Seventeen. That’s the number of days students have been camping and picketing at the UGC premises in Delhi; and having braved lathicharge, police-detention, biased media coverage and the sudden dip in mercury, nothing seems to deter their spirits to struggle for a movement which started spontaneously, but has now spread to cities and universities across the country.
At around 2 pm on 5th November, more than 1000 students marched from the UGC premises at ITO to Shastri Bhawan that houses the Ministry of Human Resource Development. While the march saw participation from students and student unions from JNU, DU, Jamia, Ambedkar etc, it also included psephologist turned politician Yogendra Yadav, who marched the entire distance with his Swaraj Abhiyaan members.
— Swaraj Abhiyan (@swaraj_abhiyan) November 5, 2015
Earlier into the movement, seeing the growing support against the government’s decision to scrap non-Net fellowship, the ministry said it’s not discontinuing the current fellowship. However, there was more to the statement to understand how the government’s assurance meant little to address the students’ demands. The government announced a review committee to ‘review the scope and criteria for the grant’. Protesting students took no time in seeing through this move which they believe is just an attempt to cut down on the higher education scholarships and make India’s education compliant with WTO recommendations by providing a level-playing field to both private and foreign players involved in providing education.
This is what forced Smriti Irani to come out and address us publicly. #OccupyUGC
Posted by Akhil Kumar on Thursday, 5 November 2015
Politicians, they say, have a thick skin and ears. However, yesterday, as thousands shouted slogans against UGC, WTO and the government, it seems it may have quite well reverberated to the cabins of Smriti Irani, who up until now didn’t even meet the protesting students. But, far from addressing or agreeing to the student’s demand of increasing the fellowship (the current fellowship is not even at par with the minimum wage of an unskilled worker in Delhi, mind you), extending the fellowships to state universities, and rolling back the review committee, she only reiterated her old position and refused to state categorically that the fellowship wouldn’t be restricted. Uttering no word on the enhancement of the fellowship and extension of it to all public universities, she asked students to wait for the committee’s report due in December- the same time the WTO GATS ministerial conference takes place in Nairobi.
Meanwhile, students are back at the UGC premises to continue their protest. Speaking about the protest, Shehla Rashid, Vice President, JNU Student Union said, “We will continue our struggle till a favorable decision is made and until we force the Modi Government to refrain from signing the WTO that will completely commercialize education, to the detriment of the marginalized sections and women, especially.”
Video courtesy: Akhil Kumar
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