अक्तूबर 19, 2010

Education out of Reach for Poor By D.Raja, Mp

In 1915 in a village named Ooruttambalam in Kerala, the great dalit revolutionary Ayyankali took a Pulaya untouchable girl for admission into a Malayalam school. The upper castes refused admission and set fire to the school to prevent the untouchable children from “defiling the educational institution”. This was followed by the first ever agricultural strike in the history of the nation not demanding wage increase but for the right to admission into schools. After a full circle of nearly hundred years and efforts of sixty years of a Indian Republic, education and admission into institutions will be as inaccessible today as for the little Pulaya girl. This time, there will be no question asked on the right to entry, but the question will be as to the cost of education.
As a nation we have passed through the travails of educating the children of Dalits, adivasis, girls and the small and marginal farmers of the rural areas and the toiling industrial workers in the urban areas. But the rich in our country never had this problem. Even the salaried middle class could look up to low–fee structured high quality institutions built by the Government for educating their children. If, the dream of the HRD minister of the United Progressive Alliance-II comes true, the whole of salaried middle class in our country would become debt-ridden to ever-advertising private banks and dormant nationalised banks. In ten years from now there would be no difference between the debt ridden farmers of Vidarbha and Telangana and the English- educated salaried middle and upper middle classes.
One can imagine the plight of parents of those children who took loans to send them to Australia and disturbances of that kind take a heavy toll on the repayment of such loans. The private insurance companies and banks advertise in-between-the-overs on live cricket matches on television, to make the parents get into a debt trap to educate their children. Because of the fact that education from being an almost free service has now become a costly, highly priced , globalised and privatised business commodity that can be put on sale. Unfortunately the Indian middle class seems to be innocently ignorant of the future pricing mechanism that the UPA-II has in store for them. The first of the evidences was the lack of interest and commitment of the UPA-II to implement the 95th Amendment made to the constitution by inserting Article 15 (5) to make education accessible to the Dalits, Adivasis and the Backwards. The amendment made in the right earnest by UPA-I envisaged reservation for all these classes in all government, aided or unaided private educational institution. But this is here not to happen in UPA-II
Because, with the arrival of UPA-II, education has suddenly transformed into a very good sale-able commodity and therefore one can hear statements such as – liberating education from the clutches of the government and something like revamping the scenario of higher education etc. etc. The second of the indications of the things that are to come in future is simply the pricing of the application forms of educational institutions. The price of a mere application form starts from 5000 rupees and is never less than 500 rupees, in private institutions and sometimes even in government run institution. Then how can a student belonging to a below poverty line category whose family income may not be more than 20 Rupees per day, as per Arjun Sengupta’s report, afford one ? And to buy one application form the entire family will have to go hungry for a whole month. The prices of application forms are so high that they are equal to the salary of two people working in daily homes for a whole month. No wonder the intention of UPA-II government is to lead the nation towards making education inaccessible to the poor of the nation, irrespective of the caste.
The humbug of right to education unfortunately is restricted to government institutions and the poor will not have right to entry into any elite public school because neither the government ready to pay up the high fees of public schools nor the elite schools are ready to accept poor children. So, by 2015 again we will have a poor Pulaya girl waiting outside a public school. And by that time the spectre of suicides will shift from the farming communities of Vidharbha to the educated middle class of urban India. Now, whatever UPA-II is doing is strictly following machinations of its HRD minister’s dream to make India a business hub where education is on sale. This is irrespective of the fact of “right to education” survives as a right or otherwise.
Towards achieving these aims and objectives, the Union HRD minister has brought in a bill called The Educational Tribunal Bill which deals with any dispute arising between students and institutions, teachers and institutions and the institutions concerned with any regulatory body. That means there will be more work for the lawyers in our country. They will be dealing with apart from criminal and civil natured cases, such cases of fights between a teacher and a student and students of universities and colleges will be running around court–katchery to solve their disputes on prolonged and unending disposal of cases by the courts. So this is what the UPA government wants! This is what the lawyer turned- Minister wants too !
Next comes the Foreign Education Providers Bills which will allow a foreign institution to operate in our country and probably charge tuition fee either in dollars or in euros and push our foreign-education-crazy middle class running around banks (and money lenders) to pay the tuition fee of such foreign institutions opening shops in India. Now the UPA government doesn’t stop there and is also bringing a bill on Accreditation to allow the entry of private accrediting agencies into the country both foreign and local to go around ranking the private education institutions from one star to five star, so that it will be first, the foreign education institutions and then mostly foreign private accrediting agencies to rank our own institutions. Instead of expanding and increasing the reach of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) which is the premier and highly authentic institution established by the University Grants Commission, based in Bangalore and headed by highly respected academicians like Prof. Goverdhan Mehta and Prof. H.A. Ranganath, the government has chosen to open the doors of this country to road side shops to award accreditation to our business minded private educational institutions.
Again the lawyers in our country will have hands full of work because the government is coming up with another bill, purportedly to contain capitation fee, but is actually a bill to impute criminality to teachers through The Prohibition of Unfair Practice in Technical, Medical, Educational Institutions and Universities Bill. Once passed this bill will allow entry of police time and again, again and again into the educational institutions of the country on one alibi or the other, or on the slightest violation or on even some false information about the facilities and teaching faculty available in the institution. Upon violation of any of the 25 listed violations in the bill, the central government, usurping the powers of the state government, can fine up to Rs. 50 lacs or sentence the teacher up to 10 years. Given an opportunity the police of our country will add up Sections like 420 and IPC sections relating to forgery, to completely criminalise the teachers. This does not mean that there are not errant institutions which try to befool people, but whether such actions demand imputation of criminality will be a very basic question the parliament has to look into. After all education is a field for learning and not for litigation.
Now, it is an entirely different issue which the HRD minister of this country and the UPA government are least bothered about is the rights of the State governments in a federal structure of our country to run educational institutions and regulate them in their states and take decisions in the interest of the linguistic culture and integrity. There will be a day when the nation will have to rue the unwarranted entry of the Central government into the state domain and impose upon them the whims of a HRD minister to cow down, control, regulate, access, accredit, implicate in criminal cases, the education sector in the state governments.
It is due its subordination to WTO, the UPA-II is creating conditions for further commodification and privatisation of education. The UPA –II government is now creating another SEZ – The Special Education Zones, which is for sure will lead to further discrimination and divide between the haves and have-nots in a country where already education is the prime creator of divide between the rich and poor, the rural and the urban. 
CPI Launches Stir to Meet Popular Demands
Samar Bhandari
DEHRADUN: CPI National Council secretary Atul Kumar Anjan called on the people of Uttarakhand to launch a united struggle for a better future. He stressed that only through unity among the masses and continuity in the struggle, the dream of a better Uttarakhand can be turned into reality. He was addressing a rally organized by the CPI state council of Uttaralhand on the eve of completion of the Jan Sangharsh Abhiyan on February 25, 2010.
The Abhiyan was organized by the CPI to spread awareness about the state government’s apathy towards the basic problems haunting the people in the region. The Abhiyan was started on February 1, 2010 in which CPI groups marched through the entire state from two sides of Kumaon and Garhwal Mandals. On February 25, as the rally culminated into a massive rally, Vidhan Sabha was gheraoed by the CPI activists from different parts of the state.
Participants came from every corner of the state with red flag in hand and slogans on lips. Among them, youth and women were in majority.
The demands raised in the rally were against rise in the prices of essentials, for strengthening the public distribution system, to restrain black marketing and hoarding, for proper marketing of agricultural products, enquiry into the failing and incomplete electricity projects, corruption in the Kumbh arrangements, for implementation of NREGA at ground level and to curb the rising criminal activities in the state.
The rally started from Gandhi Park and crossing through Ghantaghar and Rajpur Road, culminated in to a massive rally. Addressing the vast masses, Atul Kumar Anjan pointed out that the policies adopted by Congress and the BJP are responsible for the rising prices. The neo-liberal policies of the UPA-II have destroyed the lives of the farmers and workers. The agrarian sector has been forced to the sidelines and hence, the impending crisis. Atul stressed that the situation can be salvaged only if steps are taken to implement NREGA properly and investment is made in the agrarian sector at a large scale to transform the basic structure. According to him, without these imperatives, no development is possible.
Samar Bhandari, secretary of the CPI state unit said, ‘The state is in the grip of a severe water crisis while the Public Distribution System is in shambles. During our journey, we found that the government has failed to provide even the basic minimum facilities. In Chopta-Ghimtoli-Talla-Nagpur belt of Chamoli district, water has to be supplied in tankers.The state government has always been speaking on the development issues to underline its intention to improve the general quality of life, but no action has been taken to substantiate the statements. In the Assembly sessions the topics that are discussed are concerned with only salaries of the members. The state is already under a debt of Rs 15,000 crore, but nobody is bothered.’ He observed that the situation in the state today has turned explosive because of wrong policies, adopted by the Congress and BJP governments in the state in last nine years. He alleged that Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank government in the state has been emphasizing on advertisement instead of meeting the basic needs of people in the state. While summing up, he said the struggle launched will not be over till the demands are met.
Among others who addressed the rally were state executive members of the CPI Dr Girdhar Pandit, Ravindra Jaggi, Narendra Rawat. National council member Narendra Singh Negi also addressed the assembled.
Among the other prominent persons in the rally were district secretary of Dehradun, Ashok Kandwal, of Uttarkashi, Mahavir Bhatt, of Rudraprayag, LP Bhatt, of Chamoli, Gyanendra Khantawal, of Haridwar, M S Verma, of Tehri Jaiprakash Pandey, of Udhamsingh Nagar, Gurucharan Singh Cheema. The meeting was conducted by Deepak Bhatt. •