Demography says that India has a workforce of about 63% in the age group of 15 to 24. The workforce, if deployed to work, can change the face of the country, but the current system only kills students on a large scale. Apart from the misleading news of job creation, the government has nothing to give. Arjun Bharadwaj, a 24-year-old management student, committed suicide by jumping out of a 19th-floor hotel room in Mumbai. Reports suggest he had been depressed about failure in exams and repeatedly talked about ending his life on social media.
Bharadwaj’s story made the headlines — most likely because he killed himself at a five-star hotel and discussed suicide methods on Facebook — but it is no exception: Every hour, one student commits suicide in India. Student suicides have increased 52% since 2007.
The incident of suicide among students is related to the inability of the Indian state to create jobs as per the rising workforce. The Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy points out that there are currently 31 million unemployed youth in India and 4.75million people join the workforce every year. The unemployment rate is 6.1%. A report by Motilal Oswal, says that in order to reduce the rate of unemployment, the state has to create 10 million jobs per annum till 2030. Here, we see the inability of the system to provide work for the people. Within this system, we the students have been left with very few options. The demand for the right to work needs to be strengthened by student movements.
Yet another cause of such a large number of student suicides is explained by Sociologist Samata Deshmane. She says, “Society is transforming, and people are finding it difficult to cope with it, whether it is apparent or otherwise. One of the oldest definitions of our species says that we are social animals, but today we are less social and more individualistic.” The prevalence of an ‘I don’t care unless it affects me’ culture is specially sponsored by corporate giants like Nike which has a “Just Do It” slogan. The history of that slogan says that it is based on a murderer’s last word. Thus we see how a culture of individualism is internalised within us by multinational corporations in order to benefit them.
Many students are also compelled to leave college because of an increased financial burden or discriminatory policies. The mental pressure often pushes them to suicide.
With the aim of revitalising infrastructure and systems in education (RISE by 2022), the central government has proposed Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) that would obliterate the role of the UGC in providing funds to universities. They will be asked to apply for a loan. The payment of the loan and its interest would require institutions to raise the fee. Moving a step further, the government is planning to nullify UGC and bring in the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) that would push for more government control; and stifle critical thinking on campuses. Through these what we see is the constant intensification of privatisation in India and is an attempt to establish the rule of finance capital even in public universities.
The problem with the current education system in colleges and universities is that we lack even the basics. There is no proper student-teacher ratio, we don’t have sufficient infrastructure to cater to research needs, the quality of teachers is tremendously deteriorating since people with insufficient qualifications are being hired. The creation of a short-term, contract-based appointment system in the case of teachers has also ruined the quality of education. Gender-based discrimination is a norm in the university, women are compelled to leave the hostel in vacations, they are not allowed to get inside the hostel after a certain time in the night. The feudal patriarchal controlling of women is reproduced by the university administration. Students from minority communities are discriminated against everywhere. The right to speech and expression granted by the constitution is not applicable on any campus, we are not free to even conduct a public meeting in the campus. Pasting posters and artistic expressions on the wall are criminal acts. These laws and practices turn universities into prison where we are asked to not discuss ideas and only blindly follow orthodox practices promoted by administrations.
With such diverse problems, major student organisations on campuses are just pretending to work within the oppressive system that denies rights to students. The organisation, for the sake of a post in the administration, participates in elections and strengthens the degenerated matrix of caste and class in disguise of a democratic process. During the elections, we would get to see how money and not ideas flow inside the campus. We would get to see who the students run behind just because of their caste. Some organisations in the campus even use the name of Bhagat Singh to propagate Brahmanical fascist ideologies. Even the so-called progressive students’ organisations divert the larger political-economic cause into a trivial cause of administration failure. These organisations are basically agents of the administration.
What we need is radical revolutionary politics and a firm opinion that issues on campus have to be fought uncompromisingly till the end.