AIFRTE Programme of Action against ‘Committing Higher Education to WTO’

August 18, 2015

Programme of Action – Phase II
Against ‘Committing Higher Education to WTO’

Circulated on 17th August, 2015

Slogans: “Compel Government! Fight WTO!! Save Education!!!”
“Sarkaar ko Majboor Karo! WTO Bhagao!! Shiksha Bachao!!!”
Demand: “Stop Committing Higher Education to WTO”

Recap of Phase I: The IV National Council of All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) which met at Sewagram, Near Wardha, Maharashtra from 14th to 16th June 2015 noted with grave concern that there was every possibility that the Government of India (GOI) would ‘Commit’ Higher Education Sector for ‘Market Access’ to WTO in the ensuing Tenth Ministerial Conference to be held at Nairobi, Kenya from 15th to 18th December this year. It was also noted that GOI had already made ‘offers’ of Higher Education, an initial step of ‘commitment’, way back in 2005. If GOI do not withdraw its ‘offers’ made to WTO well in advance of the Conference, these will automatically become irrevocable ‘commitments’ on the part of the nation with far-reaching implications. In this case, the trade rules of the ‘General Agreement on Trade in Services’ (GATS), WTO will entangle India’s higher education system in perpetuity. It is further noted that India, for that matter any member country, has the option to keep its education sector (or any other service sector) outside the agreement before ‘committing’ it for ‘market access’ and also that, if once a ‘commitment’ is made, it becomes irreversible for all practical purposes. It means that, as on date, India has an option available to it to keep its education sector outside the WTO regime and the option has to be exercised before the Nairobi Conference scheduled to be held in mid-December 2015. If we do not persuade/compel the GOI to withdraw the ‘offers’ forthwith, education would be dictated by imperialist world trade rules for ever. Proceeding from this understanding of the situation, the AIFRTE’s National Council decided to organize an intense campaign of resistance throughout the country against the possible commitment by GOI to WTO for market access in higher education and demand the withdrawal of the ‘offers’ forthwith. It was further decided to build the movement in phases. The first phase culminated on 9th August with the observance of Quit India Day by many of our member-organisations against ‘Committing Higher Education to WTO’.

Report on Phase I: The Quit India Day on 9th August was observed against ‘Committing Higher Education to WTO’ with slogan ‘WTO! Quit Education, Quit India!! In pursuance of the Programme of Action adopted by AIFRTE’s IV National Council Meet held at Sewagram (14- 16 June 2015), as stated above, our member-organisations in different parts of the country organised a serious campaign against ‘Committing Higher education to WTO’. Different forms of campaigns including seminars, group discussions, signature campaigns, street corner-meetings etc. were held in the run up to and on 9th August in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Varanasi, several districts of Punjab, Kannur and Calicut (Kerala), Kurnool, Anantapur and Nellore (all three in AP), Kanyakumari, Pollachi, Dharmapuri (all three in TN), Bhopal and Seoni (Madhya Pradesh) and at several other places from where reports are awaited. The organisations and participants belonged to different ideologies varying from Gandhites, Ambedkarites, Socialists and Communists drawn from different sections of the society viz., students, youth, teachers, trade unions and education-loving people from various walks of life. The special programme of organising a rally on 9th August from August Kranti Maidan (Gowalia Tank), Mumbai (wherefrom Mahatma Gandhi raised the Quit India slogan in 1942 and courted arrest along with thousands of people) to SNDT Women’s University followed by a Hall meeting conducted successfully in collaboration with Rashtra Seva Dal. In Delhi, a dharna was staged outside HRD Minister’s residence. In Punjab, conferences were organised in different colleges across 17 districts of the state. Tamilnadu has taken up the programme with particular vigour and creativity and plan for college strike by students against WTO-GATS has also been made. However, since several member-organisations of AIFRTE have not taken up the campaign so far, it is yet to be initiated in large parts of India. It is hoped that all member-organisations would initiate and intensify the campaign in this second phase in the run up to the All India Pledge Week (27th/28th September to 2nd October). We must realise that there are more fighting forces and organisations, as on date, outside AIFRTE than inside. It is, therefore, the responsibility of each National Executive Member and each member-organisation of AIFRTE to approach and persuade them to join the campaign. The agenda against ‘Committing Education to WTO’ has the necessary potential to attract a wide cross-section of ideologies and organisations. Only the capitalist and the communal forces are opposed to our educational agenda. The rest can be mobilised in this campaign.

Students’ and Teachers’ Organisations: AISA, AISF, AIRSO and PDSU – the member-organisations of AIFRTE working at all-India level – are taking active part in the campaign. Following AIFRTE’s call given from Sewagram in June, AIDSO, AISB, AISF, SFI and PDSU organised a national seminar on education in Delhi on 28th July, resolving to fight against ‘Committing Higher Education to WTO’. Similarly, an Education Parliament conducted by the AISA-led Students’ Union of JNU on 5th August took serious note of the issue. A meeting of various University Teachers’ Associations, held in Delhi on 7th August under the joint auspices of AIFUCTO and FEDCUTA also has taken the issue seriously and are presently trying to draw the attention of its members throughout the country. State-level students’ and teachers’ organisations working in different states and universities are also taking up the campaign in their respective areas of work. Significantly, as a result of AIFRTE’s persistent endeavour, the ongoing nationwide campaign by various students’ and teachers’ organisations against semesterisation, Choice-based Credit System (CBCS), imposition of common syllabus and a common university Act has now begun to view these varying attacks as an outcome of the WTO agenda in India for facilitating the entry of FDI and foreign university campuses. AIFRTE’s initiative on the issue is now widely appreciated.

Political Parties and their Mass Organisations – Seven political parties viz., All India Forward Bloc, Communist Party of India, CPI-ML (Liberation), CPI-ML (New Democracy), CPI-ML (Red Star), Samajwadi Jan Parishad (SJP) and Socialist Party (India) have expressed their support for the entire campaign against ‘Committing Education to WTO’ from June to December this year. In addition, the National Executive of the Gandhian Sarva Seva Sangh has asked its constituents across the country to participate in the campaign. Our member organisations have to approach the state chapters of the above parties and organisations to get concrete support and participation. The members of AIFRTE’s Presidium and Secretariat are trying to enlist support of other progressive all-India parties and other progressive social organisations and forces for the campaign. We know that widespread opposition can work as strong resistance. Let us spread out to every university and college in the country and campaign against the GOI move and build institute-level committees to continue the campaign till and through ‘Nairobi’. The ongoing struggles in the field of higher education shall be consciously and strategically linked with our campaign against WTO-GATS. The possibility of linking the education movement against WTO with the growing resistance among the farmers’ organisations against massive cuts in subsidies in the agricultural sector and liberalisation of land acquisition and among workers’ organisations/trade unions against liberalisation of labour laws in favour of capital as part of the WTO agenda also needs to be explored proactively and concretised. Our campaign shall be widespread in terms of opinion mobilization and our programmes should be persuasive and compelling so that the central government is pressurized to withdraw its ‘offers’ given in higher education to WTO-GATS.

All our member-organisations and all members of National Executive are requested to provide us full reports of all activities so that they are circulated and also used in our newsletters.

(Akhil Bharat Sankalp Saptah)
From 27th /28th Sept to 2nd Oct!

In the ‘Run Up’ to the All India Pledge Week: It is crucial for the success of the ‘All India Pledge Week’ (‘Akhil Bharat Sankalp Saptah’) that we undertake a systematic campaign from now onwards in our respective areas to mobilise public opinion and organise committees at institutional level in colleges and universities to sustain the campaign. AIFRTE calls upon all of its member-organisations to start the campaign forthwith if they have not already started or cover new areas/colleges/ universities or open dialogue with additional mass organisations and sections of society if they have started the campaign. In this Phase II also, like in Phase I, widespread and sustained decentralised campaign is far more important than any centralised programme. Especially, the Leaflet distribution and Signature Campaign against WTO shall be continued with full vigour and all the signature forms shall be sent to the Prime Minister’s Office to register the large-scale protests, under intimation to the Organising Secretary and Office Secretary.

All India Pledge Week: Observe 27th/28th September, the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and 2nd October, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi as ‘Pledge Days’ (‘Sankalp Diwas’) to ‘Compel Government! Fight WTO!! Save Education!!!’ (Sarkaar ko Majboor Karo! WTO Bhagao!! Shiksha Bachao!!!’). While Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s birthday may be observed in educational institutions in suitable forms, the Satyagraha and Courting of Arrest on 2nd October will call for substantial mobilisation in district/state headquarters. Irrespective of the form of protest, we should involve all organisations that come forward, more particularly students and teachers of colleges and universities. These programmes shall express the anguish of a wide cross-section of students and the academic community along with local intellectuals, writers and artists of repute that the government can ill-afford to ignore. The programmes shall be organised with such great strength and vigour that the ruling circles should understand that the people of India are rejecting the GOI move to hand over education to the imperialist organ i.e. WTO. On 2nd October, each member-organisation shall attempt to organise a procession from a local Gandhi Statue after garlanding it to the local MP’s residence in the town to persuade her/him to sign our memorandum. Some district units which find it difficult to organise a programme on either of the days i.e. 27th/28th September or 2nd October, may organise programmes both in colleges and universities and also at district headquarters on any day between 27th Sept and 2nd October, i.e. within the ‘All India Pledge Week’ in order to create a cumulative effect on the national scene.

March from Punjab to Delhi: As part of an ‘All India Campaign’, a Muhim (March) will be organised from Village Khatkad Kalan (Dist. Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Punjab), the place where Shaheed Bhagat Singh spent his childhood and received early revolutionary orientation, to Mahatma Gandhi’s Samadhi at Rajghat in Delhi. The Muhim will start on 28th September and culminate in Rajghat on 2nd October 2015. Our member-organisations in J&K, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi States will organize the ‘Muhim’ jointly. Systematic efforts should be made to mobilise students, youth, teachers and karmacharis from various universities and colleges in Delhi with the support and participation of all-India students’ and university teachers’ organisations and Delhi-based students, youth, writers, women and cultural organizations. Eminent personalities, especially academics, writers, cultural workers and jurists, with a progressive outlook from Delhi and nearby states shall also be involved.

This wave-like nationwide protest held simultaneously in around two hundred districts and in Delhi, the capital of the nation, from 27th/28th September to 2nd October shall be an eye opener to the ruling class and bring a break in the process of committing education to WTO. If all our member-organisations take this call seriously, as they do, the protests that are to be organised from 27th/28th September to 2nd October will develop a synergy and if propagated properly through regular print/ electronic media and social media should influence the government decision-making process. The protests, in this period, throughout the length and breadth of the country by creating a public mood will confer great importance to the Delhi Protest on 2nd October. Both, the people who are yet to join us and government will understand that the struggle is not a one-day affair (like a ‘bubble’) but a widespread and protracted struggle that can sustain and grow. Up to 2nd October, our activities will be decentralised to ensure campaign in colleges, universities and district towns. This will create a credible and strong foundation for our next phases of the campaign.

(To be elaborated later)

State-level Demonstrations: State-level demonstrations (with or without a hall meeting) shall be organised in various state capitals on any one day during the period from 1st to 10th November, as per the convenience of the concerned member-organisations. The dates shall be communicated to the AIFRTE Secretariat well in advance (please note that the train reservations open 4 months in advance) and the latter shall try to arrange for the participation of the AIFRTE Presidium Members or other renowned personalities in these programmes. These demonstrations may be held at or lead to Governor’s residence and a memorandum addressed to the President of India shall be handed over to the Governor. An acknowledgment of receipt of the memorandum by the Governor’s office shall be collected. The state-level demonstrations shall be organised impressively in as many states as possible (we shall plan in all states and in all UTs) and shall be an advanced step after ‘All India Pledge Week’ in our campaign against WTO. By this time, we shall also find newspapers widely reporting about the scheduled WTO meetings and the varied issues of trade that would be ‘discussed’ and resolved at the Nairobi Conference. We have to mobilise maximum number of people in these demonstrations not only to continue but to intensify our protest, both to retain the gains of observance of ‘All India Pledge Week’ and also to mount incrementally more pressure on the government to desist from the process of ‘Committing education to WTO’. An appropriate caption for this stage of struggle can be worked out by the middle of September to be declared on 2nd October. We will have to keep our eyes on the developments in trade negotiations of WTO and develop proper slogans accordingly.

Delhi Resistance Camp
From 13th to 18th December

(This proposal is still open to suggestions for making the idea even more effective. Irrespective of whether the dates of the resistance camp overlap with the Nairobi Meet dates or not, what matters is that both the dates and the format of the programme must be such that a stern message is sent out to the Tenth Ministerial Conference of WTO at Nairobi that the people of India shall not take the GOI move to handover our Higher Education to WTO-GATS lying passively. The programme elaborated below is what was agreed upon at the Sewagram Meet. Based upon your feedback, this programme will be reformulated soon after the ‘All India Pledge Week’)

A Six-day Resistance Camp at Delhi, to be named ‘Resistance Camp against WTO Meet@ Nairobi” will be organized by AIFRTE at Town Hall Premises in Chandni Chowk/Jantar Mantar/Rajghat/Red Fort/ from 13th to 18th December 2015. This Resistance Camp will stand in solidarity with the people fighting all over the world against the WTO’s neoliberal agenda and against listing of education as tradable service. This stage of struggle, though could not be elaborated now, is crucial. The anti-WTO struggles in different countries and resistance at Nairobi will be peaking at this stage. Things can be reversed even at this stage. The Cancun Meet in 2003 stands testimony to it. The WTO was compelled to go back in Cancun Meet at the last minute in the face of stiff resistance. We shall hold the flag till the end and even thereafter! Note: The delegations of struggling organisations in India representing different spheres of life which will be going to Nairobi to protest there will be invited on 13th December to our ‘WTO Resistance Camp’ to express solidarity with our struggle before they leave for Nairobi. Further, please note that the concept of the programme and its title can be further developed over the period before the third circular is posted after 2nd October.

Delegation to Nairobi: We will also try and send a delegation with our own banner to Nairobi. More importantly, we shall mobilize our contacts with anti-neoliberal struggles in Africa, Asia, Europe and North & Latin America to express solidarity with our cause at the Nairobi meet. For this purpose, we shall take help from our Indian comrades studying and working abroad.

General Campaigns
Suggestive, not exhaustive, as may be scheduled and designed by Member-Organisations in their respective states or areas of activity

1) The demand ‘Stop Committing Higher Education to WTO’ shall appear throughout the campaign. The slogan shall be “Compel Government! Fight WTO!! Save Education!!!” (“Sarkaar Ko Majboor Karo! WTO Bhagao!! Shiksha Bachao!!!).
2) English Leaflet and Hindi are already in circulation. They should be used as template for translation and printed in various languages with suitable modifications. (English and Hindi leaflets attached).
3) The booklet published by AP Save Education Committee in 2005 may be updated and published in English and in various languages expeditiously.
4) It shall be attempted to prepare a 5-minutes campaign video film for circulation through internet in English and Hindi. The member-organisations may produce independent films or films dubbing into their languages.
5) Volunteer training camps, seminars and conventions may be conducted in as many places as possible in all states. Resource Persons on the subject of WTO will be arranged if required.
6) Gate-meetings at universities and colleges may be organised by member-organisations.
7) Demonstrations may be organised in campuses of Universities and colleges. Bunds and Educational strikes in Universities/Colleges may be organized through Student Unions, Teachers’ and Karmacharies’ Associations. Burning of WTO effigies and other forms of protest shall be taken up in educational institutions.
8) Wall-writing may be undertaken in all states.
9) Leafleting and donation collections (Dibba Collections) may be taken up in buses and trains.
10) Poster-exhibitions to be organized in colleges, universities and markets. We can use the existing posters against WTO and Foreign Universities. It will be attempted to produce more posters in English and Hindi (some new posters have already been designed). Member-organisations may take initiative to prepare posters in state’s languages.
11) A minimum of 100 signatures on the Memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister shall be collected from each University/College in the area of activity of our member-organisations. It shall be attempted to cover all institutions of higher education in the states. Every state shall prepare teams for the purpose.
12) A cap/badge/T-shirt or an arm band may be worn by all AIFRTE associates on select days with slogan “Fight WTO! Save Education!!” (“WTO Bhagao! Shiksha Bachao!!).
13) Campaign Literature should be carried in sling bag by each activist and distributed at every possible opportunity, especially in trains and buses.
14) Activists should make use of all political, social, cultural and even religious gatherings to disseminate our campaign.
15) Skits (Nukkar Nataks), Songs and other forms of folk arts may be used to spread our message.
16) Articles/comments/letters to editors may be written in newspapers and magazines in various languages by members, associates and sympathizers of our member-organizations.
17) It shall be tried to involve all progressive cultural and writers’ organizations in different states to join our campaign on key dates such as 27th/28th September, 2nd October, November dates in state capitals and 13th to 18th December.
18) We shall try at all levels to identify the progressive forces fighting against WTO, especially the farmers’ organisations, and pursue ways and means of co-coordinating with them.
19) It shall be attempted to organize protest demonstrations in front of the offices of the agencies of the global finance-capital like WTO, WB, IMF, and ADB in India.
20) Social media and internet discussion groups should be utilized in a comprehensive and strategic manner. AIFRTE Website and e-group should be systematically made use of.
21) Organising Dharnas in front of the houses of MPs by the people of the respective constituencies or at least submission of memoranda to them shall be part of the programme.
22) Submission of memorandums by our member-organisations working at state level or having units at state level to all regional political parties and state committees of the All India Parties having representatives in the Parliament, particularly opposition parties.
23) Submission of memorandums by AIFRTE to National Committees/Central Committees of all ‘All India Political Parties’ having representatives in the Parliament, particularly opposition parties.
24) AIFRTE Secretariat shall send memorandums to all MPs along with the proposed booklet and the published leaflet.
25) AIFRTE shall arrange for memorandums being sent to the President, the Prime Minister, the HRD Minister and the crucial official organizations such as NITI Ayog, HRD-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee, UGC, AICTE, MCI, NCTE, Bar Council of India etc.

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 Edn, 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