I come from a family where hardly anyone went to college, nor has anyone seen it from inside and understood it. I know this is nothing exceptional in India—because the problem is/was not of my family, but of my caste location; where everyone is supposed to be farming, which barely required anything besides the knowledge of the farm. I know this is also true for every other person in the country, whose traditional roles were not associated with education, in any sense. Such is our society, that our caste/s decides our future, at least for our previous generation, it decided quite this heavily.
However, since Independence, public education has played a critical role in preparing people for the upcoming economic changes; the public universities were not only helping to skill people, but they were also altering India’s social structure.
You have the liberty to say, ‘Caste doesn’t work today’, because of the transformation that education has gradually brought into the occupational structure of India (although a lot of change is still required). Not only caste, but the public institutions have also been revolutionary, in terms of providing chances of betterment to the poor, (I don’t like this term)/ economically weaker sections of every caste. The truth is that the traditionally privileged castes have made use of these very public institutions to get themselves placed in the modern Indian economy. They have also become taxpayers with this public education system, and I am sure these public education systems have also taught them empathy, besides making them skilful workers.
Since the most significant achievement that our public education system has, is that it motivates us to work for the downtrodden, it broadens our horizon by exposing us to the students from across India; it makes us staunch nationalists as we begin to think in terms of our contribution to the national economy, politics and society. It is no wonder that despite the huge expansion (literally huge) of private education, we still find the civil services or government jobs dominated by those who graduate from these institutions. I am sure that the taxpayer lobby has also gone through this process, and hence, the concern over the wastage of public money.
So why is that this product of the public education system is so against the survival of good and working education system?
If you turn your head around and start to pick some good functioning public universities, I am sure you will not be able to select more than five, that too, central universities. The education system, especially the higher education system, has suffered a serious lack of funding from the governments after 1990’s liberalisation. The state education system has collapsed completely, and it has no chance of resurrection anytime soon. So why did the government withdraw so heavily? And why has the ‘taxpayer’ lost empathy?
I see no reason, except the fact that the character of our institutions has changed rapidly. These public institutions are no more sacred upper caste and male-dominated spaces. The change was happening slowly before 2008, but the OBC reservation made it possible for a large number of people, like me, to see the face of these institutions, and I am also proud that these institutions successfully transformed me into a nationalist (from a localist), empathetic and aware person.
But unfortunately, entry of people like me, my sisters and brothers from other families like mine have become the object of ridicule of these ‘taxpayers’, who these institutions benefited. So I see no reason, except the reason of caste; the empathy of the ‘taxpayer’ is fake— because it is limited to their caste fellows. They know that these institutions, especially after 2008, have become exclusionary (more competition for upper castes) for their kids. Since they are no longer the beneficiaries of it, they want to deny the chances of mobility to other first generations like me.
I can guarantee that in the absence of OBC reservation, nobody would have cried over the low fees. It is the upper-caste ‘taxpayer’ who has failed in the test of empathy that these institutions have taught them—because I am sure I will defend the low fees and quality education for the weaker sections because I know how much benefit I got out of it. I will keep my empathy because I know not everyone among the upper castes is capable of buying skills for themselves at a ‘market price’; I will keep my empathy because I know that despite paying taxes, we like to buy clothes in deep discounts.
I will defend the right to a quality education because I know someone rising from below will not be a threat, but an asset for me, my family and my country. So ‘taxpayer’, broaden your heart, go back to your learning and show some commitment to the nation, by standing beside the weak and not against them. #Saveeduaction #StandwithJNU #Lowfeesnecessity #diginityforall #leteveryoneriseup