The “Occupy UGC” movement has been going on for several months. It began with the decision of UGC (University Grants Commission) to discontinue the fellowship of Rs. 5000 to the M.Phil. students and Rs. 8000 to the PhD scholars who have not passed the NET exam. Many of these students have been working with this fellowship for a number of years for their PhD (which of course takes many years to complete).
As it is, the fellowships given were extremely meager. Who can survive on such measly amounts these days? Now the students are left high and dry! Many years spent, no degree in hand and no possibility of continuing their studies without the fellowship! As we go to press the students are peacefully protesting by sitting in the UGC premises, and by organising protest marches on the streets since three months. They have been organising campaigns throughout universities and institutions across the country.
The principal demands of the students are:
– Government should increase and expand the current fellowship
– Government should take measures to stop privatization and commoditization of higher education
– Government should not implement the WTO (world trade organization) treaty on higher education.
In spite of students protesting for such a long time, the
media has paid no heed to the issue, or to the brutal attack on the protesting students by the Delhi Police. Many students were severely injured and kept in the lockup overnight. The fact that women students were molested and manhandled has also come to light.
This decision of the UGC cannot be analyzed correctly in isolation. When inspected carefully with its connection to the WTO treaty on higher education, many things become clear. Teachers and students of universities and colleges across the country are opposing the WTO treaty which will make higher education a tradable commodity. They believe that if the treaty is implemented it will drastically turn
higher education into a profit making business. Main
features of the treaty are as follows.
– A level playing field for all universities and colleges, private or public funded, Indian or foreign.
– The removal of any government regulation over education fees.
– Permission to profit being distributed among the
shareholders (currently not allowed in India as higher
education is in non-profit sector)
The treaty if implemented would make higher education completely out of reach of the vast majority of students. Over the years the Central Government and several state governments have already been cutting back on funding and subsidies to government-run higher educational institutes. The proposal to hike the fees by 80% in IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) is an example.
The decision to cut fellowships is the first step to justify the anti-student concept of “level playing field” for foreign and private universities. Most of the private and foreign
universities will be out of the reach of the vast majority of the youth because of exorbitantly high cost of education in them, while the quality and standards in the existing
government-run institutions will go down due to lack of funding and subsidies as well as migration of teaching staff to private and foreign institutions.
SPARK supports the just struggle of students and teachers for their rights and wishes them success. An attack on one is an attack on all! All the demands of the protesting students and teachers must be met by the government.