Everything is business in the neo-liberal era. Nothing can be of any value until and unless it can be used to make profit. The market is supreme and it should flourish at all costs. This idea is crippling our sense of social responsibility. The never ending budget cuts in social welfare schemes, the bailout packages handed out to the corporate world and tax write offs for the rich clearly indicate where the government’s allegiance lies. The recent attacks on the institutions of higher education across the country are the demonic offspring of this unholy alliance.
Universities in India, and all over the world, have been granted certain autonomy to ensure advancement of higher education and research without undue influence of government or any private interests. University campuses provide the environment that allows their students, faculty, and other personnel to question established ideas, philosophies and concepts; to morph and demolish what existed before and create anew that can be or will be challenged in the future. The human race’s understanding of almost everything has been largely based on this process of re-examining and questioning the pre-existing ideas. This process should not be controlled or curtailed just because it’s not in conformity with the needs of the market that is governed by a very small percentage of the human population. Our universities are meant to create free thinkers and not some pre-programmed bots to follow instructions to a tee.
This is precisely why they become a danger to the system that wants to continue on its path of mindless greed. So, the representatives and beneficiaries of this market economy always try to worm their way into the fabric of universities, be it in the form of interfering with syllabi or with the actual administrative functioning, or by creating a job environment where degrees are more important than education itself. These are the rather subtle ways of attacking the whole philosophy of education but to really shake its roots you have to throw into the mix a few big blows as well.
The present government at the center has decided to change the game completely, they have renounced the subtle ways to control the universities and have resorted to aggressive methods for achieving their goals. The pattern that we have seen in the last year proves that the BJP led NDA government at the center is on a mission to destroy the institutions of higher education in the country and with them the voice of dissent that they provide. They orchestrated reasons to justify their actions with IIT Chennai, University of Hyderabad and, in JNU, they used their all-time favorite flavor called “Nationalism”.
The BJP, and its mother ship the RSS, have their own twisted version of nationalism which they use as a yardstick for measuring everyone’s patriotism. With an issue as emotion driven as nationalism and patriotism it isn’t difficult to find support for this thinly veiled assault on higher education. Which they did amongst the people who are brainwashed to think that Capitalism is a religion and the market is the mighty god and they hold all the answers to their prayers. This brainwashing is precisely why we need an education system that enables us to question rather than follow the paths that have been chosen for us. Our campuses should have all the contradictions and complexes that are present in our society so that there can be a dialogue amongst different ideologies and the people who believe in them. But under the current regime of BJP to question is to sin. We are not to object or we will be held in contempt.
What we are seeing today is a very dangerous alliance between neo-liberalism and communalism. And a weak education system is beneficial to them both. This is why they are creating this hoax that our campuses that are run by the taxpayer’s money should only be focusing on printing out degrees and our students should only focus on their job prospects. If that is not the case then it is all a big waste of our hard earned money. But our universities are not factories where we produce perfect models of ‘yes men/women/others’. Education is not business but it still is a very lucrative sector, however its profits should not be looked for at the bottom of some bank statement but in the hope of a better society. And the hope of a better society is precisely where the taxpayer’s money should be spent.