People's Democracy

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


No. 36

September 09, 2012


SFI All India Conference Begins

With Impressive Rally in Madurai


S P Rajendran


“What India needs today is not just a change in government or ruling party but a totally different policy regime. It is only the Left parties that have genuine alternative policies to realise the rich potential of the vast sections of youth in our country and build a better India”,  said Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and MP while addressing a massive rally of students in Madurai on September 4, 2012.


The rally, held in this historic city in Tamilnadu, marked the enthusiastic beginning of the 14th all India conference of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), which is being attended by over 750 delegates from across the country. The rally was attended by nearly 20,000 students from various parts of Tamilnadu and other neighbouring states. Earlier, the rally was flagged off by Madurai West CPI(M) MLA, R Annadurai.


Addressing the gathering, Sitaram Yechury said that large-scale corruption was not only an immoral act, but also an evil that was weighing down the country from realising its rich potential of material and human resources. He reminded that with 54 per cent of our population being youth, we have the largest contingent in the world. However, the neo-liberal policy regime adopted by both the Congress and BJP governments, such potential is not being realised.


Referring to the latest scam, ‘Coalgate’ Yechury found fault with the ruling UPA-II government and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party for the present imbroglio in parliament. “Both of them have ensured that the parliament did not discuss the important issues facing the country so as to prevent the truth about ‘Coalgate’ coming out”, he said. Yechury asserted that the neo-liberal economic policies had brought with them new avenues for corruption and benefits to the rich at the cost of the poor. “The rich got benefited in the last budget to the tune of Rs 5.28 lakh crore. This is more than the total fiscal deficit the nation faced. On the other hand, the poor suffered due to an additional burden of price rise as the government withdrew subsidies”, he said.


Yechury referred to the infamous 2G spectrum scam in which the nation lost nearly Rs 1.78 lakh crore as per estimates of CAG. He contrasted this to the situation where even three years after the introduction of the Right to Education Act, which guarantees free and compulsory education to children aged up to 14 years, it could not be implemented for want of Rs 1.50 lakh crore for creating the basic infrastructure and appointment of teachers.


Similarly, the UPA government could not ensure food security to its people only because it did not have additional Rs 1 lakh crore. The Left parties insist the passing of the bill with amendments that would have ensured 35 kg of rice for all the families at a rate of Rs 2 per kg. While the government cites lack of funds in proceeding with such measures, the government coffers lost nearly Rs 1.86 lakh crore in the latest coal scam. He faulted the wrong economic policies for continuing starvation deaths and malnutrition of children and anaemic mothers.


It is in such a background that the 14th all India conference of SFI assumes importance in the fight for an alternative policy trajectory, said Yechury. He called upon the SFI cadres to fulfill its responsibilities in this task as the largest and leading democratic minded students’ organisation in the country.


Ritabrata Banerjee, general secretary of SFI, in his speech charged the UPA government of making serious efforts to destabilise the public educational system and to privatise the entire higher education in the country. He pointed out the many bills waiting to be passes in the parliament for achieving this purpose. He mentioned the Foreign Universities Bill and National Council for Higher Education and Research bill in particular as the most dangerous ones as they unleash all round attack on the very right to education. He reminded that it was only the Left parties staunch opposition during UPA I regime that these bills were stalled.


Dismissing HRD minister Kapil Sibal’s claims that 140 foreign educational institutions are ready to enter in the country if the bills are passed, the SFI leader said only the fly-by-night operators would rush in. No country in the world is ready to accept foreign educational institutions on their soil. Even Israel, the closest ally of the US imperialism, is saying “we cannot allow foreign universities", he pointed out.


Ritabrata Banerjee charged the Manmohan Singh government of trying to undermine the Constitution of India by its moves to centralise the education. When framing the Constitution, Dr Ambedkar put the education in the state list. But it was Indira Gandhi who brought it into concurrent list. Now, Manmohan Singh is trying to bring education in the central list, he charged. This is direct challenge to the federal set up of the country.


P K Biju, president of SFI and MP, who presided over the public meeting said the conference will discuss and take forward the struggle for democratisation of education. He said that SFI is the biggest organisation which has strong backing of around 40 lakh students in the country. SFI is fighting for democratic functioning of institutions through student elections to the colleges and universities.  He mentioned the recent huge victories of SFI in Himachal University, Rajasthan University, Kozhikode University and Manonmaniyam University in Tamilnadu. Biju said the 14th conference will press the government to conduct student elections in all schools and colleges in the country.


N Sankaraiah, CPI(M) veteran leader and founder of the students’ organisation in 1940s, T K Rengarajan, CPI(M) MP and Bala Bharathi, CPI(M) MLA from Dindigul, were among those who addressed the gathering.





A festive mood had developed among the students in Madurai as well as other districts in Tamilnadu regarding the SFI conference. Various competitions were conducted across the state. More than thousand students from more than 50 colleges affiliated to Manonmaniyam Sundaranar University, Thirunelveli, participated in "Thodvaanam", an art and cultural meet.


At Madurai a ' mini marathon' was held on August 19. It focused on drug abuse as alcoholism is a main issue affecting the students in Tamilnadu. With the mushrooming of government-owned liquor shops in the recent past, students, including school-goers, had turned alcoholics.


As a part of the campaign and organising students for the conference, a huge cultural meet, "Koodal Kalai Vizha" has been held at Madurai on September 1. More than thousand students participated as artistes in various competitions. It was inaugurated by the principal of Fatima College, Madurai and district SP, V Balakrishnan, SFI leaders and other dignitaries of the city. This was organised by the cultural sub committee headed by P Kavitha Kumar of the reception committee of the conference.






With the central call to intensify struggle against the commercialisation, centralisation of education and for democratic rights and equitable access, the 14th all India conference of Students’ Federation of India began with an emotional inaugural function.  Veteran leader of democratic movement, N Sankariah, one of the founders of the student movement in  the state in 1940s and the young students from all over the country attending as delegates representing 40 lakh membership of the organisation exchanged their emotional moments through slogans in various languages. 


N Sankariah, one of the tall figures of the Communist movement of India, one of the 32 leaders who walked out of the National Council of CPI and formed the CPI(M), was present in the session along with Sitaram Yechury, R Naryanan, Nilotpal Basu, Srujan Chakravarthy, Y Venkateswara Rao and G Ramakrishnan.


The session was held at Comrades C Bhaskaran and Subash Chakrabarthy manch in a venue named after Comrades Somasundaram and Sembulingam, the student martyrs of Madurai (Tamilnadu Chamber of Commerce Auditorium) on the morning of September 5, 2012. Eminent economist Professor C P Chandrashekar delivered the inaugural address  which was an in-depth analysis of the current political economy of education in the country. He dealt with the student movement, higher education and the end of neo-liberal triumphalism in his address, copy of which was circulated among the audience. (see elsewhere in this issue for excerpts of that address)


Sankaraiah made an emotional address to the delegates. “SFI has cherished the anti-imperialist tradition of All India Students’ Federation, which was formed in 1936 at Lucknow. At that time we had directly engaged in the fight for country’s freedom. We must remember the immense sacrifices of our previous generation in achieving that freedom. It is this tradition we have to continue. Today we are seeing the worst aggressions of the US imperialism and its allies. We are now seeing how Syria is being targeted. The student movement should tirelessly continue the fight against imperialism”.


In this connection he noted how a week ago the Bengal Left Front had held a huge rally against imperialism on the streets of Kolkata. He also pointed out the misleading news and views about People’s Republic of China and its relationship with India aired in the corporate media.  China is a socialist country. It has no military base outside of its boundary. USA is an imperialist country.  It has hundreds of military bases outside of its boundaries, which are dangerous for the world peace.  So, building a strong anti-imperialist movement is a very relevant agenda today also.  Take forward that tradition”, appealed the veteran leader to the student leaders. His eyes were filled with tears when the entire conference felicitated him with a warm applause.


After that Tulasi Bhaskaran, wife of Comrade C Baskaran, the founder leader of SFI, was felicitated.


K Varadharajan, general secretary, AIKS greeted the conference with statistical references of current political situation. 


Presided over by P K Biju, president of SFI and MP, the inaugural session heard a warm welcome address delivered by senior advocate R Vaigai, chairperson of the reception committee.

Earlier, the flag of SFI, which reached Madurai from Koothuparambu, Kannur, Kerala in memory of student martyrs was raised by the president P K Biju, as first event of the inaugural session. The leaders and 750 delegates saluted the martyrs' column. Then at the dais, three torches in memory of student martyrs from Tamilnadu were lighted.


The torch in memory of Comrades Somasundaram and Sembulingam was received by K Balakrishnan, MLA, from former state secretary of SFI, M Kannan; the torch in memory of 94 children who charred to death in a fire accident at a private school from Kumbakonam was received by L Shanmugasundaram, former state secretary of SFI; and the torch in memory of Comrade Kumar from Vickramasingapuram was received by J Rajmohan, state secretary of SFI.


Then the conference saluted the six martyrs of the organisation, Comrades Abhijit Mahato, Tilak Tudu, Partha Biswas, Swapan Koley, AB Bijesh and Anish Rajan, who are a source of immense inspiration for the entire rank and file of SFI.


The resolutions honouring these martyrs and other leaders were placed by PK Biju and Ritabrata Banerjee.