2018 has had a weird quotient when it comes to a lot of programmes, measures and revision in schemes that the State and Central governments have incorporated. For one, this year has been the ‘woke’ year in Indian campuses as students have protested tooth and nail to demand the freedom and justice they are entitled to.
On the other hand, this year has also had numerous instances with a shock value – some that have either made us go “That’s…weird,” and some that have left us dumbfounded by their sheer senselessness.
The right to protest is a guaranteed Fundamental Right under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. But, some universities have proved otherwise.
In the aftermath of a series of protests and demonstrations spanning over the last few years, IIT BHU sent a notice banning protests to curb the rising ‘indiscipline’ on account of such protests. The administration banned “gherao, camping inside the premises/houses of teachers/officers, use of derogatory slogans, abuses, propaganda” and warned the students of disciplinary action in case of a breach.
In yet another move, IIT BHU had debarred students from continuing in the university and asked them to take transfers, as a result of their protests against an incident of harassment.
In a similar move, Government Degree College in Baramulla, Kashmir, passed a code of conduct banning unlawful assembly and sloganeering, mobile phones, bluetooth devices, and headphones. Taking this a step further, they ‘strictly advised’ boys and girls to not be found in an ‘objectionable position,’ specifying their individual resting areas.
In August, DU had cancelled the magazine launch of DYouth during an event titled Dialogue on Freedom of Expression, after allowing it initially, as per reports. But, the students released it anyway.
We were already battling a cut in the budget for education this year.
Now, citing inadequacy of funds, a lot of government schemes and waivers have been revoked this year, thereby hampering the right of marginalised communities students and others in accessing their right to be educated.
TISS changed its policy asking students from the SC/ST/OBC community to bear their own dining and hostel expenses.
In an engineering college in Chennai, students were not allowed to enter the exam hall because of non-payment of fees. Interestingly, the onus was on the state government of Tamil Nadu to pay the fees to the college, but they didn’t release funds stating that the central government had failed to release its own share of grants to the states for these scholarships.
The government is going crazy. It’s changing criterion regarding the appointment of professors, and its bid to restructure the education system justify my seemingly far fetched statement.
Their changing stance about the appointment of professors is an indicator of massive instability in the system. Initially, National Eligibility Test (NET) was enough to hold the post, but now, holding a PhD degree has been made compulsory, again, for appointment to the post of an assistant professor in Indian universities. API (Academic Performance Index) was also scrapped to introduce a “new simplified teacher evaluation grading system.”
The 60 year old UGC was scrapped, to be replaced by a new body called the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), with more powers. While academicians are touting it to be a move increasing political intervention, some are calling it a step towards privatisation of education.
Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University, a university in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh saw a staggering 80% fail percentage in the B.Sc results in June. And, they tried to evade the repercussions by misleading the media in this press release. The reason for the mammoth fail percentage was attributed to unwarranted strictness, incorrect checking and failure to provide teachers. Furthermore, as per the university revaluation criteria, ₹350 is the initial amount required to get a copy of your answer sheet, and a heavy amount of ₹3000 is to be paid for revaluation, thereafter.
The past six months have been about the administration coming up with new measures intended to police JNU faculty. Earlier this year JNU had decided to make attendance mandatory for students; a few months back, they made attendance compulsory for teachers.
Only recently, JNU did it again and implemented a code of conduct for teachers (without consulting them) with regard to their participation in any political matter or work related strikes and also, their right to publish anything without permission from the government. The JNU Teachers Association strongly condemned this action calling it authoritative.
There was also news doing rounds that DU would be brought under the ambit of ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act), which would make it illegal for teachers to protest.
At the Central University of Kerala, the Head of Department of English and Comparative Literature, Prasad Pannian was immediately suspended from his post for taking to Facebook and calling out the university’s ‘arbitrariness’ in its decision to arrest a Dalit student for a minor act (breaking the glass of a fire alarm). This happened “as no one has the right to criticise the collective decision of the university.”
In yet another incident, The Standing Committee on Academic Matters of the University of Delhi proposed to curb the study of three books by Dalit activist Kancha Ilaiah. The basis for the proposal was that these texts were “too radical” and “threatened the existence of Hinduism.” The committee also demanded that the term Dalit be abandoned within the university’s academic discourse.
The granting of Institute of Eminence (IoE) tag to the forthcoming Jio Institute sparked major controversies, when those funds could have been used to better the state of the existing universities grappling with sourcing the most minimal facilities.
This step by the MHRD elicited a lot of comments from the academic fraternity in disagreement of the same.
The HRD Ministry, in August, had announced that JEE (Main) and NEET, would be conducted online twice a year, by the newly formed National Testing Agency (NTA). But, it again reversed the decision with NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) now being conducted only once a year, stating that the earlier decision was made “without formal consultation.”
Maharashtra’s Education minister Vinod Tawde spoke about distributing The Bhagavad 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.
These instances only tell a tale of misplaced priorities and attention. Here’s to a less chaotic, more sensible scheme of developments in 2019 that genuinely aim at making lives on campuses better and vibrant.