Ritabrata Banerjee, All India General Secretary of the Students Federation of India has alleged that the deemed universities in the country are commercialising education.

Mr. Banerjee, who was here to take part in the camp for SFI members, told presspersons on Sunday that the deemed universities had emerged as business centres and did not cater to the education needs of the poor. He added that the State of Chhattisgarh has become a hub of deemed universities. He sought the stopping of grants as recommended by the Yash Pal Committee. He also sought the implementation of the committee’s recent report on improving higher education. (It may be noted that it recommended, among other things, that the deemed university status be abandoned and that all deserving deemed varsities be either converted full-fledged universities or scrapped.)

He said the rate of people opting for higher education in India was very poor compared to other countries. Only nine per cent of the Indians pursued higher education whereas the global average was 20 per cent. Even in Africa, the rate was 20 per cent, he pointed out. He demanded that the Centre should earmark 6 per cent of the budgetary allocations for education.

Saffronisation

Mr. Banerjee also charged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled governments in the country are saffronising education. Stating that the history texts are being altered systematically in the States of Karnataka, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, he demanded a comprehensive legislature to regulate fee structure, admission process and the curriculum. While more and more women belonging to minority communities were taking to higher education of late, efforts were on to keep them away from the mainstream by banning the burkha and other such restrictions. He said the SFI was consistently opposing the saffronising of education.

Mr. Banerjee opposed the Bill for Foreign Education Providers stating that the government wanted to open up the education market in the country to foreign universities. The bill will lead to a situation where foreign universities convert India into an education market without governmental control. The SFI had succeeded in preventing the government from passing the bill in the last 10 years, he claimed.

The president of the State unit of the SFI H.R. Naveen Kumar alleged that the Karnataka government was saffronising education by privatising the mid-day meal scheme. International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which supplied mid-day meal to many schools, was not using garlic, onion and eggs. Besides, children are asked to offer prayers to Krishna before consuming food, he alleged. On the other hand, thousands of poor women employed in preparing food are being rendered jobless as the government had chosen to privatize the mid-day meal scheme.