New Delhi, Dec 5 : Universities across the country are becoming the hotbeds of unrest, discontent and disillusionment with fee hikes being a major trigger for student protests in most cases.
At a time when there is a huge slowdown in the economy, anecdotal evidence is that jobs are hard to come by. A burgeoning unemployment problem coupled with hike in fees across institutions and universities is leading to unrest and agitation has overtaken learning.
Premier institutes, IIT, JNU, AIIMS and IIMC are all seeing protests by students in the last few months in one form or the other. Teachers in Delhi University are protesting non-payment of 3-month salary and regularization of ad hoc teachers. The BHU has been in a controversy with the appointment of Feroz Khan as teacher for Sanskrit.
IIT Madras has been rocked by the suicide of a Muslim student, and there have been charges of discrimination. IIT Madras is alo facing allegations of discrimination against students and faculty from Dalit communities.
In the most recent incident, thousands of ad hoc Delhi University teachers under the aegis of DUTA gheraoed the office of Vice Chancellor of Delhi University seeking three-month unpaid salary and demanding their regularization. Such was the urgency of the matter that a meeting was held between the agitating teachers and varsity administration which started at 3 a.m. and continued for 6 hours till 9 a.m. without any resolution.
The DUTA teachers have now been given an assurance by the officials of the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry. The Ministry, it seems, is only putting out small fires all over the place. Last week, a high-level committee formed by the Ministry had gone to Jawaharlal Nehru University to hold talks with the students.
Though there are no protests yet in schools, there has been a fee hike by CBSE also for examinations. "The CBSE has increased examination fees of Class X and XII Board Examination 2020, on 'no profit no loss' principle from Rs 750 to Rs 1,500 for all categories of students, including SC/ST candidates for all schools in whole of India, except for schools of Delhi government," HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal said.
On the agitations in universities, Twitter is dominated with hashtags such as feehike, jnu, aims, iimc, iit.
What started as a protest against fee hikes is metamorphosing into a war cry by the students to protect public funded education. This implies low fees, opportunities for those who cannot afford and empowerment of the deprived sections.
This has a economic and social element to the agitations where the aspirations of the students which have been fuelled by wild promises are now clashing with the prevailing realities of few jobs and low incomes with the GDP at a 6-year low of 4.5 per cent.
Some MPs of Left parties have pointed out that the Central government is following the recommendations of the Birla-Ambani committee which gave its report way back in 2000 under the then NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Critics say that without saying so, the recommendations of the panel are implemented including fee hikes, setting up of private universities, de-politicisation of campuses and asking universities to generate 25 per cent of fund requirements from internal resources.
Social media is abuzz with chatter over turbulence in various institutions. IIT Delhi Research scholars have expressed solidarity to students who are fighting against the unjustifiable fee hikes.
Netizens have commented, "The abominable fee hike in JNU and IIMC is a glaring example of how trapping students in acres of loans for higher education is the perfect way to keep them busy in this putrid cycle of debt, so that they don't have time to even think about changing the world!!!".
The IGNOU Research Scholars' Association also supported JNU students. "We,IGNOU Research Scholars' Association, New Delhi, stand with #JNU students on the issue of #FeeHike".
A former student from AIIMS Bhopal tweeted, "Back in my college days i paid only 6k as my whole 5 year tuition fee plus hostel and library fee in @AIIMSBhopal. It is going to be 60 k per year soon! Education should be free." A student of IIMC Delhi studying English language journalism tweeted, "It is the duty of the government to provide affordable education to students. (Rs) 1.65 lacs for 9 months course seriously?? It's a public funded education institution".
A twitter user posted "#M_Tech fee is going to be increased by 900%. Almost 2 lakh per year. They think #AIIMS students are ready to pay even if their parents have to sell home or any other property".
A tweeple wrote, "#JNU is on protest, lots of students are getting affected by the fee hike all across India including #IITs, #NLU. Is this the parties have promised in their manifestos?"