Why Can’t An Institute That Teaches Social Justice Provide Aid For Students That Need It?

Posted by Ratnadeep Chakraborty in Campus Watch
March 13, 2018

The student’s union at the Mumbai campus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) called for a uniform strike across all campuses of the Institute on February 21, 2018. The students across the four campuses (Mumbai, Hyderabad, Guwahati and Tuljapur) are protesting against the administration’s decision to withdraw financial aid given to scholars from the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribe ST), and OBC (Other Backward Classes) communities, who are eligible for the Government of India – Post Matric Scholarship (GoI-PMS).

The Post Matric Scholarship

The Post Matric scholarship scheme is a centrally sponsored scheme implemented by governments of states and union territories. The scheme provides financial assistance to students from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes studying at post matriculation or post-secondary stage to complete their education. The scholarship is subject to the application of the Means Test prescribed in the scheme.

What Are The Students’ Demands?

1) Notification for the present (2016-2018 & 2017-2019) to pay fees (tuition, dining hall and hostel fees) to be retracted with immediate effect.

2) Immediate notification for present GOI-PMS students of the upcoming batch of 2018-2020.

3) With the withdrawal of the financial aid, the students eligible for the scholarship will now have to pay hostel and dining charges. Also, the students will now apply to their respective state governments and get the scholarship amount credited to their bank accounts.

The fee waiver at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) is an institutional policy to facilitate the higher education of students from marginalised communities. The situation has worsened with the government’s neo-liberal attitude that signals a shift towards the privatisation of education, and as a consequence, the inadequate allocation of funds to schemes that will help students from marginalised communities get access to higher education.

The government has been decreasing funds allocations for GoI-PMS schemes and, in particular, withholding the release of significant funds to TISS through the University Grants Commission and the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Privatisation of education is posing a serious threat to the education sector in India. The privatisation of education will lead to the gradual decrease in the number of government colleges and an increase in the cost of education.

Inadequate Funds

The funds allocated for the GoI-PMS has decreased over the years whereas the number of students applying for the scholarship has increased over the years.

During 2014-2015, the funds allocated for GoI-PMS was ₹501.11 crore for 5,00,000 students. The amount of money allocated for 2017 has decreased to ₹385.72 crores for 6,66,840 students across India.

The numbers don’t end here. The amount of money allocated to 78,649 students across India is just ₹48.36 crore. Over the years, the amount of money allocated for GoI-PMS has decreased drastically.

Over the years, there has been a considerable increase in the fee structure at TISS as compared to other public universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Mumbai University and Calcutta University. The fees at TISS was hiked over 55% which is a lot more compared to another educational institution across the nation.

I had a look at the tuition fee, financial aid and enrollment figures of/for students from marginalised communities across three universities.

Calcutta University

– Tuition fee per semester – ₹850
– In the last five years, there hasn’t been any fee hike.
– A total of 2714 students from marginalised communities are enrolled at Calcutta University.
– A total of 47,750 students (Both UG and PG) who fall under the BPL category and are also from marginalised communities get a scholarship from Calcutta University every year.
– Calcutta University awards 84 different scholarships for different subjects as well.

Mumbai University

– Tuition fee per semester – ₹1500
– From the first half of 2019, tuition fees will increase by 5% every year.
– Also, the examination fee for PG courses increased from ₹660 to ₹1350. The university might show that there is a flat 10% decrease in the examination fee, but they always charged ₹660 every semester.
– The total number of students from marginalised communities admitted in PG courses in Mumbai is 39% of the total number of seats in the University.
– There are over 13,900 beneficiaries of the GoI-PMS at Mumbai University.

Jawaharlal Nehru University

– Tuition fee per semester – ₹370
– There are a total of 1118 seats in Jawaharlal Nehru University. 22.5% (15% for SC and 7.5% for ST) seats in each program of study is reserved for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates respectively. 27% seats are reserved for OBC candidates (non-creamy layer).

Delhi University

At the post graduate level, the tuition fee differs from college to college and the course that the student has enrolled themselves into.

At DU, the reservation structure is as follows:
Scheduled Caste = 15% of total intake in each course.
Scheduled Tribe = 7.5 % of total intake in each course.
Other Backward Classes = 27% of total intake in each course.

Last year, the University Grants Commission had asked colleges under Delhi University to state how much funds they can raise internally, triggering fears that tuition fees could be hiked. However, the hostels have doubled the minimum fee from ₹1200 to ₹2400 per month.

The scholarship scheme by the Government of Delhi encourages more students from marginalised communities to continue their education at the undergraduate level. Under one such a scheme, the day scholars get ₹960 per month and hostlers get ₹1860 per month.

Alumni Speak

Here’s what the alumni at TISS had to say about the fee structure: “Although the Institute tries to defend the high fee by putting it alongside IITs and IIMs, the elite character and the anti-reservation character of these ‘elite’ institutes is well known. Moreover, any comparison can be made only between like institutions, and IITs and IIMs are far distinct from TISS in terms of the kind of courses they offer and the vision that they entail.”

The tuition fee at  TISS was hiked from (missing number) in 2013-14 to almost double the amount (missing number) in 2016-17, with a 55% to 75% increase in the intervening years of 2015 and 2016 in the MA and M.Phil courses.

The GoI-PMS money that the government disburses can no way match the fee structure at TISS. For this reason, TISS had declared fee waivers for most students from SC, ST and OBC backgrounds. But this provision was withdrawn for students from the OBC community in 2015 and now, they’ve decided to completely withdraw financial aid for students from SC/ST backgrounds.

The NDA Government under the leadership of Narendra Modi came to power with the promise of development in the social sectors including education. The total amount allocated to education in 2018 is ₹81,868 crores which is less than 4% of the total GDP of the country. Even though there are still about 300 million illiterate people in India, the government’s expenditure on education still remains low. It is even lower when compared to other countries like Russia, South Africa, and China.

The government needs to realise the fact that most of the students come from lesser privileged backgrounds who can’t pay a huge sum of money every year. Students come from families that earn less than ₹2 lakh per annum, whereas the fees at TISS is about ₹1.6 lakhs per year. In order to continue their higher education, the students, especially from the backward classes, will need the GoI-PMS to continue.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs has done very little over this matter. The protests have been on for 20 days, and still continues.

The government should look into the matter with the utmost urgency and increase the allocation of funds for state and centrally funded universities so that no student is denied their right to higher education.

The student protests at TISS is a sorry reminder of how little our government cares about the problems in universities.

Image source: TISS For Everyone/Facebook