Javadekar Vs. Education Mafia
There is no doubt that in Prakash Javadekar, India has an experienced and energetic education (Human Resources Development, to be appropriate) minister. As he has told us, he is committed to the promotion of quality education in the country. Sooner he works for it, better it is. After all, the sordid reality is that not a single Indian University or educational institute ranks in the top 200 of the world. The highest position that an Indian entity occupies in the global ranking of educational institutions happens to be Indian Institute of Science (IISc) at Bengaluru. As per a latest survey (Times Higher Education), IISc found a place in the 201-250 group of best universities. It is followed by Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B), which is ranked in the 351-400 cohort. It
may be noted here that after rating the first 200 universities, Times Higher Education does not assign a particular ranking but sorts them into groups of 50.
What is even worse, the lack of quality in higher education is compounded by the rising-falling standards in Indian schools. Many surveys have been made showing that many students in schools cannot write coherently three sentences and are unable even to solve elementary mathematical questions. And their number is rapidly increasing in an atmosphere when there are school buildings but not teachers and under a system that ensures automatic promotion from lower class to the upper one irrespective of results in examinations. In fact, when such students eventually join the colleges and universities, the educational standards there are bound to reflect them.
Then there is the overall political factor in the country that is dominated by “politics of entitlement”, not “politics of empowerment”. With each passing day, we see more and more demands for reservations not only in governmental educational institutions but also in private establishments. Under this system, people with 30- 40 per cent marks become doctors, engineers, civil servants and teachers, whereas students getting 60 to 80 per cent marks (assuming that those with 80-90 per cent and above marks weather the present system) are deprived of higher education unless they join the private universities or go abroad. The typical governmental response that nobody will suffer and that there will be increase of seats does not hold much water; because every increase of 10 seats implies increase of seven reserved seats in reality.
This is not to suggest that reservation-system or any measures to help the socio-economically backward sections should be done away with. The point is that we must seriously ponder over means that will uplift these sections but without compromising quality and punishing meritorious students just because their parents happen to be from the so-called upper castes. In my considered opinion, this is the biggest challenge that Javadekar faces today.
The challenge for Javadekar is all the more formidable because any remedial measures suggested by him will be vehemently opposed by India’s perception-makers who are overwhelmingly dominated by academicians, artists, journalists and contributors, all molded in what is said to be the Nehruvian framework or establishment – “Left/Liberal/Secular”. This establishment literally hates Prime Minister Modi, BJP or for that matter anybody who has an alternate world-view; they are deliberately building up perceptions that India under the Modi regime is becoming increasingly intolerant to dissents, though the fact remains that they themselves are among the most intolerants in the country.
We witness how students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), particularly those belonging to Maoist and fundamentalist hues, are literally waging a war against the Modi government on some pretext or the other. They think Modi is “saffronising” the education, which they want to remain “red” (communist) for all the time to come. They will have nothing to do with the study of Indian culture, though the world’s top ranking Oxford and Cambridge Universities promote “the study of Hindu culture, religion, Vedanta, Vyakarana and Sanskrit philosophy along with Buddhism, languages, literature, philosophy, history, arts and society, in all periods and in all parts of the world.” These detractors simply do not have patience to listen and counter a different view point.
Take the case of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), for instance. Here, a dominant group of both the teachers and students is spewing fire at Vice Chancellor Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah (retired) for his “crime” of inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the campus on a forthcoming occasion. “Modi has not yet instilled confidence in the Muslim community. The university only invites personalities, who have contributed to academia. Modi has no such contributions. Moreover, there has been no trend of prime ministers visiting the campus. After Jawaharlal Nehru, no prime minister visited the campus. We see no reason behind calling him here,” according to Professor Mustafa Zaida, secretary of the teachers’ association of the AMU.
The same is the case with another university. Jamia Millia Islamia’s decision of calling Modi for the annual convocation has drawn sharp criticism from the dominant section of the students and teachers. This section does not want Modi in the campus because he had made a statement sometime in 2008 against the university “footing bills” towards the legal expenditure of some students associated with the Batla House encounter between Delhi police and terrorists that year.
Now just imagine that intellectuals of the two premier universities (both AMU and Jamia are central universities), fully funded by the central government, are saying that the Prime Minister of the country is a non-entity for them. For them, Modi government, otherwise, has to accede to all their demands – how many scholarships they should get, how much money the universities should have to develop their infrastructures, what they should teach and read and what they should not. But they will not like to see Modi’s face, let alone listening to him, because Modi does not think like them. In other words, they have got all the rights and Modi must listen to them and accede to all their demands, lest he should be declared intolerant through a systematic campaign in a sympathetic media. But they cannot tolerate Modi; they cannot listen to him.
In fact, one of the least discussed aspects in India’ educational system is the growing cult of mafia-raj. This raj wants to monopolise all the educational positions by keeping them the exclusive preserve of those who believe in its philosophy. If you do not agree with the leading lights of this raj, then you will not get any jobs. But if you agree and support them, then they will do everything, even if illegal and immoral, for you. So much so that in premier institutes of JNU and DU, one sees permanent professors apply for filling the vacancies in each other. They get selected but refuse to resign their posts in one university to join the other. Instead, they prefer to go on deputation so that they are able to get additional allowance. The selectors, who are mostly drawn from these two universities and Delhi-based think-tanks, are usually from the same group sharing same outlook on most of the issues. And they approve of this bizarre phenomenon. In the process, they forget that they are narrowing the base of education. And these are the names whose ideas are widely known and predictable. They have nothing new to say, but they will not allow anybody else to say or work on something new.
As I write this, there is the Winter 2015-Spring 2016 issue of the quarterly journal of the India International Centre, arguably the most entrenched establishment of the so-called Left-Liberal elements that dominate the Delhi – establishment. This issue is dominated to the theme of “education”. And imagine what the contributors have written – “elitist” educational establishments(most of our leading universities), dominated as they are by the upper caste people must be reformed”; teachers cannot be asked to go by rules such as taking classes and producing research papers and books for their promotions as it affects their creativity; private universities must be closed down; foreign universities must not be allowed to have their campuses; contributions from the businessmen can be allowed only as philanthropy; the government’s job is only to provide funds but it must not ask for any accountability; persons believing in “nationalism” and promoting “cultural values” of the country must be shown the doors etc, etc.
Strange it may seem, the leading educational administrators of the country, majority of them being “Left-Secular” types, whether they are in the government sector or in the private think-tanks, hardly suffered under the NDA – 1 rule (1998-2004). Notwithstanding all talks of saffronisation, the fact remains that not a single saffronite was appointed the Vice Chancellor in any of the central universities. Whether it is the DU, JNU, AMU and Jamia Milia, most of the VCs under NDA – 1 rule were Left-of-the centre and so-called seculars. Immensely powerful, this mafia is hell bent on preserving their monopoly under the NDA-2, too.
I doubt whether they and their supporters in the opposition parties present in Parliament will ever allow Javadekar to carry out the much needed reforms in the field of education. Indeed, I pity him.
By Prakash Nanda