GSHEC Bill 2016: A Disaster for Higher Education

Untitled 1 Tue, 24 May 2016

GSHEC Bill 2016: A Disaster for Higher Education

In case of Gujarat, there is a huge mismatch between social and economic indicators of development. This becomes clear with analyzing the dismal performance in educational sector in the state, which emanates from regimental approach of RSS towards teaching-learning. Gujarat did not figure in top six states in terms of number of colleges as per MHRD’s All India Survey on Higher Education (2013). The same survey shows that Gujarat’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) and Gender Parity Index in Higher Education are lower than the national average. This picture will become gloomier with Gujarat State Higher Education Council (GSHEC) Bill 2016, which is staple recipe for the government’s total control over state universities and gradual privatization making accessibility to quality education difficult. It is an attempt by the BJP government to ‘snatch’ autonomy of universities and give ‘absolute power’ to the state. Our founding fathers were quite aware of the inherent danger of the government’s control of the universities for the students as well as the society and such moves witnessed stiff resistance from the days of Lord Curzon. When GSHEC bill like proposal was moved by Lord Curzon, Gokhale and Malviya were the moving spirit behind this Congress resolution (1903): “The Universities Bill if enacted will have the effect of restructuring the area of education and completely destroying the independence of the Universities upon which largely depend on their efficiency and usefulness and turning them practically into department of government.

 

This bill was passed on the last day of the budget session of the state legislature without any proper debate and discussion in the absence of the main opposition Congress party. A letter of appeal for turning down this bill was submitted to the Governor Sh O P Kohli citing the precedence of Sh Nawal Kishore Sharma the then governor turning down a similar ordinance brought in 2004 by the Modi government. It was pointed out that overcentralisation trough the bill would adversely affect the quality of education as it gives sweeping powers to the government over all affairs of the state universities.

 

The bill has mainly the following provisions:

 

a) The Gujarat Chief Minister would be the ex-officio president of the council, while the cabinet minister for education would be appointed as the vice-president, and the minister of state for education as the co-vice president

 

b) In total, there will be 15 ex-officio members in the Council, including the CM and the two ministers. Other members include secretaries of Education, Finance, Industries and Labour department, among others. With representation of five VCs only, academician will have very miniscule say in decision-making.

 

c) One of the key functions of the council would be “to carry out effective monitoring of academic/ administrative/financial performance of Universities and affiliated colleges and to recommend remedial measures for better performance”

 

d) The council will also have some sweeping powers to regulate higher education in the state. As per section 15 of the bill, the government can ask the universities to implement reforms suggested by the council

 

e) Further, “it shall be obligatory on the part of the university to implement the directions given by the state government and report the action taken to state government and the Council accordingly”

 

f) The council would also act as a watch dog to monitor illegal and unauthorised education institutes imparting fake degrees. It will also make recommendations with regard to funding to universities, scholarship criteria, development of curriculum and courses, etc.

 

g) The Bill also empowers the Council “to suggest criteria, rules regarding various promotions, for college teachers, principals, university teachers in accordance with the regulations and guidelines of the UGC, or the state government policy,” The bill demolishes the very idea for which such universities stand for. The bill is a big blow on the autonomy of the universities in the Gujarat state so that the party agenda of saffronisation can be achieved easily. The government is not only trying to control the structure, but the content too. The state government has recently sent a circular to the state universities directing to conduct Ph D studies on 82 topics listed therein. They are also trying to doctor the text-books of different subjects. In Gujarat, a school text book on economic thinkers, Gandhiji was included with disclaimer, while Deen Dayal Upadhyay was found inspirational for economic thoughts. Rajasthan Government went a step ahead and erased the name of Nehru as first Prime Minister in the History text book of class VIII. In the same book, there is no mention of murder of Gandhi by Godse. Beside poor readings, the accessibility to schools has become tough as thousands of the government schools were closed down after the Rajasthan government introduced PPP model. The control syndrome seems to be running from top to bottom in BJP and Smriti Irani-led MHRD has been showing over enthusiasm in imposing ‘Gujaratmodel’ all over the country. A letter from MHRD dated 3rd March 2016 tries to reduce the status of statutory bodies like Academic Council (AC) and Executive Council (EC) to a rubber stamp. The letter directs the central universities to submit the agenda of EC to the ministry at least two weeks before the meeting. It also provides for participation of UGC officers in meetings of the statutory bodies. The membership of the statutory bodies is the matter of the concerned university acts and statutes. After taking away the right to frame the syllabuses from AC & EC under CBCS, there is now attempt to regulate the proceedings of the statutory bodies from above. This control-freak atmospherics of higher education is very much antithesis to the vision of our founding fathers about the institutions of higher education producing critical intellectual mass in the society without being dictated by any ideological strand.