At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been exhorting BJP MPs to work towards projecting a pro-Dalit image, his government has decided to stop funding research centres on social discrimination at several universities. The central government also recently slashed funding under budget 2017 for scholarships meant for SC/ST students.
According to a report in The Telegraph, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to stop funding “centres for study of social exclusion and inclusive policy” when the 12th five-year-plan ends on March 31. Ministry and UGC officials told the paper that an order to this effect has been sent to many universities, which have not upgraded these centres to full-fledged departments.
The centres had been set up under the 11th five-year-plan (2007-2012). A total of 35 central and state government universities are running these centres currently.
“I am directed to inform you that UGC will not provide financial support to the centre after the end of XIIth Plan as per the order received from MHRD (ministry of human resource development),” the order received by Jawaharlal Nehru University from the UGC says. “Further, the UGC will not be liable to the scheme of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy after the completion of XIIth Plan in any matter of functioning of the Centre; No communication whatsoever will be entertained or solicited by the UGC,” the regulatory body’s communiqué stated.
JNU registrar Promod Kumar told the paper that the teachers’ appointments made for the centre will cease to be valid after March 31. “Many who were on lien have returned to the centres they came from. The students will be transferred to other centres; we’ll request teachers of related subjects to take them in,” he told The Telegraph.
The funding for these centres was supposed to be renewed under the five-year-plans. However, the central government has replaced the Planning Commission with the NITI Aayog. There will be no five-year-plans when the current financial year ends on March 31. Although UGC chairman Ved Prakash told The Telegraph that non-plan funding for the centres will continue, it is not clear whether the centres will receive any funds after the order, since distinction between plan and non-plan funds has been done away with.
Commenting on the shut-down, N Sukumar, Ambedkar scholar and teacher of political science in Delhi University, told the paper that the UGC does not want the hierarchical Brahminical social order questioned. “It’s ironic that these centres, which research Dalits, B.R. Ambedkar’s philosophy, social exclusion and inclusive policies like reservation, are being closed down when the University Grants Commission (the higher education regulator) is funding courses on Vedic studies,” he said.