[This analysis of the Modi Govt.’s policies on education is in two parts. Please see below Part II. To see Part I click here.]

Privatisation and the Entry of Corporates

There was a concerted attempt from the previous UPA government as well to destroy public education, and the BJP government has taken it forward further. The Niti Ayog was mulling public-private-partnership in government schools on the basis of the spurious argument that teacher absenteeism is leading towards lower educational outcome, even as poor quality, lack of infrastructure, teacher vacancies and the presence of untrained teachers were the real reasons for it. They also tried to bring back the discredited voucher system proposed by the UPA government. This however amounts to a system of government subsidisation of expensive private education, ignoring the fact that there is no alternative to increasing government outlays on education in order to provide access to education to the masses. The state governments of BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have tried the criminal act of handing over government schools to private hands at a time when the country is faced with a growing appetite for fresh enrolment, especially from the weaker sections. The Rajasthan government was forced to shelve the proposal in some cases after villagers staged demonstrations against the proposal, and teachers’ associations registered their protest, questioning the government’s intent behind handing over the land and resources to private parties besides imminent fee hikes.

The government has replaced the earlier grants for infrastructural development with loans generated from the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA). The HEFA has already approved projects worth Rs 2,066.73 crore for six IITs, the principal of which would be collected through “internal accruals” which means via fee receipts, research earnings and through industrial partnerships. In a nutshell, the Modi government’s idea of autonomy is nothing but a code word for unbridled commodification through self-financing courses and fee hikes. The proposal of the HRD Ministry to replace the UGC and AICTE with the Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA) is to accelerate the process of commodification of education. All government-run research institutions faced fund cuts during the Modi tenure, which amounted to a vicious attack on the knowledge repository of the country itself.

The idea behind pushing for ‘Institutions of Eminence’ which are kept out of any existing fee regulation guidelines (for both public and private) and reservation policy (only for public institutions) was to smoothen the entry of corporate groups into education. The clauses for ‘Institutions of Eminence’ say that such institutions should offer interdisciplinary courses and conduct research in “areas of emerging technology”. They must have a mix of foreign and Indian students and faculty, with “student amenities comparable with that of globally reputed institutions”. The non-existent Jio Institute promoted by the Ambanis had none of these, but still got the tag. The desperate government justified itself saying that it was a measure to get greenfield projects in education. The preference for the Ambanis has been high on the radars of the BJP government, whether it is in education or in defence, in spite of such deals being blatantly partial.

Impact on Social Justice

The constitutionally mandated SC/ST/OBC reservation in places of higher learning which was given to eligible candidates without any problem all these years stood scuttled under Modi through massive seat cuts. There was continuous attempt to exclude weaker sections, starting from not allocating funds for the post-matric hostels and other hostels for SC/ST students, to reducing the number of fellowships. The central government is yet to transfer large arrears under the post-matric scholarship scheme (a 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme) for meritorious students to the states. The latest figures of unemployment for graduates and above show that unemployment among SC/ST/OBC categories is way above the general category. The latest Supreme Court judgement of suggesting department-wise filling up of SC/ST/OBC posts would further reduce opportunities for them.

The free hand enjoyed by the RSS outfit ABVP in campuses under Modi has been instrumental in the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and in the disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).The then HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya acting upon the ABVP complaint over ASA through their lackeys in the HCU administration, were behind the death of Rohith. The JNU administration hand in hand with the Delhi police didn’t follow up Najeeb’s trail or traceable proof as if to save the RSS-ABVP thugs involved in the case.

Communalisation, Pseudo-science and RSS-ABVP attacks against Universities

Dinanath Batra, convener of the RSS backed ‘Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti’ was asked to write textbooks first in Gujarat and later in Haryana under the BJP. He had sent the National Council for Education and Research Training (NCERT) a five-page list of recommendations on how to make school textbooks less “biased” and more “inspiring”. The suggestions include, no words in English, Arabic or Urdu; the removal of a poem by Pash, a couplet by Mirza Ghalib, extracts from M F Husain’s autobiography and the thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore.

Forums like Indian Science Congress which were earlier used to inculcate and nurture scientific temper are now used to propagate farcical claims by the Prime Minister himself. This prompted the Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan to blast Modi’s claim that “Karna was born using stem cell technology” and the Tripura CM Biplab Deb’s comment that Internet existed during Mahabharata times as pseudoscientific nonsense.

All institutions of critical learning, like JNU and HCU, came under attack. Besides the continuous attempt to change the character of these universities by denying reservations for the SC/ST/OBC students, RSS personnel are being appointed as teachers through corrupt means. In JNU the time-tested mechanism for gender justice, the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) was replaced with a puppet committee of the administration. The government even framed sedition charges against students on the false complaint of the RSS-led ABVP in the campus.

Under the Modi govt., a concerted drive has taken place to pack various educational, academic and research institutions with RSS supporters. For this purpose, all rules and procedures have been flagrantly violated and even ineligible persons, or persons with negligible academic or scholarly competence have become heads of bodies ranging like ICHR to FTII and dozens of universities/colleges. This is not merely nepotism – it is destruction of the institutions themselves because these persons then go about making further appointments from Sangh parivar, introduce regressive policies and change the academic pursuits to align with the communal and backward ideology of RSS.

Rising Unemployment among Educated Youth

The rate of open unemployment among the youth and higher educated has reached 16% by now, with the northern states showing very high rates of unemployment (as high as 8%). The 2015 Labour bureau EUS data suggests that 13.8% of graduates and 12.6% of postgraduates (or higher) were unemployed, which means three to four times than the overall unemployment rate of 3.7 estimated then. The unemployment has affected women more, with the rates among women aged 15-25 years being 16.3%, much higher than for men in the same age group. The government has completely failed in imparting quality education and in providing employment to the youth.