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Updated: July 2, 2013 01:17 IST

A study in myopia

P. Radhakrishnan
Comment (6)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

The UGC’s decision to close its centres for research on social integration is not in keeping with the Constitutional vision for nation-building

The framers of our Constitution were conscious that rigid hierarchies and structured inequalities had dehumanised many sections of the population, excluding them from the mainstream. They wanted to salvage the nation from this at the earliest. So, when the Constitution was framed, it enshrined special provisions to evolve an inclusive, egalitarian society devoid of disparities and discrimination.

India would have become a robust and cohesive, inclusive society in a decade or two after it became a republic had: the special provisions been utilised to frame carefully calibrated, public policies, these policies implemented in earnest, and their implementation been evaluated from time to time.

That even more than 60 years after India became a democratic republic it has not become an inclusive society — leaving its citizens where they were as a part of the fragmented and fractious, heterogeneous caste and communal ensembles that comprised traditional Indian society — is a result of the blatant subversion of the special provisions of the Constitution for vote-bank politics.

Rationale

As though, however, from an epiphany, India’s Tenth Plan affirmed making the country an inclusive society, with the Eleventh Plan reaffirming it. Following this, as a special scheme since 2008, the University Grants Commission (UGC) began establishing Centres for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) in universities across the country; there are 32 centres in 24 States (though going by the UGC’s annual report 2010-2011, there were as many as 35 centres functioning in 35 universities). The UGC’s rationale for starting them made immense sense: social exclusion not only generates tension, violence and disruption but also perpetuates inequality and deprivation in society. In India, certain communities such as the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and religious minorities experience systemic exclusion in the matter of taking advantage of development. Social exclusion is a complex and multidimensional concept with social, cultural, political and economic ramifications. The consequences of macroeconomic policies such as against poverty, unemployment and involuntary migration exclude the victims from economic, cultural, and political activities. The primary spaces where “exclusion” can be studied, understood, and first transcended are our universities, which can and must act as a beacon for society. The UGC, therefore, decided to support research on the issue of social exclusion, which has theoretical and policy importance. The idea — to establish a number of teaching-cum-research centres in universities to pursue these themes.

Shoddy approach

However, the manner in which the UGC went about its task was clumsy and haphazard as though it was establishing departments in universities. It should have networked all the centres, and got nodal agencies to appraise them. This would have ensured that the universities provided them enough elbowroom and ambience for mobility and growth, while periodic reports from the centres would have facilitated collective deliberation and action.

Instead, in a number of universities, staff members were not recruited. To those recruited, the universities did not provide space and infrastructure. In one instance, an assistant director appointed to a centre was deputed by the vice-chancellor of the university as principal of a college, leaving the only other person, the centre’s director, to fend for himself.

Though the UGC’s understanding of social exclusion and inclusive policy was narrow, as though its concern was mainly Dalits — most of the staff members appointed were also Dalits — as a beginning, this approach was acceptable. As the centres began to stabilise and gain a broad understanding of social exclusion and integration, the scope and sweep of their work could have expanded to study other aspects of exclusion and inclusion such as those concerning women, and other socially disabled sections. In fact, when stabilised, the centres could have been ideal places to deal with problems of Left extremism or so-called naxalism, which is a fallout of the state’s failure to enable inclusive governance.

Not much ‘impact’

However, instead of helping the centres overcome teething troubles, the UGC chairman, Ved Prakash, has chosen the easy way out; the 493rd meeting of the UGC of May 10, 2013, approved the recommendation by the Joint Secretary, UGC, K.C. Pathak, to discontinue the centres. It said that the scheme of having the centres had not “taken off” and, therefore, could not make much of an impact; on May 29, Mr. Pathak informed the centres of their discontinuation.

Following a letter on June 6 from the Joint Secretary, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), R.P. Sisodia, citing among other things demands by several organisations not to discontinue the centres, the UGC informed the centres the same day that they would continue until “further orders” — a case of knowledge production in bits and pieces and uncertainty and, to use UGC’s officialese, until “further orders.”

The UGC’s sudden decision to discontinue the centres after projecting them as a beacon of society, which has been dumped after five years, raises a larger question: do its present leaders have a vision for inclusion? If so, what is it?

(P. Radhakrishnan was Professor of Sociology, Madras Institute of Development Studies. E-mail: prk1949@gmail.com)

More In: Comment | Opinion

Let me thank Prof. Radhakrishana for having contributed such a small
piece which has contemporary relevance in Indian soceity. It is
definitely a thought provoking article in the wake of UGC's hasty
decision over the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and
Inclusive Policy in several universities. It examined the processes
and practices of implementing such a great scheme in the history of
UGC schemes. It also brought out the inner mindset of certain people
not to make it successful in University system since these centres
focus on the most neglected issues of our mainstream academics in
Indian university system. It critically analyses human prejudices
against socially excluded and the hegemonic, antipathetic attitude of
traditional mind set thinking people in our society and especially
some of the officials of UGC particularly those who have involved in
such wrong decision and finally could not success in their cruel
efforts. It also suggests the some of the eye opening points.

from:  Dr.A.N.Rao
Posted on: Jul 3, 2013 at 12:40 IST

The distance between theory and practice has to be learnt by politicians.
Theory of appeasement would not work for vote bank politics. This was not
the intention of Constitution makers. We have failed it.

from:  Pankaj Choudhury
Posted on: Jul 2, 2013 at 11:29 IST

Should have been done a long time back. Almost all parties strike vote
bank citing these reasons. Some serious development initiative is
needed.

from:  adithya bharadwaj
Posted on: Jul 2, 2013 at 09:28 IST

The major defect in the Indian Constitution is not in its intent but in its content that is not easy to deliver as course material in schools without provoking social tension within the class. In a democracy it is all the more required that the will of the majority is also is palatable as curriculum at school that is producing both the majority and the minority of the future. Selective administration withholding the controversial part to higher education is cheating and thus our Constitution seldom finds place in any curriculum!

from:  Prof Vijayalakshmi
Posted on: Jul 2, 2013 at 09:17 IST

It is just another confirmation of perpetuation of caste and anti-caste mind-sets in India ! see how persons and not organizations are important in Indian society. These centres were started when the higher offices of UGC and MHRD (and Planning Commission) were occupied by eminent pro-Dalits and rationale of opeining such centres were decalred very meaningful and fruitful for Indian society in general and scheduled castes in particular ! once those persons left, such pro-Dalit actions (centres) appear fruitless ? It is time now to have sustainable strategy and approach towards higher education rather than playing mind-set games by individuals. University Grants Commission should not act as a Commission of Grants by Individuals having certian mind-sets. Albeit, opening of Centres of Social Exlcusion and Inclusive Policies was a decision of pro-dalit mind-set, but assessment of functioning and impact of such centres must not be done by another mind-set but by reasoning and rationale.

from:  Prof. D K Verma
Posted on: Jul 2, 2013 at 08:46 IST

The programme served no useful purpose.it is one of the ways to swindle tax payer
money.

from:  ananda krishnan.m
Posted on: Jul 2, 2013 at 07:17 IST
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