New Delhi- The National Education Policy and subsequent educational initiatives of the ruling BJP government have faced allegations of being anti-minority, as voiced by numerous intellectuals. Notable figures like Dr. Ratan Lal and Dr. Ritu Singh from Delhi University, alongside student-led organizations, have openly criticized the party's education policies. On January 12, sixteen Left-leaning associations and student organizations, spearheaded by the Students Federation of India (SFI), organized a rally at Jantar Mantar to protest against these policies.
The central government has frequently expressed its position on public education. According to SFI, in addition to totally dismantling the public education system, the government aims to set up a private school system that will further deny access to education to the vast majority of pupils in the nation. The organization considers these concepts to be anti-educational and anti-Indian education's constitutional goal. In order to protest against the same, multiple Left-leaning associations called for the ‘Save Education, Reject NEP’ rally.
The alleged assault on education manifests through various detrimental policies and decisions by the government. The protest highlighted the following points:
Budget Cuts and Scholarship Reduction: Yearly expenditure on education faces consistent decreases in the budget. Moreover, essential scholarships, such as the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Fellowship and pre-matric scholarships for SC, ST, OBC, and minority students, have been discontinued. Allocation for pre-matric scholarships for OBCs, EBCs, and DNTs has experienced a significant 41% cut.
Introduction of FYUP: In several Delhi universities, the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) has been implemented, directly impacting students from marginalized communities. Unfortunately, this move doesn't enhance the quality of education but places an additional financial burden on students.
Fee Hikes Across Institutions:Tuition fees have surged across institutions, including a 115 to 150% increase in IIT Delhi's fees, a 30-80% hike in Delhi University course fees, and an alarming 1,100% rise in the fees of PhD English programs at Delhi University. Notably, 20 out of 45 central universities raised their undergraduate tuition fees for the 2022-23 academic year.
Manipulation of Textbooks: Distortion of history and science textbooks, particularly those published by NCERT, is evident. Recent revisions have eliminated references to Mahatma Gandhi's criticism of Hindu nationalism and entire chapters on centuries of Muslim rule in modern-day India. Fundamental topics like the periodic table of elements, Darwin's theory of evolution, the Pythagorean theorem, and discussions on sustainable management of natural resources have been removed from NCERT tenth-grade textbooks.
Imposition of Restrictive Rules on Protests: To stifle dissent on campuses, vital for nurturing critical thinking and political expression, university administrations have imposed arbitrary rules and fines. These measures aim to deter students from engaging in peaceful demonstrations to voice their concerns and demand their rights.
The Union Secretary of Agrasen College, in a conversation with The Mooknayak, articulated a damning perspective on their involvement in the protest against the National Education Policy (NEP). She unequivocally stated, "The basic structure of NEP is anti-student. I have been campaigning against the policy for 1.5 years now. Due to it, few structures in various colleges are increasing, leading to a number of dropouts which are majorly from the marginalized sections of the society. I have talked to students whose course structure has been changed due to NEP and they have said that their number of core papers have increased. Many unnecessary papers have been added but there is a lack of facility to teach those papers. Reference books are not available in the market for those subjects and even the teachers are finding it difficult to accommodate the new papers."
Santosh, representing the All India Student Federation, expressed strong opposition to the recent policies of the Narendra Modi-led government. He emphatically stated, "Universities are left to fend for themselves for educational funds under the new policy. Then why do we have government and public institutions? India is a socialist democratic country, and as a taxpayer of this nation, it is our duty to keep on questioning the ruling party."
Anagha, secretary of Democratic Students Federation, took to stage to raise slogans against the discriminative practices of the government. She talked about the importance of protests, drawing examples from the farmers movement of 2020. She claimed, “the farmer’s movement has shown us what the parliament does, streets can undo. This is why it is high time for all the opposition forces to get together and bring the RSS-led BJP down from power.”
She continued, “ We remember how CAA-NRC was brought in 2019 to divide the nation along the lines of religion. 8 years ago, Rohith Vemula fell prey to an institutional murder in this very same month. We remember that as well. We remember Kalburgi and remember Gauri Lankesh too. And we will go vote while remembering all of these atrocities that have been happening with us.”
Through a number of posters, the demonstrators have released their list of demands which are as follows:
Reject National Education Policy 2020.
Enact Bhagat Singh National Employment Guarantee Act- Ensure education and employment for all.
Resist fee hikes and ensure free, quality education from kindergarten to post-graduation.
Resist communalization- commercialisation-centralisation of education. Uphold the democratic secular progressive scientific temperament in education.
Protect and create rights and opportunities for Scheduled Castes Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Castes, and other marginalised groups in education and employment. Implement reservation policy in the Private Sector.
Make all educational institutions free from sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Form committees against sexual harassment as directed by the Supreme Court in all educational institutions.
Conduct Students' Union Election in all campuses. Ensure the democratic rights of the academic