Statements condemning UGC’s scrapping of non-NET fellowships

November 2, 2015

PEOPLES UNION FOR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS
Condemn Delhi Police Brutality on Protesting Students

PUDR strongly condemns the repression unleashed by the Delhi police on students protesting against the University Grants Commission’s move to scrap non NET fellowship for research scholars. The protesting students were lathicharged by the Delhi police first on October 23 and again on October 27.

The students began what is now known as the ‘#Occupy UGC’ movement after the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) decision to scrap non NET fellowship for research scholars. This scholarship is given by Central Universities to those who are pursuing either MPhil or PhD but have not cleared the NET (National Eligibility Test). The withdrawal of even this meager amount, of Rs.5000 to MPhil and Rs.8000 to PhD students per month would severely hamper students from pursuing research work.

On the evening of October 21, many students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Ambedkar University marched to the UGC office at ITO protesting the UGC move. The students broke barricades and demanded a meeting with the chairperson of UGC Ved Prakash which did not materialise. The students’ demand was not only for the reinstatement of this fellowship but also for bringing it at par with the NET fellowship and expanding it to all state universities. Not satisfied with the response of the UGC, the students decided to occupy the UGC by sitting on an indefinite dharna till their demands were met. From the first day on there was a heavy Delhi police and CRPF deployment.

The first police crackdown on students happened on October 21 at 4:30 am when 100 students were rounded up and taken to the Bhalaswa Dairy police station. News of this led to the mobilization of several students to the UGC building where the police resorted to lathicharge in which several students were injured. The students then responded by blocking ITO crossing. It is noteworthy that the BJP affiliated students’ organisation ABVP which too mounted a protest on the UGC on this day and pelted stones from outside were untouched by the Delhi Police while peaceful protestors were rounded up. Four days later on October 27 the police again lathicharged protesting students and took them to the Kamala Market police station but had to release them due to pressure from teachers and students who gathered outside the police station in large numbers. The Police also beat up protestors in the police bus while they were being taken to the station. The injured students were taken to LNJP Hospital near Delhi Gate only after much pressure. In an interview the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Paramaditya blamed the students and insisted that that no one had been lathicharged. However the police violence was captured on mobile cameras thus discrediting the police version.

It is important to note that on October 26, the MHRD came out with an order which stated that fellowships would continue for the moment. However the order also said that a review committee would be formed in December which would determine economic or other criteria for awarding the non NET fellowship. This order was rejected by the agitating students as it went against their demand of providing fellowship to all students without any distinction. They also fear that this response of the government is only to weaken the movement in opposition which is being carried out by the students.

The student agitation is into its 12th day with no sign of letting up. This movement has received support from teachers, research scholars and students from many parts of the country. The academic community views this as the latest in line of numerous fund cuts by the government in the education sector with the larger aim of privatizing higher education. Unfortunately the UGC is not only silent on this movement but also on the vicious attacks on protesting students.

PUDR would like to draw attention to the tactics adopted by the Delhi Police to intimidate students and prevent them from articulating legitimate demands. This is a familiar method adopted by them to suppress dissent. Delhi Police is famously known for hounding dissidents from ex-servicemen to agitating workers, while carrying out raids at the behest of hooligans. The meeting of genuine aspirations of people with State force is an indicator of the threat to democratic rights in the country. PUDR extends its solidarity to the agitating students and demands that the government listen to the students’ demands and allow them to articulate their protests without fear. Dissent and protest is the very essence of a democracy and PUDR condemns the Delhi police and the ruling dispensation for attempting to curb this and violently attacking the students.

Sharmila Purkayastha and Megha Bahl
Secretaries, PUDR

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AIFRTE supports students struggle against UGC decision to stop the non-NET fellowship for MPhil and PhD scholars

The All India Forum for the Right to Education (AIFRTE) salutes the resounding response of students and researchers across the country by their unambiguous rejection of the University Grants Commission (UGC) decision to stop the non-NET fellowship for MPhil and PhD scholars. The sum of Rs. 5000 and Rs. 8000 respectively which was not linked to the inflation index, and excluded scholars of the universities in the states, was already an inadequate and small benefit for researchers. In fact, the demand was to extend it to state universities and to increase the amount and link it to the inflation index so as to allow students who do not come from elite sections to pursue their studies.

The UGC decision, only the latest in a series of so-called ‘reforms’ aimed at effecting the withdrawal of the State from funding higher education and thereby creating space for its privatization and commercialization at the expense of the academic community of students and teachers, proved to be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. Widespread protests have erupted and are continuing across campuses at different universities. The UGC building in the national capital was occupied on 21st October 2015 by hundreds of students from Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Ambedkar University, I.P. University and Jamia Milia Islamia. Despite a lumpenized attack by ABVP supporters on the 21st October which was aimed at causing violence and disrupting the peaceful but determined movement, and despite two violent police attacks, detentions and threats, the Occupy UGC movement has only grown from strength to strength and students are gathering every day to join the protest.

The response of the central government (GOI) and the UGC, which no longer has even a fig-leaf of autonomy, to the issues involved is as expected. As in the case of the FTII, inaction and false Twitter announcements, is all the GOI can resort to in order to create confusion. The UGC parrots its master’s voice, but this is clearly a government which has no policy or vision for either school or higher education. It cannot therefore engage with the academic community. It only has an agenda which is two-pronged. Its own political ideology is that of the Rashtriya Sewak Sangh and the extended sangh parivar whose vigilante acts of violence and murderous attacks against rational, scientific and pluralist secular thought has reached alarming proportions since the present government has come to power. Protected by the selective `inaction’ of state authorities, the growing hydra-headed lynch-mobs of the parivar have been further emboldened not only to attack members of minority communities and dalits but even to viciously beat and burn them to death in their homes. The latest assault on Kerala Bhawan canteen, carried out with police connivance, has in fact threatened the very federal structure of the Indian Union. This growing fascist tendency has been so inspiringly exposed by our writers, artists, scientists, students and film-makers.

However, the GOI and the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s actions need to be understood as part of the agenda set by India’s submission to the trade regime of the WTO-GATS. The GOI has been taking steps to hand over higher education as a tradable commodity in the global market created and controlled by the General Agreement of Trade in Services (GATS). Buckling under WTO pressure to ‘open up’ higher education for exploitation by foreign and domestic capital, GOI has been cutting funding here as in many other crucial public services, like power, water and health. Higher education is a significant target with implications for the country’s ability to demand and struggle for the democratic rights of its citizens and to retain democratic control over its fundamental political and state institutions.

The concluding session, the Tenth Ministerial meeting of the WTO-GATS’s Doha Round of negotiations will take place in Narobi, Kenya in December 2015. The Government of India is all set to allow edu-corporations of 160 member countries of WTO to establish for-profit commercial universities in India. The people’s right to education will be completely dismantled as GOI pursues the path of protecting the investor-interests of foreign and domestic corporate houses. To create a “level playing field” for these profit making entities to compete in the Indian educational market, the government is speedily withdrawing all support to public universities. It is to “honour” its promise to WTO-GATS that government is violating the constitutional rights of its citizens and withdrawing from its own constitutional obligation to protect and expand these rights.

The non-transparent way in which these policies are being formulated and implemented with no national debate has brought the anger of the academic community to this point. A combined assault of so-called “de-politicization” of campuses, denial of the right to union activities, UGC’s “security guidelines” for policing colleges and universities and contractualization of faculty positions, are thinly veiled attempts to silence students and teachers.

However, the students are fighting back across the country. Outside the UGC building in New Delhi the fight continues and gains strength as all unions and progressive student associations are uniting to mount a powerful movement against a government which is bartering the interests of the nation’s youth, and the future of the country itself, to promote the corporate interests of its masters, both foreign and domestic.

AIFRTE stands in complete solidarity with the students and demands that the UGC immediately revokes its ill-conceived decision;

AIFRTE demands that the GOI immediately withdraws its offer of higher education for inclusion in the WTO-GATS list;

AIFRTE also demands free and open debate, particularly among students and teachers, on the future direction of the nation’s entire education policy in accordance with constitutional values of equality, social justice and non-discrimination.

AIFRTE Presidium
Dr. Meher Engineer, West Bengal, Chairperson, AIFRTE; Ex-President, Indian Academy of Social Science; Kolkata
Prof. Wasi Ahmed, Bihar, Former Joint Secretary, AIFUCTO; Patna
Sri Prabhakar Arade, Maharashtra, President, AIFETO; Kolhapur
Prof. G. Haragopal, Andhra Pradesh, National Fellow, ICSSR; TISS, Hyderabad
Prof. Madhu Prasad, Delhi, Formerly Dept. of Philosophy, Zakir Husain College, Delhi University
Prof. Anil Sadgopal, Madhya Pradesh, Former Dean, Faculty of Education, Delhi University; Bhopal
Prof. K. Chakradhar Rao, Telengana, Dept. of Economics, Osmania University, Hyderabad
Prof. K. M. Shrimali, Delhi, Formerly Dept. of History, Delhi University
Dr. Anand Teltumbde, West Bengal, Professor of Management, IIT, Kharagpur

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DSF, JNU statement

Intensify the movement, reject the ABVP’s attempts to sabotage the movement

The DSF appeals to the student community to participate in large numbers in the JNUSU’s call for protest at UGC tomorrow. It is important that the momentum which was generated from last week’s protest is carried forward.

In an all-organization meeting which was held on Friday, the DSF appealed to the JNUSU and other organizations to include the demand of bringing an ordinance to annul Lyngdoh Committee recommendations which has already been passed in a UGBM. Raising this issue would help forge a unity among students in all central universities.

At the same time, it is important to isolate the real face of ABVP – which is acting at the behest of NDA government instead of struggling for students’ rights – among the students. The ABVP has been changing positions on a daily basis on the issue. After trying to sabotage the protests by claiming that the decision to discontinue the scholarship had been revoked, a bunch of thugs indulged in abusive behaviour against protesting students at UGC in wee hours of Friday. The drama continued in the day with fake protests in front of media persons. The ABVP should just answer one simple question. Is the HRD Minister so incompetent that she did not have an idea of the UGC’s decision to end the scholarship? If, not will the ABVP condemn the HRD minister for this anti-student move?

The ABVP has started its rumour mongering once again, on the eve of fresh round of protest at the UGC. We advise the ABVP to stop such mischief and brief Narendra Modi- Amit Shah against the dangers of such anti-student moves. The ABVP should not be under any illusion that a revoking of the decision to withdraw Non NET Fellowships would be seen as an act of charity by the ABVP. These fellowships have been achieved by prolonged struggles in the sweat and blood of thousands of student activists and not right wing apologists of the present government masquerading as student activists.

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Nowruz Statement

Resist Privatization and Commercialization of Higher Education

Stand in Solidarity with the Occupy UGC Student’s Movement

26th October 2015 at 2:00 pm

Over the last few days the country has seen one of the largest student uprisings in its recent history. The students of India’s colleges and universities have long been struggling under the assault of rising tuition fees and deteriorating quality of public higher education due to fund cuts. UGC’s decision to scrap the non-NET scholarship, as declared after a UGC meeting dated October 7, 2015, served as a tipping point for the simmering unrest within this student community, which erupted in anger. This anger was directed in the form of massive protests in various universities all over the country. In Delhi, UGC office was stormed by hundreds of protesting students, who occupied space outside- chanting slogans, singing songs, clashing with the police and refusing to budge until their demands were met.

Under the non-NET scholarship, UGC has been providing a monthly sum of Rs. 5000 and Rs. 8000 to MPhil and PhD scholars respectively. Not indexed to inflation, this amount has been proving too small for a comfortable and dignified life as a research scholar, and students of many universities (particularly state universities) are outside the ambit of its benefits. Nevertheless, it has been the lifeline in supporting higher education of students from working class backgrounds, Dalit families and female students seeking self dependence in many central universities. In a country where structural oppression based on class, caste and gender has kept large sections of the people historically deprived, and education is promised as an opportunity to break free from these structural inequalities and to better one’s life, UGC’s decision is a sharp blow to the student community. By doing away with this financial assistance that is most required to students coming from struggling sections of the society, it effectively reserves the right to higher education for only the rich and elite, excluding large masses from this right.

This move by the UGC needs to be understood in the context of India’s larger submission to WTO diktats. It is yet another move towards marketization and privatization of higher education in the country. Bending under the World Bank’s insistence to reduce fiscal deficit, Indian government has already been cutting funding and subsidy to many important sectors in the economy. Higher education is yet another field which the government is now intent to open up to market forces. With more and more private universities being encouraged to set shop in the country, the government has also been repeatedly announcing and glorifying the prospective entry of foreign universities in India’s higher education sector. December 2015 marks the WTO-GATS Conference wherein the Government of India is all set to allow 160 member countries of WTO to establish universities in India as commercial ventures. With this, the people’s right to education will be completely dismantled as the government will then be bound to protect the interests of foreign and domestic corporate houses that pursue profits in the sector. To create a “level playing field” for these profit making entities, the government will need to dismantle all subsidies and support to public universities, so that these private and foreign entities can “compete” with public universities in the market. It is in preparation for this commitment to the WTO that the government took this move to scrap the non-NET scholarship. Thus we need to understand this as a deliberate attempt to sabotage public universities in preparation for the planned privatization and marketization of higher education of India.

Against such constant onslaughts on higher education, the anger of student community has long been simmering- frequently bursting into student agitations all over the country. To reduce the space for students to discuss these issues, to snatch away their freedom to assert themselves and demand their rights, the UGC has also come up with “security guidelines” for colleges and universities- which basically involve converting these educational institutions in to police-guarded prisons. Despite this, and despite the violent police attacks, despite the detentions and threats, the student community continues to struggle and fight back.

Late night on Sunday (25th October, 2015), the media has reported that HRD Minister Smriti Irani has announced a reversal in UGC’s decision to scrap the non-NET scholarship. However, this announcement, if at all genuine, has been made only on twitter and to a delegation of ABVP, BJP’s own student wing. There is yet to be a formal UGC meeting that will validate this rollback. Further, the demands of the student community are not limited to a rollback, but focus on increasing the scholarship amount, indexing it to inflation, dissociating it from any notion of “merit”, bringing all universities (including state universities) in the ambit of this scholarship, and most importantly to put a complete halt to the process of privatization and marketization of higher education in the country.

With these demands and with a strong resolve to fight against the government’s submission to market forces and the World Bank-WTO nexus, students continue to agitate and protest even in the face of harsh repression. We appeal to you to join this movement to protect the right to education for masses and to stand in solidarity!

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Statement by Collective-JNU

Collective statement

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University Worker Statement

Living Wage for all Researchers – Living wage for all Workers! 
OCCUPY UGC ON 26th OCT, 2 PM

As the protest against withdrawal of stipends provided to researchers moved into its 3rd day, students who were occupying the University Grants Commission (UGC) were detained by CRPF at 6 in the morning. They were then taken to Bhalaswa Dairy police station. Earlier, ABVP students pelted stones at the protesting students inside the UGC office. In support and to continue the protest another call was made to gather at the UGC office that was to culminate with a protest at 5 in the evening at Jantar Mantar.

What happened later during the day has happened quite often. UGC office was completely barricaded off by the police against which the students struggled. As the students broke the barricades, a brief lathi charge led to a couple of students being badly injured. As a follow up measure, voices came up to chakka jam (road block) the main ITO road against those who called for a sit-down to wait for a round of conversation with the UGC authorities. Ultimately, on the basis of a referendum, the chakka jam won. Due to pressure from the Delhi police, the road block didn’t last long. The students eventually settled to protest on the other side of UGC building while still cordoned off by the barricades. ABVP came to limelight again as a bunch of them were seen protesting with the same demands, albeit with a tweak. The police detained them, but unlike the morning detention, they were let off after the bus had merely travelled for 30 metres or so.
After this, in the course of the protest, a pattern that we have seen quite often now repeated itself. The language of “rising fascism” and “Modi Sarkar” began to dominate the question of continuation and increase in non-NET fellowship for researchers – a main concern of the protest. This rhetoric made connections, jumps rather, with fascist Modi government, communalization, etc. This in not to say that the main issue had been completely forgotten; students continued to raise their immediate concern. This language even connected the issue of stipends to living expenditures, research students working part-time outside course work to make up their living costs, etc.

Perhaps, just to say that research scholars demand the stipend back or even to go a step further and demand a stipend sufficient for subsistence, and for basic living is not enough to generalize the students struggle beyond the university. But is it possible to generalise using a liberal language vis-a-vis the university? In effect, this protest too had to borrow the language of anti-communalism- a language that is not of class struggle. It subtracts all mention of labour, capital and workers, and directs us back to fighting merely police repression, or merely this government. This language only seems to have a potential to maneuver the already happening struggle onto other grounds of struggle; in fact, it sidelines the issues of the students in the university. Why is it that students or university issues don’t have a language of their own that will allow a more real basis for generalization, and will simultaneously account for the specificities of student struggles? What if rather than the language based on invoking communal fears, the protest starts asking questions about why the university (and society) need and yet invisibilize researchers’ labour, and from there progress onto questions of a living wage for all segments of the university?

We need to learn from the ongoing struggle of the Anganwadi workers. They are asserting their right to a wage as “workers”. No radical force will deny that the ‘volunteer’ status of anganwadi workers – which means they used to get paid an honorarium much below the minimum wage of “workers” – was rooted in the notions of work that refused to see reproductive work as “work”. To top it all, these women are said to be doing tasks “natural” to them, and hence are seen as less deserving of a wage. No radical force will deny their claim to being workers.
To research is not just to consume knowledge it is also to produce knowledge. The student is also part of production of knowledge-commodities- research papers, seminars, theses and conferences. Research students, even more so. Universities – private and public – all brand and sell themselves on the basis of research work and the number of high-level degrees and alumni. In that case, are they not also key to a university’s production? Are they not workers?
The question of the fellowship needs to be seen as a question of a wage, i.e. a wage in return for the work that a researcher contributes to the knowledge-productions chains of her university. This is needed for us to reproduce ourselves – to live. And, it needs to be seen as a question of a living wage – a wage sufficient for all social needs – not just to pay for fees, hostels and books, but to live comfortably.

The struggle to be recognized as workers, as in the case of the Anganwadi, is in order to be able to struggle against that work collectively. What the defensive struggle today proves is that the research student needs this stipend to reproduce her labor power. Insofar as the taking away of the stipend further immiserates the researcher, the struggle to defend the stipend, i.e. the struggle to be recognized as a worker, is actually a struggle against immiseration. By controlling our wages and stipends, capital controls our reproduction, our work, our lives. In this struggle the researcher potentially realises her worker-hood, and is trying to force the state to recognise that all researchers are workers who must get a decent living wage. This is an essential moment of the struggle against wage-slavery. The movement needs to decide if the enemy is (un)wage-slavery as a whole or just the fascist moment of capital.

And why should research scholars be privileged? They shouldn’t be! Everyone deserves a living wage. Insofar as this is a struggle against immiseration, it is important for us to recognize the possibilities of joint struggle in the university with others who face similar situations. Clerks, housekeeping, canteen, electrical and maintenance staff, especially those on outsourced contracts have all recently suffered wage cuts, some getting less than minimum wage. The generalized attack produces the opportunity for generalized struggle.

Let the university shut down
Let’s all strike
Let’s all get what we want!
We need to turn this defensive situation into an attack –
A decent living wage for all

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Statement by University of Hyderabad Students’ Union

UoHSU

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Statement by Jadavpur University teachers and researchers

Jadavpur teachers and researchers

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AISA Statement on Smriti Irani Meeting ABVP Delegation
Reject Attempts to Derail and Demoblise Our Movement
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The Govt. is playing dirty tricks and leaving no stone unturned in its attempts to divert and demobilize students across the country. We have come to know from the media that an ABVP is claiming that its Delegation consisting of ABVP Office Bearers of JNUSU, DUSU and AUSU have met Smriti Irani. JNUSU President, Vice President and Secretary, who have been the most vocal representatives of the movement, are not aware of any such meeting. It seems even the AUSU president who is not from ABVP has also not been a part of the delegation.

It is also being claimed that Smriti Irani has assured them at an order withdrawing the decision of the UGC will immediately be issued.

Now one cannot miss the feeling of deja vu. The exact same thing was claimon by ABVP on 21 October i.e. the first day of OCCUPY UGC movement. On the 21st October itself ABVP in a Poster claimed that they had met Smriti Irani and she had assured them that the move will be revoked. But on the same day and on the 23rd of October when a delegation of students met UGC Officials, the UGC clearly said that they will not immediately revoke the decision but will ‘consider’ the demand of the students.
ABVP, on the 21st of October, after fake celebrations of victory due to claimed assurance from the MHRD, still decided to call for a protest on 26th of October. After seeing that students were not willing to buy its assurances ABVP decided to protest on 23rd itself at the UGC where they abused and sloganeered against the students who were ‘Occupying UGC’ and also broke glasses of DTC Busses at ITO. All of this done cannot be seen as anything other than diversionary tactics to confuse the students and divide the movement.

We are also hearing that Smriti Irani will tweet about the meeting soon. But any such tweets cannot be a replacement of the unconditional withdrawal of UGC order. The UGC on the other hand continues to remain adamant and the Chariperson refuses to meet students.

We want to pose a few questions to the MHRD.
1. Why is the MHRD talking only to ABVP which is the official spokesperson of the Govt.?
2. Why is the MHRD not talking to the other Office Bearers of JNUSU and students from across the country who are protesting on the same issue?

We will continue our movement till the UGC as in a WRITTEN ORDER withdrawn the decision to revoke Non Net Scholarships.

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STATEMENT FROM DELHI UNIVERSITY TEACHERS’ ASSOCIATION

The DUTA strongly condemns the UGC’s latest decision to discontinue the non-NET fellowships for M.Phil. and Ph.D. students from the next academic session. Ironically, the recommendation to do away with these fellowships was made by an expert committee constituted earlier in the year to make a proper framework for implementation of the non-NET fellowships and look at the possibilities of enhancement of these fellowships.

The DUTA strongly believes that such a move will be extremely detrimental to the cause of research in our country. At present, the non-NET researchers were drawing a fellowship of Rs. 5000 a month at the M.Phil. level and Rs. 8000 a month at the Ph.D. level. Thousands of research scholars were able to conduct their research work banking primarily on these non-NET fellowships. The UGC’s present move will have disastrous consequences for research since students henceforth will be deprived of even this minimal support for doing research.

The DUTA sees this move by the UGC as a direct consequence of the slashing of the funds allocated to the higher education sector in the last central government budget. In the case of Delhi University, this comes in the wake of the UGC decision to slash funds to Trust colleges and the threat to bring the grants down to 90%.

It is ironic that these frequent budget cuts are being undertaken even as the Government keeps issuing statements about the need to improve the quality of higher education and raise the international rankings of Indian universities. Such anti-education measures foreshadow the opening of Higher Education for trade under WTO–GATS, which is on the agenda of the Ministerial Meet scheduled 15-18 December 2015.

The DUTA demands an immediate revocation of the scrapping of the non-NET fellowships. It expresses solidarity with all students and student organisations across the country protesting this UGC decision. It strongly criticises the refusal by the UGC Chairperson to meet the representatives of students protesting outside the UGC and the brutal police attack on them after they were forced to continue their protest all-night.

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STATEMENT FROM UNIVERSITY OF HYDERABAD TEACHERS’ ASSOCIATION

CONDEMN UGC’S DECISION TO SCRAP NON-NET FELLOWSHIPS!! CONDEMN THE USE OF BRUTAL POLICE VIOLENCE ON PROTESTING STUDENTS!!! INCREASE NON-NET FELLOWSHIP AMOUNT!!!

THE decision of the UGC to scrap non-NET fellowships across the country comes in the wake of the meeting of PM Narendra Modi with the World Trade Organisation/GATS coming up in December 2015, where the final deals with respect to privatization of higher education in India are supposed to be brokered, and the gates are going to be officially opened to imperialist attacks on higher education in this country. Through this decision, the UGC has, in one swift stroke, nullified the principles underlying the Indian Constitution, and sent out a clear message that higher education in this country is no longer meant for the marginalized. Higher education is now being made into a commodity available to only those who can pay for it.

IN 2014 itself, the UGC had off loaded its responsibility of conducting the NET exams to the CBSE, which is a school board, with no prior experience of dealing with University matters. This is in line with the overall attempts of scrapping off the UGC as a whole, by successively curtailing its roles and responsibilities, and keeping the huge number of recently mushroomed private colleges and universities outside of its purview. In April 2015, an MHRD panel recommended complete scrapping of the UGC, and the setting up of a new body which would be under direct control of the MHRD. Such preparations are essential for pushing policy measures, such as the Central Universities Act, the New Education Policy, fee hikes, privatization, GATS-WTO agreements, grabbing of University lands and resources for private purposes in the name of Public-Private Partnerships, Choice-Based Credit System, etc. The main motive behind such measures is to centralize powers at the hands of the Central Government, and pave way for unhindered privatization and brahminization of education. The Education Budget of 2015 already saw a jaw dropping budget cut of 17%! In the revised estimates for 2014-15, while school education allocation was cut by around Rs 80,000 crore, that of higher education was slashed by Rs 4,000 crore. With public education infrastructures rendered unviable and inaccessible to majority of the population, and with MoUs being signed with private enterprises for setting up private colleges and universities through treaties such as GATS, etc., the only option that will be left to most will be to seek exorbitant “education loans”, and thus spend a large part of their lives in repaying those loans, even if they somehow get to complete their education and get employment, both of which are anyway going to be unlikely for the bulk of the student population.

THE biggest casualties of these measures are of course going to be students from marginalized caste, gender and religious backgrounds. In June 2014, Out of 7 lakh candidates who appeared for the NET exams, a total of around 25000 qualified. Thus, clearly, this decision of the UGC is going to leave more than 96% of our students (who were anyway receiving only a meagre amount of Rs. 5000 for MPhil and Rs. 8000 for PhD) with no scholarship support to pursue their education. MPhil and PhD students are research workers, which also involves travel expenses to field sites, libraries etc, purchasing of books and other materials, arranging for accommodation and food where there are no free hostels and messes and so on. Even access to many online journals and articles are privileged and one has to pay if one is outside the privileged circles. The elitist ‘logic’ that justifies a lower payment to a factory worker compared to a manager is the same ‘logic’ where JRF and non-JRF students’ getting differential compensation for the same work finds justification. That too, the lines are being drawn on the basis of the NET exam, whose unscientific mechanical way of evaluation, devoid of any kind of critical analysis, is perhaps one of the worst ways of evaluating knowledge in disciplines such as social sciences and humanities. It is solely based on rote knowledge, and success in the NET can be practically bought using money or cultural capital. Our education system needs to be overhauled for a better one, and we understand that will not happen in isolation while the society continues with its classist, casteist, ableist, patriarchal, elitist practices. But our hope is that those from the oppressed sections who have managed to get some access, at the cost of a lot of struggle, to this elitist education system, will teach the rest of the society how to be egalitarian and democratic. These measures of the Government to exclude the marginalized from these educational spaces are fatal blows to the democratic aspirations of those who are the victims of this violent socio-economic-political structure, and therefore those of the rest of the society.

THE State looks determined to push these policies through. On the one hand, the Brahmanical rhetoric of “merit” and “entitlement” is employed to gain ideological support from the elites, for such draconian measures. On the other hand, repression through policing of campuses, physical violence, suspensions, rustications, threats, etc., legitimised by circulars such as the UGC Guidelines for Safety and Security of Students, are being inflicted upon students who are struggling against such brutal policies of the Government. This is also not unrelated with the recent spate of direct physical violence across the country, including even murders, against rationalists, writers, poets, journalists and anyone who is raising questions. The aim is to engineer a conformist socio-political arrangement by weeding out all voices of dissent, together with a compatible education system which is nothing more than a business, accessible to only those who can pay for it. The technocratic idea of “education” that the WTO believes in is “Education (which) is the key ingredient for absorbing new technologies and adapting to change”, as quoted in a WTO document titled ‘Education Policies to make Globalisation more inclusive’, even if the “technology” and the “change” are against people. The “education” that we believe in is the one Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy talks about, when he says, “Only education, self-respect and rational qualities will uplift the down-trodden”. It is a conflict of basic understanding about what education means, and this conflict, in today’s circumstances is inevitable.

UHTA strongly condemns UGC’s decision to abolish non-NET fellowships, along with other such policy measures in the recent times, aimed at destroying public higher education in this country. UHTA is in solidarity with everyone struggling against such measures, and is determined to oppose this till the end. We demand the immediate revoking of this decision. We also demand that the non-NET scholarships be increased, and that UGC be separated from direct control of the Government of India, and all attempts of privatization, communalisation and Brahminization of higher education be immediately stopped!!