People's Democracy

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


No. 51

December 22, 2013




DYFI, SFI Hold Statewide Rally in Mumbai


Preethy Sekhar


THOUSANDS of youth and students thronged the streets of Mumbai on November 29, 2013 demanding employment and education opportunities. They were singing and drumming in protest. Slogans condemning the state and central governments filled the air. Protesters had gathered from Thane, Solapur, Pune, Beed, Aurangabad, Jalna, Nanded, Raigad, Mumbai and several other districts of Maharashtra, demanding government action against rapid commercialisation of education and acute unemployment in the state.


The march on Mantralaya was organised jointly by the Maharashtra state units of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).


The student-youth march was organised in defiance of the prohibitory orders issued by the police authorities. In order to prevent the march from being taken out, a large contingent of police force was stationed at Byculla Jijamata Udyan where students and youth gathered. By noon, the number of people swelled to many thousands and the police had to relent. As the march moved for over seven km through the roads of Mumbai city, which is otherwise the site of many sectarian mobilisations, it became the demonstration of a movement in the making on the real issues affecting youth and students.


The march culminated in a public meeting at Azad Maidan after the government agreed to receive a delegation of student and youth leaders. In the absence of the chief minister, the charter of demands was given in his office by an SFI-DYFI delegation comprising Advocate Bhagwan Bhojane, Dr Bhausaheb Zirpe, Naresh Shingade, Vinod Govindwar, Datta Chavan, Advocate Pradeep Salvi, Balaji Kaletwad, Pravin Manjalkar, Aziz Patel and Preethy Sekhar.


Apart from some of the above state SFI-DYFI leaders, the Azad Maidan meeting was also addressed by the SFI’s all-India general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee and by former SFI-DYFI leaders like Dr Ashok Dhawale and Mahendra Singh. The leaders speaking in the public meeting were highly critical of the central and state governments’ neo-liberal policy framework which they said is the root cause of rapid commercialisation of education and acute unemployment. They said the major opposition parties of the state also adhere to the same policy framework. In fact these rightwing parties seek to use the distress of students and youth to cultivate hatred between communities, thus disrupting the resistance against the neo-liberal regime.


Preparations for the march had begun in late September with a state level student-youth convention at Nashik. The convention had passed a resolution with the charter of demands. In the months of October and November, campaign meetings and leaflet distribution programmes were held widely in educational institutions and in villages, towns and cities to garner support from students and youth.


On the employment question, the major demand is that the several lakhs of vacancies in state government offices, public sector undertakings and local self-government institutions across Maharashtra must be filled up immediately. Proper implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, increase in remuneration under this scheme, bringing in a similar national level employment guarantee programme for urban areas, modernisation of employment exchanges, making it mandatory for private companies to notify their vacancies through employment exchanges, job reservation for Muslim youth as per the Ranganath Mishra commission recommendations, establishing modern industrial units in Adivasi areas, preventing the issuance of bogus ST certificates, extending job reservation to private sector, and regular publication of unemployment statistics are some of the other demands on employment.


Regarding education, the movement seeks to strengthen the public sector education facilities. Facilities in schools, colleges and universities must be radically improved. Scholarship and stipend amounts must be increased and properly distributed. Hostel facilities must be provided to all needy students and all vacancies of teachers must be filled up. One of the major demands is to strictly implement the right to education act’s provision to give 25 percent admission and free education to children from the poor and socially disadvantaged families. There is also the demand to curb private colleges from exploiting students by extracting donations and capitation fees. The higher education sector in Maharashtra is already in the clutches of rapacious education barons and hence the move to allow private universities must be abandoned. Free and fair student union elections must be held.


The November 29 rally was the biggest student-youth mobilisation in Maharashtra in recent years on the question of education and unemployment. The SFI and DYFI are determined to carry forward this struggle as was planned by the state level convention. From January onwards, sustained agitations will be conducted across the state on specific demands selected carefully from the charter of demands submitted to the government. There will be decentralised agitations against various authorities, specifically linked to various demands in the charter. Subsequently the state headquarters of government departments and public sector undertakings will be targeted for sustained agitations.


The march on Mantralaya has instilled confidence in the Maharashtra contingents of the SFI and DYFI to rally many more thousands of youth and students for this crucial movement.