'Occupy UGC' protests continue

Akshay Sharma Delhi


The protests by students against the decision of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to withdraw the Non-National Eligibility Test (NET) fellowship continue in front of the UGC head office, at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in the national capital, and could well intensify in the coming days. 

Student body groups have come out to protest, and their demands have echoed with both teachers and organisations such as Delhi University Teachers Association, who have come out and showed their support.

The demands of those who demonstrate are three-fold: the Non-NET fellowship should not be withdrawn, it should instead be increased, and should be available for students of all state universities as well. 

A National Campaign Committee, formed by the representatives from all the organisations taking part in this protest, has fielded these demands. 

The students have called for a march from the UGC headquarters to the Ministry of Human Resources Development on the 5th of November. Meanwhile, responding to the mounting pressure the government has convened a five-member committee to look into the matter, but the protesting students have rejected this move. "The mandate of this committee is “farcical” and rather than reinstating the fellowship they are trying to introduce new criterias for availing the fellowship," said Sucheta De, National President of CPI-ML. 

These protest has spread like wild-fire, and has now adopted a pan-India movement; demonstrations organised by students in cities such as Guwahati, Hyderabad, Aligarh too are gaining momentum and support. Student leaders from all over the country are either extending support or joining the protesters in Delhi. Richa Singh, the first women to be elected the Allahabad University President, has travelled to Delhi to join the protests. 

While the main focus of the protest is the withdrawal of the fellowship, the rhetoric of the protestors goes beyond this immediate issue and targets what they consider is a bad overall education policy of the government. The protestors and their supporters insist that the government wants to subvert educational institutions of the state to satisfy the demands of WTO. 

"We, are fighting against the commercialisation of education," said Amrita Kumar, National Council member of All India Students Federation (AISF), this according to her is the first step in opposing the takeover of the Indian education system by the WTO. "This move on the part of the government is exclusive, and does not favour students coming from economically weak backgrounds" she reiterated. 

The student unions that lead the protest movement are mainly from the left. However, more and more voices are joining the protests across the ideological spectrum. Leaders such as the Yogendra Yadav, MLA's of the Aam Admi Party and other have come out in support of the protest. Other notable scholars, such as Prof. Chaman Lal and Anand Kumar have too joined the growing voice of dissent.