The SFI organized a March to Parliament on 20th February 2009 against the UPA Government's betrayal of the student community and pledging to fight for a pro-people, pro-student, non-Congress, non-BJP alternative. The press release of SFI on the Parliament March and a note on the education policies of the UPA Government is reproduced below.
Give Fitting Rebuff to the Congress led UPA; Reject the Communal Forces led by BJP-RSS!!
Unite And Fight For A Secular, Democratic And Pro-People Political Alternative!!
The student community had played a crucial role in the fight against the communal BJP led-NDA Government and its eventual defeat in 2004. The struggles of the students were waged against the NDA Government both in terms of resisting the communalization of education agenda of the NDA as well as the policies of commercialization that it aggressively pursued.
Under the pressure of the progressive student movement and the Left parties, the Common Minimum Program of the UPA made significant promises to the students in terms of undoing both the communalization as well as the commercialization of education that the NDA had started. Over the last 5 years however we have seen that the UPA Government has failed to deliver upon its own promises and has not been able to rein in commercialization of education in the country.
Expenditure on Education
Increasing Public spending on education to at least 6% of GDP was a key commitment made in the National Common Minimum Program. Far from increasing the public spending on education, there has actually been a decline in the expenditure GDP ratio from 3.94 to 3.24% of GDP (taking into account expenditure by all government departments on education). Within this, the share of the central Government has marginally increased from 0.48% to 0.75% of GDP.
This abysmal level of expenditure on education in India is even less than countries like Tunisia, Jamaica, Maldives and even less than the Occupied Territories of Palestine. (Source: Human Development Report 2007-08). This is a terrible and shameful state of affairs in the country, which the UPA has done very little to overcome.
It has been a long standing demand of SFI that the expenditure on education should be 10% of the total budgetary expenditure of the Central Government. However, during the tenure of the UPA Government, this is far from being achieved. The expenditure on education as a proportion of total budgetary expenditure is still around 4%. Within this, the higher education sector comprises of slightly more than 1% of total budgetary expenditure, while the share of primary expenditure is around 3%. Both these proportions are extremely low.
Primary Education in India
• One of the main flag ship scheme has been the Sarva Shaksha Abhiyaan (SSA), which is aimed at ensuring universal elementary school education for children. It is shameful that the UPA Government has actually reduced the allocation for the SSA since 2007-08. In 2007-08, the total allocation for this scheme was Rs 12020.2 crore, which has decreased to Rs 11933 crore in the interim budget of 2009-10.
• Enrolment ratio in schools has increased but girls’ enrolment has increased only marginally by 1 percentage points, between 2002-03 and 2007-08.
• The enrolment ratio of the socially deprived sections like SC/ST continues to be very less compared to other sections of the society. The enrolment ratio within SC population was only 19.83% in 2007-08, while that of ST population was an abysmally low level of 10.95%
• Even now, there are more than 27% of the schools do not have a pucca building, 13% of schools do not have drinking water facilities, while almost 50% of the schools do not have separate toilets for girls.
All these problems are not insurmountable. It only needed a political will and a higher resource allocation on the part of the UPA Government, which the Government simply refused to do. Rather the private sector has been allowed to come into the elementary education sector in a big way, which is also being celebrated by the Planning Commission. The private sector can never ensure universal education, which has to be a prerogative of the Central Government.
• During the tenure of the UPA Government 15 new central universities have been approved. 6 new IITs and 1 new IIM have come up. While these are welcome developments lot more needs to be done.
• One of the most worrisome problems in the context of higher education is that the share of private unaided higher education institutions increased from 42.6% in 2001 to 63.21% in 2006. (Source: XI Five Year Plan, Vol. 2). This increase in the share of private educational institutions is being celebrated by the UPA Government. However, it has been the experience that such private institutions while charging a very high fee do not provide quality education. However, the UPA Government has been most reluctant to enact any law aimed at regulating the fee structure and admissions in these private institutions.
• Instead the UPA Government wanted to introduce the Foreign Education Providers’ Bill which would have greatly compromised India’s intellectual self-reliance and autonomy and allowed foreign teaching shops. It was only because of the resistance of the student movement and the Left Parties that the Bill could not be eventually passed.
All these policies which are aimed at encouraging private and foreign players in Indian education only show whose interests the UPA Government was serving.
Right to Education Bill
The UPA Government has shown much reluctance to enact the Right to Education Bill which has been pending in Parliament since 2005. This was a crucial commitment made in the NCMP. The Finance Ministry has refused to commit adequate resources for funding universalization of school education. There is an attempt to put the greater burden of expenditure on to the State Governments. The private school lobby is also resisting the legislation because of the proposal to introduce a percentage of free seats in private schools. SFI demands that adequate Central funds should be allocated for ensuring Right to Education and 50% of seats in all private schools should be reserved for poor and needy students from the neighborhood.
Deprived Sections and Education in India
It is welcome that the UPA Government amended the constitution to ensure 27% OBC reservations and 54% seat increase in all Central institutions. However, most of the Universities and other central institutes in the country have not as yet implemented this reservation fully. Secondly, due to a lack of sufficient expansion in expenditure for Higher education, the 54% seat increase is also getting adversely affected. The UPA Government has also failed to implement OBC reservations in state government institutions and private institutions.
The UPA Government introduced and passed the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Reservation in Posts and Services) Bill, 2008 hurriedly in December, 2008. The Bill excludes posts of Professors, Associate Professors and Reader grades in institutions of excellence and in IIMs from reservations for SC/STs and is an insult to the Constitutional guarantee for these deprived sections.
Suppressing Democratic Rights of Students
Despite the Supreme Court directing the Central Government to implement the Lyngdoh Committee recommendation for holding elections in all higher educational institutions, the Government has taken no initiative in this regard. Only 9 out of 26 Central Universities conduct students’ union elections. The rest continue to prohibit students’ union elections depriving lakhs of students of their democratic rights. On the other hand, the arbitrary conditionalities imposed by the Lyngdoh Committee are being misused to jeopardize students’ union elections in various universities. The private educational institutions also do not allow any democratic space for the student community. All these contribute to increasing authoritarianism of the authorities and promote depoliticisation of the students.
Recession, Job Loss and the UPA Government
The global financial crisis is taking its toll on India. Already, it is reported that there have been at least 5 lakhs job losses between September 2008 and December 2008. These job losses are not limited only to the unorganized workers or poor workers. Job losses have been reported in India even in sectors like IT, Banking, Civil Aviation etc. The global financial crisis and the resultant job losses in India is because of the policies of globalization and liberalization. However, the neoliberal ideologues within the Government have gone on a “denial mode”. No concrete steps have been taken by the UPA Government to ensure that retrenchment and job losses do not take place. The Government is today busy advertising 9% GDP growth over the past three years, even as that growth has vanished today and millions of workers and educated youth are facing massive retrenchment, pay cut and unemployment.
The UPA Government came to power with lot of expectations of the people who suffered as a result of the policies of the NDA Government. However, the UPA Government failed to provide any succor to the people. Rather, its policies were grounded in the same neo-liberal framework. As a result, even under the UPA regime the people suffered as a result of anti-people and pro-rich economic policies. This was most evident in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when the Government went out of the way to help big corporate entities but did little for the common people.
The UPA Government also forged a strategic alliance with the USA through the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, which seeks to convert India into a junior partner of the USA. As a result of this deal, the foreign policy of India has become aligned to that of the imperialist USA. Even in the economic sphere, this strategic alliance basically means succumbing to the diktats of the US corporates. This is clearly visible in the moves to open up the banking and insurance sectors to more FDI. The education policy of the UPA has to be located in this overall pro-imperialist and pro-big business thrust throughout its tenure.
The student community has to rise to the occasion to give a fitting rebuff to the Congress led UPA Government for its betrayal. The BJP led NDA cannot offer any alternative because they are wedded to the communal ideology of the Sangh Parivar and are committed to the same set of neoliberal policies. SFI appeals to the student community to unite and fight for a secular, democratic and pro-people political alternative to the BJP and the Congress. That is the need of the hour.
PK Biju Ritabrata Banerjee
President General Secretary
STUDENTS’ FEDERATION OF INDIA
Central Executive Committee
11 Windsor Place New Delhi 110 001. Website: www.sficec.org
Students’ Federation of India organized a Parliament March today on 20th February 2009 to protest against the failed promises of the UPA Government and the betrayal of the student community which had played a crucial role in the fight against the communal BJP led-NDA Government.
Students from 23 states in large number participated in this colourful rally which was flagged off by comrade Sitaram Yechury, former All India President of SFI and member of the CPI(M) Politburo and Member Rajya Sabha. Comrade Yechury in his inaugural address congratulated the students who have gathered from different parts of the country to participate in the march. He pointed out to be a very timely programme which the SFI has taken up. He pointed out that in the last 5 years the UPA had failed to deliver upon its own promises and has not been able to rein in commercialisation of education in the country. He urged upon the students to organize a valiant struggle for secular, democratic and pro-people alternative.
The rally started from Mandi House and concluded at Parliament Street. In a meeting organized there SFI All India General Secretary Ritabrata Banerjee congratulated the participants and explained the ten point charge sheet. He pointed out about the failure of the UPA government regarding the expenditure in education. He noted that how the UPA government has shown reluctance to enact the Right to Education Bill. He urged the students to rise to the occasion and give a fitting rebuff to the Congress led UPA for its betrayal of the aam admi.
SFI All India President P.K.Biju urged the students to reject BJP-RSS combine as they cannot offer any alternative due to their communal ideology and commitment to Neo-Liberal policies. He called upon the student community to unite and fight for a secular, democratic and pro-people political alternative to the BJP and the Congress.
All India Joint-Secretary and West Bengal State Secretary Kaustav Chatterjee, Central Secretariat member and Himachal Pradesh State Secretary Mahender Singh Rana, Former All India Student Leader Albeena Shakeel and DYFI Treasurer Pushpendra Tyagi also spoke on the occasion.
PK Biju Ritabrata Banerjee
President General Secretary
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