Raja Sekhar Vundru

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Location: New Delhi, India

Ph.D on Dr.Ambedkar's Electoral System from the National Law School, Bangalore (NLSUI) Currently working as Deputy Director General, UIDAI, Government of India , New Delhi +911123752322 (office)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

ARTICLES BY OTHERS: Learning the wrong lessons

Learning the wrong lessons

Learning the wrong lessons
D. Raja

Published in Indian Express, New Delhi 23 June 2009
link: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/learning-the-wrong-lessons/480177/0

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government seems to be in a hurry to completely overhaul the education system, especially higher education. Confirming this, the President’s address to Parliament on 4th June 2009, promises the creation of a National Council for Higher Education — on the basis of a report which was never submitted. And in a pre-meditated way, on the very first day, the government started off the campaign for bringing foreign universities into India at any cost.

This time around, the Congress Party, notwithstanding its UPA allies, has in an open and brazen manner, reverted to its much espoused agenda of bringing in the second wave of liberalisation and privatisation into the country. This is because the Congress, along with its corporate friends, believes that this was ‘stalled’ by the Left during the previous UPA stint. Naturally there seems to be a sense of lost time and urgency implied in rushing to bring in foreign direct investment to various sectors. It was with the same eagerness with which the President’s address dealt with the unbearable urgency of reform in higher education which is in fact another great opportunity for the corporate sector and foreign investors to enter these evergreen grazing pastures of higher education.

The first wave of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation was detrimental to the poor, Dalits, tribals and helped only the rich — and was unleashed in India by the very persons who have now for the second time taken over as the prime minister and as the deputy chairman of the planning commission. Under this dispensation, higher education joins the list of businesses that the forces of privatisation and globalisation are ready to capture. The process of silencing the poor has begun. But it is essential to check whether this corporate driven eagerness shown by the Congress Party in higher education passes the tests of access, equity, equal opportunity and inclusiveness.

The previous UPA regime, which was supported by the Left, inserted article 15(5) into the Constitution through the 92nd constitutional amendment. This is a historic provision enabling the government to create equality in access to education in both public-funded and private institutions. The government now has to enable this provision by enacting a specific law ensuring equal access to education for SCs, STs and OBCs. The government has chosen to ignore this constitutional provision. Instead, the government is getting ready to push the Right to Education Bill and the ‘right to’ Foreign Universities Bill. That means that these Bills can comfortably ignore reservations and access issues to the marginalised sections of the society, as the government is not bound to be inclusive under these two Bills.

In the dying hours of the previous regime (which the President’s address claims that the present one is a continuation of), a Bill regarding SC and ST reservations in services, was passed amidst chaos in the Rajya Sabha, and included provisions that exempted faculty reservations in IITs, all IIMs, and half a dozen central universities. This Bill also exempts scientific and technical posts under the government from reservations. The government was ready to pass it in the Lok Sabha, but for want of time and due to stout opposition by Left and others, failed. But the Bill is still alive, and could be passed by the current government.

These are all examples of concerted efforts by the government to undermine access to education and employment to the marginalised. The recommendations of the controversial Knowledge Commission — whose recommendations are thoroughly anti-inclusion, elitist and anti-reservation — find endorsement by the government in the President’s address, and undermine equity in the garb of knowledge.

The government has to first enable article 15 (5), by enacting laws that provide for reservation in government funded institutions and also in un-aided private educational institutions. Only then can the Right to Education and the ‘right to’ Foreign Universities Bills be taken up. The silence of the new government on article 15(5) is indicative of its lack of sincerity towards providing education for the deprived sections. With the entry of business houses into education, even buying an application form is growing beyond the reach of many; higher education is becoming expensive, inaccessible and elitist. The Congress is now riding on the crest of its new government to split this nation into two — those who have access to higher education and those who do not. Let us face it.

(The writer is National Secretary, Communist Party of India and a Rajya Sabha MP )


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