Issue :   
November 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         November 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:November' 2018

HIGHER INSTITUTIONS

Turbulence galore

M.R. Dua

Why is it that a majority of India’s celebrated universities and d i s t i n g u i s h e d technical institutes these days are gripped with multiple-layered turmoil and turbulence, playing havoc with the pedagogic environment and research pursuits at prominent seats of learning? Why umpteen and perennial embroilments and agitations are paralyzing regular academic schedules?
Though the current academic session commenced nearly four months ago, skirmishes occur day in and day out on campuses on contentious, and even trivial issues. Beginning from India’s North-East, where at the young Manipur Central University teachers and students have been on a virtual war on a daily basis with the Union Human Resource Ministry seeking removal of vicechancellor Adya Prasad Pandey for several months. Even the pro-vice-chancellor and registrar are under suspension currently. The VC, who has been under suspension until recently, had approached the apex court for relief. Pandey was alleged to have indulged in financial manipulations and irregular appointments. Students’ and teachers’ unions have been demanding his removal for bevy of omissions and commissions.
In the adjoining state of Assam there has been widespread disruptions in universities. There has been prolonged students’ and teachers’ strike in Bodoland University. Eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh University has seen unrest. So is the fate of the north-east’s two upcoming institutions.
Similarly, in Chhattisgarh’s National Law University, students’ unending protests made VC quit recently.
In Delhi University’s newly started school of journalism, students’ are on indefinite dharna due to scarce media laboratories. DU Students Union’s recently elected president is under scanner for alleged poll manipulations.
Jawaharlal University students and teachers are battling with the authorities on one issue or the other, including the limitation of seats for M.Phil. / Ph.D. programmes. JNU’s newly-started school of engineering students are justifiably angry for the lack of infrastructure. restrictions on university hostelers, etc., etc. Haryana’s tiny political outfit. There is uproar in Rohtak’s MD University.
UNIVERSITY girl students have their own disturbing tales of woe. Girls staying in university hostels are subjected to ‘curfew-like’ timings, including ruthless restrictions like return to room before 8pm; no outs
iders’ visits beyond 8pm and daily attendance to wardens. Several other discriminatory rules have been imposed on women studying in the Capital’s Jamia Millia Islamia, DU and other universities’ girls hostels. The ‘’Pinjra Tod’’ – break the cage –a university women group’s movement is demanding non-discriminatory accommodation for female students. They were in the streets urging removal of these restrictions. No such restrictions apply on boys. ‘’DU Girls Against Curfew’’ placards and posters were displayed all over the campus.
These are only a few recent examples of incidents causing waves of unrest on campuses.
A pertinent question arises as to why so many strikes, demonstrations and tumults on campuses? It’s true that students are by nature rebellious and uncompromising on many academic issues and inadequacies of infrastructural shortcomings. Incidentally, during my numerous visits to several universities in America’s states of California, Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois, not once did I come across the kind of protestations and conflicts that we face in India’s universities. Rarely, indeed rarely, are classrooms disturbed, never are teachers found fighting or students seen resorting to violent actions, damaging state assets, staging dharnas, hunger strikes.
Tragically, large-scale politicization of university students, teachers and employees’ strife backed by political outfits, play their nefarious games on campuses.
Delhi’s JNU is a striking instance of such horrendous campus. Jadavpur, Calcutta and Kalayani universities in West Bengal are almost photocopy of the JNU style of provocative agitations and violence. The fact remains that many tall political leaders have emerged from student politics; name any party. Besides, most universities’ academic leaderships result in ruining the academics. It’s largely due to constant partisan and political interference in the universities’ top appointments. Also, the majority of senior faculty are intimately appendixed to political parties, and are therefore active participants in monstrous political games.
Another reason for recurrent restlessness is unplanned and reckless expansion of institutes, schools and universities. Once, most Indian states had only a couple universities and institutes. But, ever since higher education was privatised, establishing new campuses became a child’s play. Thus, unhappy, unsatisfied and uncared for students in these new universities took to streets demanding facilities, like libraries, laboratories, hostels, playgrounds, clean drinking water, plush toilets. The failure to meet such demands naturally leads to disturbed campuses. Such instances galore in northern, southern and western India.
Yet another reason is that whenever new universities initiate teaching innovative technology-based disciplines, the object is to attract students and cash in on novelty of subjects. After these innovative academic neglected recruiting competent and qualified faculty. That caused dissatisfaction and disquiet among students.

Kanaihya Kumar, Shehla Rashid, Umer Khalid Besides, there is unlimited freedom to establish new universities,particularly where none or few existed earlier. Take North-East. Once, there was only one university in Assam at Gauhati. Currently, there are around dozen improvised universities, sans competent faculty and the requisite paraphernalia. In 2010, C.M. Jha university was set up on the outskirts of Shillong, Meghalaya. With political connections in place, in a short time, the millionaire- owner, Chandra Mohan Jha, started‘ selling’ M.A./ Ph.D. degrees, and reportedly minted colossal wealth. Palatial posh campus came up soon. When suspicion occurred widely, the authorities unearthed this fraud perpetrated on students. The outfit was shut down in June 2014 .
It’s be impossible to isolate the country’s political atmosphere from the overall academic moorings on campuses. As today’s young university and college students are tomorrow’s leaders. They keenly observe and absorb wily politicians’ vile tacts and tactics and manoeuvers that they engage in serving their vested interests.
Remember the week-long ruckus that JNU’s doctoral students, Kanaihya Kumar, Shehla Rashid, Umer Khalid and others created. They’re said to be now planning to contest the 2019 general election. So, God save campuses from politicians’ deceitful designs.
Finnally, it’s heartening that in the murky environments, there are some bright spots on some campuses. The good news emanates from IIT, Indore, which recently debuted in global university standing in the 2019 (London) Times Higher Education (THE) world ranking. Though none of India’s universities / institutes figured in the 251-300 grouping, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, continued to lead from India, followed by IIT, Indore, with India’s second highest ranking in 351-400 groupings. IIT Indore, overtook IIT, Bombay, which moved down from 351-400 ranking to the 400-500 position. Though India’s ranking moved up,‘a majority of institutions either stagnated or fell in their positions’ in the 2019 positions.
Hopefully, higher education institutions would ameliorate operations in campuses giving top priority to excellence in academics and research, to stay relevant globally in educational paradigm.

Deepak Nayyar It’s true, as veteran academic Deepak Nayyar, former vice-chancellor of Delhi University, has said that while “every government laments the absence of world-class universities, without realizing that it’s attributable in part to their interventions and growing intrusions of political processes. Where politics is largely kept out as in the IITs, IIMs or the Indian Institute of Science—institutions thrive.’’