[Editorial Analysis] Imagining alternative futures

Mains Paper 2: Governance

Prelims level: Indian Science Congress

Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

Context

• The caricaturing of scientific inquiry at the recent Indian Science Congress (ISC) is only symptomatic of the larger ideological thrust through which institutions of higher education in India are now sought to be governed.

• The choice of venue for the ISC this year a private university in Punjab highlights the boost that investors of private capital in higher education receive even as funding cutbacks at public universities have threatened the closure of 167 centres for women’s studies and 35 centres for studies in social exclusion.

• That a proposed Jio Institute was granted the ‘Institute of Eminence’ status much before it could even open is a grim reminder of state support now being unambiguously willed upon the private model.

Right versus privilege

• In 2015, the UGC, citing a fund crunch, resolved to scrap the non-NET fellowship altogether.

• After student protests across universities (hashtagged on social media as ‘Occupy UGC’), articulated how research fellowships were not state doles but instead sought to incentivise knowledge creation, the government was forced to retract the move.

• But soon after, the release of similar non-NET fellowships for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and minority students namely.

• The Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship and Maulana Azad National Fellowship came to be stalled, pending a new set of guidelines that severely curtailed eligibility.

Highlights of the AISHE report

• The Ministry of Human Resource Development’s All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) Report 2017-18 notes that the Gross Enrolment Ratio across institutions of higher education has risen to 25.8% from 19.4% in 2010-11.

• The GER is an index of the proportion of citizens between 18 and 23 years in every sample size of 100 who have structurally secured entry into tertiary education, while exit figures (drop-outs) are left unaccounted for.

• The inflationary tendencies of AISHE figures notwithstanding, the report points out that the GER is 21.8% for SCs and 15.9% for STs “as compared to the national GER”.

• However, deeper scrutiny shows that though the standard formula for calculating GER must take the population census in the relevant age group as the base sample size.

• The GER for Dalit-Adivasis is produced by altering the methodology.

Clamming falsification

• The AISHE report contains traces of more statistical falsification adjusting “growth” in the number of teaching positions by changing the base year for comparison (to 2010-11 from 2013-14).

• As the report shows (Table 51), there is a sharp annual decline in the number of teachers employed since 2015-16.

• In the past three years, teaching strength in higher education institutions has fallen from 15.19 lakh to 12.85 lakh, with most of the losses reflected against reserved permanent posts.

• The move to a 13-point roster in appointments will only aggravate these losses, till teaching becomes an exclusively upper caste profession.

• Alarmingly, through this period of reduction in teaching jobs, 104 new universities have been instituted, 66 of which are “privately managed”.

• It is no surprise that many of the brightest minds from the best public institutions are now lapped up by elite private universities “equipped with world-class infrastructure”.

A pushback

• It is clear that a nationalist crusade is only mortgaging public education systems to transnational capital.

• This is also articulated in the “impatience” that Amartya Sen spoke about in the context of the recent ISC, an impatience that is fomenting student unrest in campuses.

• It is the same impatience in the form of anger at being sidelined by iniquitous government policies that are supplanting the vision and promise of the public university which is fuelling the student-led ‘Young India Adhikar March’.

• The collective rights assertions in the form of well-publicised rallies by farmers, the marginalised and women all signs of the anger of different constituencies reeling under the policies of an indifferent government.

• The ‘Young India Adhikar March’ is a representation of over 40 youth organisations demanding, among other things, an end to fee hikes, gender discriminatory laws, a syllabus free of “saffron” taints, alongside the guarantee of employment and academic, intellectual freedoms of teaching and learning.

• If the ‘publicness’ of public education must come to occupy our idea of the ‘nation’, it is time we march with our youth and demand the right to imagine alternative futures.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Consider the following statements in regard to local governments, which got a fillip after the 73rd and
74th Constitution Amendment Acts:

1. Local government is enumerated in concurrent list.

2. The amendment made a provision for the mandatory creation of the Gram Sabha.

3. One third of the positions in all panchayat institutions are reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Which of the above given statement(s) is/are correct?

a) 1 only

b) 2 only

c) 1 and 3

d) 2 and 3

Correct Answer: B

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Why the Young India Adhikar March calls for greater civic solidarity?

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