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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Politics in Higher Education

The International Milieu

The value of education for exploitative relations under industrial capitalism has been understood for some time. The need for state intervention in education to further the interests of capitalism has been recognized since the nineteenth century.

Another development is the declining profitability of Capital – the crisis of capital accumulation. This crisis has resulted in intensification of competition between Capitals, between national and between transnational Capitals and corporations. This crisis of capital accumulation, as predicted by Marx and Engels (1848) has led to the intensification of the extraction of surplus value, the progressing global immiseration of workers, and the intensification of control of populations by the ideological and repressive state apparatuses identified and analyzed by Althusser.

The crisis that engulfed the higher education sector in many developing countries from the mid-1970s in many ways epitomised a much wider socio-economic and political crisis. The balance of payment crisis compounded an uneasy relationship between the rulers and academia. However, addressing the crisis in the 1980s was defined by the emergent neo-liberal mindset. It was also an ideological posture that saw the academy as a domain of a ‘leisure class’ that needed market discipline. Education as a public good was replaced by a commodity logic. The impact of the neo-liberal orthodoxy on the higher education sector, however, varied widely across counties.

Generally, it is economic and social strategies that together constitute the renovation of the old liberal mercantilist ideal. However, those who currently design and implement these policies reject the term ‘neo-liberal’ and use terms such as privatization, decentralization, deregulation, and tax reform to convey the same meaning. In this way, they successfully disown the long ideological continuum from which they have evolved, while simultaneously promoting mercantilist processes as new and diverse.

Neo-liberalism is a paradigm that changes in form but is consistent in content. The paradigm has passed through various stages, including fundamental, institutional, and global. The basic doctrine is built on the belief that the market is the best instrument for assigning resources and meeting human needs. According to this hypothesis, the market would implicitly constitute a self-regulating mechanism. In this way, neo-liberal theory impugned the state as an agent for the redistribution of resources in favor of a specific social sector unable to meet the demands of market efficiency.

The current neoliberal project, the latest stage of the capitalist project, is to reshape the public’s understanding of the purposes of public institutions and apparatuses, such as schools, universities, libraries. In schools, intensive testing of pre-designed curricula (high stakes testing) and accountability schemes (such as the ‘failing schools’ and regular inspection regime that somehow only penalizes working class schools) are aimed at restoring schools (and further education and universities) to what dominant elites – the capitalist class – perceive to be their "traditional role" of producing passive worker/citizens with just enough skills to render themselves useful to the demands of capital.

There have been a number of changes in capitalism in this current period of neoliberal globalization. One development is the growth in service, communications and technological industries in the developed world. One ‘service industry’ is education. As the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) observes, ‘services are coming to dominate the economic activities of countries at virtually every stage of development’ (ICC, 1999, p. 1).

The Indian saplings of the neo-liberal ruling strata were eager to fall on the queue of ‘liberalization of higher education in India’ and so they did.

The Indian Clone

In the 1990’s, media was eager to write an obituary of student movement in India. The quasi politics of neo-liberal agenda tends to De-politicization and in order to attain that they utter some laminations of words. They said, the age of liberalization was an age of aspirations, freedom, of new and exciting possibilities of lucrative employment. They predicted that the youth would have no time or inclination for political activism or idealism. To some extent this was and is true. But sometimes the truth is that more the things change, more they remain the same.

The rejoinder was not at par what they predicted. The streets of India were far busier with rallies and protest demonstrations opposing fee hikes and joy headed privatization and high cost & poor quality of higher education. Anxieties about shrinking of educational opportunity and tide of unemployment have given boost to the probability of protest movements on progressive agenda. The riddle of exploitation sometimes may lead to goal-less, divisive and reactionary movements led by some impulsive student groups or organizations, what are not at all expected as they would conclusively fail to deliver a blow to the fraudulent neo-liberal practices in the higher education sector. Rather they might get abused by the neo-liberal agencies in some way or other. As we have seen that the corporate media finds itself ‘at home’ to highlight the anti-quota agitations where they seem to be in disagreement to face up the realities of students movements on other progressive agenda which tend to ban the liberalization and its aftermath.

Actually, the mainstream commercial media are all eager to deride any critique of liberalization, whether in form of intellectual discourse or in form of students’ politics and protests. Sometimes some the rulers having same intentions show the same attitude to curb the democratic space of educational sector, as it can be seen in the state of West Bengal after the regime change.

Indian students, intellectuals and workers together are being asked to embrace liberalization but they have become more resilient over it, not by chance, rather by choice or more precisely they have left with no other choice but protest. The Indian student fraternity is being exhorted to come of age and jettison the ‘old style of doing politics’ through strikes and protests and ‘public disruptions’, overruling the tyranny proposed the neo-liberal installations in the educational sector. Two decades of liberalization have actually failed to convince India’s students and young people, both intellectually and politically. That is why we can see all round us, how the forms of political mobilization, student militancy, institutional resistance, Union led strikes – that had been stamped ‘past the expiry date’ by the ruling strata, have emerged with a renewed assertiveness and relevance in the political dimension in this country.

In India, ‘restricting activism’ is coming through the neo-liberal prescription of the Lyngdoh Commission appointed by the Supreme Court. The ostensible brief of the commission was to institutionalize the student union election in all higher educational institutions. The model of student unions and leaderships prescribed by the commission was divorced from anything but politics. Democratic students’ representation, in the commission’s view had nothing to do with the political views or grossly with politics.

West Bengal: The state where De-politicization turned De-democratization
Faced with the popular rejection of the neo-liberal agenda, the nation sometimes insisted on inspiring the state either by force or by giving more independence to pass it off as a discourse on welfare and reform. At the same time there had been calculated moves to police the political activities and democratic expressions on higher education campuses. This sort of arrangement may turn disastrous if mal-handled as these kinds of notions require administrative interventions and hegemonic approaches what can lead to boost popular discomfort and protest within the campuses. In states like West Bengal where the TMC led government is all busy in voiding the previous achievements of the earlier rulers with set-piece moves it can be more dangerous. Failing on convincing the educational fraternity with the new agenda basically inspired by the sense of nepotism the government pumped up its stance to pose a new ordinance. As one way to deal with the problem called ‘student protests and politics’ is to crack-down. The means adopted may not be confined to administrative or police interventions and arrest of leaders and banning the elected unions only. Political and anti-social interventions are now a day’s common in this state.

The Lyngdoh prescription or the state initiated new University bill (previously the ordinance), while paying ‘speech’ service to the idea of student unions and student politics, seek to empty student politics from of its transformatory role and ideological responsibilities. Their paternalistic model of student politics tends to treat the youth in a ‘child-lock’ mode when it comes to organizational politics. This is not the say that the political violence on campuses is not matter of grave concern. But the opinion is political violence cannot be eliminated by getting rid of politics. Eradication political violence too needs political organizational demonstrations, movements and ideological interventions. Armed or sponsored interventions by the rulers of the state by independent or anti-social agencies will determinately not suffice to attain the goal.

Intrusion of ruling party led agencies to back their own student organization can never lead to democratizing the institutions rather it inspires the installation of anarchy in the campuses, what we have already witnessed in this state for about the last one year or more.

The experience of the one-year of the TMC-led Government has shown that the entire education system is under tremendous threat. On the one hand we have TMC miscreants in the campus beating up college professors and principals and student activists of opposition organizations, on the other hand we have the entire Government machinery acting in unison the destroy the democratic education system in the state. In the name of establishing democracy and doing away with party-rule, what the Mamata Banerjee Government has done is to try and capture the education sector at any cost. Such brazen nepotism and hooliganism in the education sector have alienated people who were till last year vehement supporters of Ms. Banerjee and her policies.

The CM announced to launch student brigade of TMC on 28th August, 2011while addressing a gathering of TMCP at Netaji Indoor Stadium. She declared that the workers of the student brigade have to work in rural areas and thereafter they will get preference in the process of employment in the Government sector. Such shameless utterance of manipulation is really unprecedented.

Barun Biswas a teacher of Kolkata Mitra Institution had been killed by goons for his protest against the criminal practices in his residential area. The administration of Barasat State University are alleged to have disputes on the B.A. & B.Sc results, students broke into the university and unleashed massive attack and vandalized the campus badly. Going forth the state government has appealed for two-year tenure of the elected students union in colleges, as they are sure that with the terror and anarchy that they have installed in various campuses are not going to stay for a long time and then it would cause popular student protest movements and would set for uprooting the anarchy of TMCP and other ruling party insisted agencies. The government had already shown its bare to support the criminals and goons of their fraternity while accusing the leftist student activists with lame charges. Higher Education is a very sensitive issue to deal with as it engulf with teachers, students and a broad spectrum of the society, so it need much neutral administration to control the governing dynamics, what the new state government is failing to provide.

Here is a list which speaks for it on how the democratic atmosphere of the educational institutions has got severely disturbed during the ruling of the TMC led government:

Educational institutions where the leftist student activists got attacked by the TMC led goons.
Educational institutions where democratically elected leftist students' unions were evacuated forcefully.
South 24 Parganas
 Dinabandhu Andrews College
 Diamond Harbor College
 Jadavpur Sammilani College
 South Barasat College

 Christian College
 Khatra College

 Srirampur College
 Uttarpara College
 Nabagram Hiralal College
 Chandannagar Govt. College
 Arambagh College

 University of Calcutta
 College Street Campus
 Ballygunj Science College
 Asutosh College
 Gurudas College
 Prafullachandra College
 Vidyasagar Women's College
 Medical College

 Galsi College
 Churulia Kabi Najrul College
 Chandrapur College

North 24 Parganas
 Bhairab Ganguli College
 Bongaon Dinabandhu College
 A. P. C. College

North Dinajpur
 Raigunj Surendranath College
 Raigunj University College
 Kaliagunj College

 Rampurhat College

 Alipurduar College
 Dhupguri Sukanta College

 Lalbagh College
 Baharampur Krisnanath College

 North Bengal University
 Siliguri College
 Siliguri Surja Sen College

 Haldibari College
 Toofangunj College

North Dinajpur
 Kaliagunj College
 Itahar College

 Mekhligunj College
 Mathavanga College

 Suri Vidyasagar College
 Suri Mahavidyalaya
 Nanur Chandidas College
 Lavpur Shamvunath College
 Suri L. C. College
 Ilambazar Kabi Jaydeb College

 Panchmura College
 Raghunath Murmu College
 Patrosayor College
 Chatra College

 Kalyani University
 Kalyani College
 Chakdah College
 Krisnanagar Govt College
 Kalyani ITI
 Kalyani Pharmacy College
 Kalyani Engineering College
 D. L. Ray College
 Bethuadahari College
 B. P. C. I. T. College
 Haringhata College

East Midnapore
 Haldia Govt. College
 Haldia Polytechnique
 Vivekananda College
 Moyna College

South 24 Parganas
 Baruipur College
 Maheshtala College
 K. K. Das College
 Jadavpur Sammilani College
 Burul College

 Narsimha Dutta College
 Lalbaba College
 Uluberia College
 Jaipur Panchanan College
 Shibpur Dinabandhu College

 Bahrampur College
 Beldanga College
 Kandi Raj College
 K. N. College
 Islampur Adarsha Mahavidyalay
 Burdwan University
 Burdwan Raj College
 Burdwan Woman's College
 Vivekananda College
 Burdwan Law College
 Burdwan Polytechnique
 Kulti College
 Hat-Gobindapur ITI
 Khandara College
 Durgapur Govt College
 Durgapur Woman's College
 Michael College
 Durgapur ITI
 Asansol B. B. College
 Mankar College
 Ranigunj TDP college
 Burnpur College
 Churulia Kazi Najrul College
 Galsi College
 Burdwan Woman's ITI
 Kanyapur Polytechnique
 Dhatka Polytechnique

North 24 Parganas
 Motijhil College
 Motijhil Rabindra College
 Mrinalini Dutta College
 Panihati College
 A. P. C. College

 Mogra Bagati College
 H. I. T. College
 Chandannagar Govt. College
 Hoogley Mahasin College
 Goghat Kamarpur College
 Srirampur College
 Konnagar College

 RabindraBharati University
 Jaipuria College
 Hazra Law College
 St. Pauls College
 Surendranath College
 Chittaranjan College
 Umeshchandra College
 Anandamohan College
 Vidyasagar College
 Gurudas College
 Gurudas College of Commerce
 Central Calcutta Polytechnique
 Calcutta Technical School
 Vivekananda College
 Harimohan Ghosh College

West Midnapore
 Chandrakona College
 Pingla College
 Narajal College
 Gorbeta College
 Ghatal College
 Keshpur College
 Goaltor College
 Midnapore ITI
It is not uniformity; it is rather diversity what is capable of leading the whole sector of higher education to its apex. We must not speak about de-politicization and stern uniform administration rather we should insist on establishing democracy that is capable of allowing diverse and a whole possible spectrum of approaches and attitudes. The students and youth must get conscious that they are not the ‘helpless playthings’ of administration or the government. The students should keep it in their mind whenever confronting the governmental autocracy that, some protests; some revolutions might be peacefully accomplished as the other way is always available. The leftist student organizations must include it in their propaganda that they are not opposed to any social or educational reform, they are opposing the neo-liberal and anti-people; anti-student reforms only. Moral and ideological convictions are must have things for the student leaderships of this time. Keeping these in mind we must move on to insist on more on more political activism. As the call of the hour, in this state is to maintain the high standard of democratic and academic excellence established in the state through decades of painstaking struggles by all stake-holders in the education sector. The people of the state are the greatest custodian of the educational sector and they will unite against Government sponsored terror and nepotism in the educational arena. While combating this; the students must not forget to vow their opposition to any neo-liberal reform proposal be it national or international.

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