The second half of August witnessed a lot of developments in the higher education scenario in the country – mostly introductions (and amendments) of numerous regulations by the HRD ministry to inception of new universities and schemes to students realising and demanding their rights to showing solidarity with the victimised, and dissenting against the many wrongs to courts rendering judgments that vouch for better academic jurisprudence.
Here’s the fortnightly round-up of everything that happened and you haven’t already read on Campus Watch.
The demonstration organised by the All Assam Scheduled Caste Students’ Union to raise demands for the betterment of the members saw participation from over 500 young people. A memorandum was also addressed to the Chief Minister which stated all their demands.
Some demands include: setting up of a Scheduled Caste (SC) State Commission to deliberate on the social, economic and other rights of the SCs in the state similar to the ones set up in other states, regularisation of scholarships to SC students and doubling the amount of such scholarships; granting of land to the SC people who are rendered landless by floods and erosion; filling of all vacant posts reserved for SCs and promotion of state government employees based on the reservation system; to strictly follow the SC and Scheduled Tribe (ST) reservation policy and implement the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the like. Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader Akhil Gogoi voiced his support for the same.
In a recent order by the Delhi High Court, the court directed the Law Faculty at Delhi University to declare the impending results of the students who had been allowed to sit for the semester exams on court orders and, also, asked the faculty to conduct supplementary examinations for the students who failed the exam. The court, in its judgment, had asked DU to conduct extra hours of teaching to make up for lost attendance and had directed DU to let students (who had a shortage of attendance) sit for the exams.
In its recent judgment, the Rajasthan HC eliminated the necessity of studying Biology for pursuing MBBS. The case was filed by two students who were refused admission on account of them not studying Biology at the higher secondary level. The court dismissed this contention stating that their passing the NEET exam was enough to make them eligible for admission as they had studied Biology while attempting NEET.
Soaring unemployment in the country has been highlighted by yet another instance. About 50,000 graduates, 28,000 post-graduates and 3,700 PhD holders have applied for the post of messengers, which ranks low in the hierarchy in the UP Police Department. Only 7,400, out of the 93000, have studied between Classes V to XII in this post for which the minimum eligibility criterion is passing the fifth standard. Originally, the requirement for this post was a self-declaration by the applicant of the ability to ride a bicycle, but due to a lot of candidates being overqualified for this post, the government is trying to come out with tougher ways to test their competence.
The teachers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) recently wrote an open letter to the HRD Minister, Prakash Javdekar, to remove the Vice Chancellor from office. They sought his removal on account of him violating the rules, his “mindless regimentation and bureaucratisation of the University’s academic life”, among others. This letter came after the referendum conducted in-house by the Teachers’ Association of JNU. The referendum that was conducted on 7th August resulted in an overwhelming number of teachers voting to remove the VC. The JNUTA, in its public enquiry conducted in October 2017, had also found him guilty of seven charges.
Over 700 members of staff, students and administration of the National Law University, Delhi, issued a joint statement to condemn the arrest of the activist, Sudha Bharadwaj, who is a visiting faculty at the college. Sudha Bharadwaj was arrested by the Maharashtra police in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence. The letter mentions Bharadwaj’s commendable contribution to the legal fraternity and academia and extends solidarity. They end the letter by condemning the state’s suppression of dissent and demanding recognition of the value of dissent in a democracy.
Maharashtra’s Education minister Vinod Tawde spoke about distributing The ‘Gita’ in colleges, calling it a “non-religious” text and a “way of life”. He blamed the media for branding this distribution of Gita as ‘communal’. Criticizing the opposition’s attempt to call it ‘saffronisation of the education system’, he said that Gita is “philosophical and scientific in nature”. In July this year, the office of the Joint Director, Higher Education for Mumbai region had issued a letter asking NAAC ‘A’ and ‘A+’ ranked colleges in the city to collect the copies of the Gita from its office. Though, the letter was silent about the organization that provided these copies.
The government, from the next year, has made free coaching facility available at government teaching centres for JEE entrance test for IITs, NEET for medical studies, and UGC – NET aspirants and pharma entrances. The government has plans of converting 3000 test practice centres into teaching centres that will provide free coaching to students. The coaching is to begin from May next year. This comes as a relief for students from low socio-economic backgrounds for whom coaching is beyond reach due to financial constraints.
Chanakya Sharma, a student of Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, set a befitting example of legal aid and represented a senior citizen in a case for two years for a fee of ₹ 1 in a consumer forum in Rajasthan. Chanakya, who is a UP State Legal Services Authority certified volunteer of Legal Aid Clinic at his varsity, also got the client compensated.
Being a student, he represented the client through the ‘Consumer Protection (Procedure for regulation of allowing the appearance of Agents or representatives or Non-Advocates or Voluntary Organisations before the Consumer Forum), Regulations, 2014’ which allows non-advocates to appear before the consumer forum.
The government has introduced the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARRIA) to promote a culture of research and innovation in higher education. The announcement was made by Union HRD Minister, Prakash Javadekar, at the inauguration of an innovation cell at AICTE. Educational institutions will be ranked for innovation output based on all major indicators and parameters used globally.
In a PIL filed by Akanksha Kale, a college student in Pune, on account of her inability to attend colleges due to her being wheelchair-bound, the Maharashtra government has directed all the educational institutions to make their building disabled-friendly and provide for a barrier-free environment. The government had recently passed a resolution which directed all the government aided colleges to reserve five per cent seats for disabled students. The order also said that all the required infrastructural facilities should be provided in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Kale had originally filed the petition in 2016, where the court had ordered the college to have the necessary facilities. But, Kale moved the court again this in July, saying that certain other institutes had not complied with the order.
The management of Northern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (NIILM) University, Kaithal, has been booked for allegedly obtaining scholarships worth ₹ 17.42 lakh under the central government scheme of Post-Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Caste Students by furnishing the false records of students in 2016-17. An FIR was registered at the Vigilance police station in Ambala on August 18. The scholarship money was deposited in the bank accounts of 12 SC students and, later, transferred into the account of NIILM. On interrogation and investigation, the SC students were found to be not genuine and they also denied knowledge of any bank account in Vijaya Bank, Kaithal. This is the second instance of an institute obtaining fake scholarships by forging documents and feigning identities. Rohitash Institute of Management, Mahendergarh, was also booked for claiming Rs 28 lakh scholarship under the scheme by allegedly submitting fake documents of 53 MBA students, claiming to be from marginalised backgrounds.
The upcoming Jio institute had recently been awarded the Institute of Eminence (IoE) tag, and this had sparked a lot of controversies. Recently, an RTI filed by the Indian Express added to the list of controversies as it showed the disagreement between two key ministeries – Finance and HRD – on choosing an IoE merely on the “basis of intentions and a plan”.
As per the records, the Finance ministry cited their disagreement with this move saying that “granting of the status of Institutions of Eminence based on future plans is beyond rationale and is not supported”. Not only between Finance and HRD, there were differences between the PMO and HRD as well – while HRD wanted rigidity in accountability and expertise, PMO wanted a more liberalised structure. They differed on the parameters of quality and expertise, the number of years to achieve the necessary student-teacher ratio, flexibility of course structure, finances and the like. While most of the contentions of the PMO prevailed, the ministry won some debates including that of non-removal of the restriction of appointment of foreign faculty up to 25%.
The foundation for the first out of the five proposed “world class” educational institutes for minorities will be laid in September, according to the Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. The institute will be spread over 16 acres of land in the Mewat district of Haryana. The institute that is open for all communities would provide education from primary up to the diploma and degree levels besides also opening various centres for skill development. Apart from that, it will also have a coaching centre for competitive exams, and hostels with modern amenities. There have been proposals from a few foreign and Indian organizations to run the institute on the PPP (public-private-partnership) mode.
The earlier decision of conducting NEET twice a year was withdrawn by the HRD ministry recently. NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) will now be conducted only once a year and the newly incorporated NTA would conduct the national-level entrance examination. The earlier decision to hold it twice a year was reconsidered after the Health Ministry sent a letter to the HRD Ministry stating that the decision was made “without formal consultation”.
The Madras High Court in a recent judgment deprecated the practice of taking up a teaching job in the same university where the candidate is pursuing a full-time course. The court said that no faculty can do a full-time course without obtaining the prior permission of the University. This gives rise to the possibility of the university projecting the student as a teacher, to match up to the minimum strength standards and get AICTE approval, and also simultaneously allow them to pursue the course. This question arose in a petition filed by a candidate of the Anna University who was doing a two-year Mechanical Engineering course and who got employed as a lecturer in the same college. She was later relieved from her post and issued a show-cause notice for breach of rules of the university and all the examinations she had attempted had been nullified by order of the Controller of the Examination. She had, thereafter, moved the HC challenging the nullification and the court dismissed her petition.
Students of Ponnaiyah Ramajayam Institute of Medical Sciences (PRIMS) have moved the Madras HC to ask the court to direct their transfer from PRIMS, which was subsequently debarred by the Health Ministry from admitting students, to another medical college. After obtaining approval from the State and Central governments and the Medical Council of India (MCI) in 2016, students were admitted in the first year under management and government quota. But, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare debarred the college from making admissions as it failed to correct the “deficiencies” as told by the MCI. The bank which the college owed money was taking steps to auction the property which led to severe financial restraints for the college, and, hence, disability to pay salaries of staff. This led to the staff leaving the college and the future of the students was left at stake.