New Delhi: A protest is taking place in the heart of the capital to save what students believe is the future of higher education in the country. Their vigil in front of the University Grants Commission office has lasted more than two months but has received little media attention, except when the Delhi Police brought down lathis and water cannons on the protesting students.
Faced with media indifference and public disinterest, a group calling itself The Media Collective has created a video explaining the manner in which India’s higher education system is on the verge of dramatic change, and why the issues raised by the OccupyUGC movement are of great importance.
On January 4, the protest entered its 75th day. The vigil outside the UGC started was started by students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Ambedkar University against the UGC’s decision to roll back the stipend due to all Central university MPhil and PhD scholars. The widespread indignation and angry protests led the HRD ministry to step in and stop the roll-back.
However, the ministry also decided to set up a review committee to give these scholarships only to scholars with merit, ignoring their already established worth that comes with getting through a tough admission process. But as the The Media Collective argues, this ‘review’ process is the tip of the iceberg. Rather than a fundamental right or even ‘social service’, education has become a commodity for sale, its quantity, quality and value decided by trade negotiators at the World Trade Organisation. The students involved in OccupyUGC oppose the fallout of these talks, which they say could result in the withdrawal of all government support to Central universities, and financial assistance which is a lifeline for thousands of scholars. Since slogans filled with acronym – WTO, GATS, etc. – made little impact on anyone listening, the Collective has made this video as a crash course in the issues at stake.