In a meeting earlier this month, the Hindu College Staff Association unanimously passed a no-confidence motion against the chairman and principal, demanding their removal. The decision came in the backdrop of the letter written to PMO by the chairman SN Punj seeking autonomy for the institution. The Hindu Staff Association said that it will organize a dharna to make sure that its demands are met.
The details of the proposal were discussed in the meeting. According to a report published in The Indian Express, the proposal discussed in the meeting involved 15% reservation in management quotas like private universities, it looks forward to expand Hindu College to other states and be granted a ‘deemed university status’. Furthermore it aims to launch new courses in fashion technology, BA and BSc. The proposal though insists on forming its own fee structure and also talks about increasing fee.
The Hindu Staff Association came out with the statement that it “wishes to express its shock, outrage and deep sense of betrayal at the discovery of this proposal and its contents. Over the last year, the college administration has repeatedly denied any such initiative as baseless rumours, intended only to cause unrest in the college.”
Last year St. Stephen’s too had applied for autonomy which was followed by an inspection. However, this move was severely criticized by students and faculty members of the college. In a conversation with Times of India, St Stephen’s professor Nandita Narain said that colleges like St. Stephen’s are ‘national treasure’. She said: “we are excellent as we get funds and are a part of DU as we get expertise from DU.” She further added: “What answer will we give to the nation when people who cannot pay high fees of self-financing courses cannot get admission here?”
The decision to provide autonomy to 60 Higher Educational Institutions was announced by the Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javedkar on March 20, 2018. The decision would allow universities and colleges to start new courses, appoint staff and faculty members, decide on admission rules and course fees and introduce changes in the syllabus. The decision sparked protests, and had left the academia deeply divided on the issue.
While the Vice Chancellor of Jadavpur University stated that the tag was a “recognition of Jadavpur’s excellence” and welcomed the decision; senior academics and students of Jadavpur University had felt that the newly granted autonomous status to the University is actually a double-edged sword. The students and faculty members of Delhi University and JNU had conducted several protests against the decision. In a statement, JNU teachers said: “the so-called autonomy is an impunity being bestowed on authoritarian university administrations, like the current dispensation in JNU to flout all rules, norms and codes and exercise unchecked power in privatising universities and undo the agenda of social justice.”
Many believe that the defense provided in favour of autonomy is merely a sophistry that deflects attention from the socio-economic repercussions of the decision in the public funded education sector. This is a move forward in the capitalizing of the education sector which will in the long run make these institutions a highly elite domain while restricting the admissions of students from socially and economically marginalized background. The ongoing protests by students and teachers shows that they are highly agitated by the decision and will continue to fight it.