reservations in all educational institutions.

·                   Fight all attempts to undermine the democratic control of the parliament, state assemblies and statutory structures of Universities and colleges (including through instruments like NCHER). Fight against centralisation of education.

·                   Oppose FDI in Education.

·                   Scrap the FEI Bill.

·                   Scrap private universities and deemed university status to private institutions.

·                   Stop bringing education under GATS (WTO).

·                   Use Information Technology for distance education to provide universal lifelong quality education. Do not commercialise distance education.

·                   Undertake Assessment for improvement not Accreditation or Funding. Evolve a democratic and transparent mechanism for Assessment.

·                   Uphold democratic rights in the sphere of education. Hold elections for Students’ Unions, Teaching and Non-Teaching Associations. Provide elected representation in all decision making bodies.