Millennium Post

A divided and wounded house

I think it’s too early to push for a profit and loss statement on the rolling back of the four-year-undergraduate-programme (FYUP). The Indian talent is exceptional and to excel it hardly matters whether s/he is going to a four-year-degree, three-year-degree or a two-year degree. One of the anti-FYUP votaries, much acknowledged historian Kapil Kumar proudly said that he made it to professorship in Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) despite doing a two-year programme from Meerut College. That’s pretty fine but just wanted to check if Kumar’s gennext too went to Meerut College, if he was so confident of the ability of his alma mater to shape a student’s career.

I picked up Meerut College case not to deride Kapil Kumar’s premise, who was a much loved teacher at Kirori Mal College in our time, but to push forward the point that at the speed our hoary educational institutions in the government sector are falling by the wayside, we would have to give a thought whether after the latest controversy will the Delhi University have enough wherewithal to retain its position of eminence. If there are doubts over it, I wish to blame both who mindlessly pursued its imposition in the first place and those who equally mindlessly pushed for its scrapping.
What worries me most is the ambition of some of the owners of the private colleges in the national Capital affiliated to Indra Prastha (IP) University, who pray for demolition of the reputation of the hoary Delhi University, to accomplish their goal of profit. In fact in the course of the agitation last week, I heard owner of one of the private colleges running courses in engineering, law, management and journalism saying on a radio discussion that there was no problem if the B.Tech course at DU was dismantled as the students could accommodated in the colleges of IP University.

Last year 2,500 students were admitted to the B.Tech courses of Delhi University. Dismantling the course and handing over the seats to the colleges of IP University would mean a golden harvest for the management of these colleges. They have been fighting for past several years to increase the number of seats in their colleges and the crisis at DU is certainly being looked at as a god-sent opportunity by these people.

I wonder how come the Marxist-dominated leadership of the Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) and the rabble-rousers from the All India Students Union (AISA) are unable to see the design of the education sector corporates. If they detested Human Resource Development (HRD) minister under Congress regime Kapil Sibal for his plans to push ‘sub-standard’ foreign universities, they should now fear the prospect of local business houses squatting on the campuses.
However, my criticism of those ‘responsible’ for the rolling back of the FYUP, is no way an endorsement of the policies, rather their execution done by the cohort of vice-chancellor Dinesh Singh. They may blame University Grants Commission (UGC) of changing contours following the change of the government, I wish to remind them that they too indulged in similar
shenanigans in as petty a matter as the appointment of grade four employees.

The warring groups at Delhi University need to come together to save the campus from falling prey to rapacious mediocrity peripatetic on both sides of the divide. Only if the vice-chancellor in his proselyte hurry to introduce the four-year-programme had stopped to hear the voices of academicians who stood as tall if not taller than him in matters of comprehension of the education needs of the country, we would have been saved such misery.

On the contrary Professor Dinesh Singh decided to not just rubbish their opinion but also refused to share dais with eminent historians like Ramchandra Guha for having criticised his initiative. Guha’s talk at Delhi School of Economics’s founder’s day on 17 January this year was cancelled as he refused to give an assurance that he would not criticise the FYUP in the presence of the vice-chancellor. The loss was of the teachers, the students and the campus, who were denied the opportunity to hear an articulate voice on matter of education.

In his celebrated essay, Pluralism in the Indian University, published in the Economic and Political Weekly Guha argues ‘It is commonly argued that the impressive growth rates of recent years will be stalled by poor infrastructure: erratic power supply, pothoted highways, inadequate public transport, and the like. My own view is that India’s economic and social development depends as crucially on a renewal of its higher education system. As we enter our 7th decade of freedom, what we make of ourselves will depend, far more than we presently seem to realise, on what we make of our universities.’ As I have always argued, there always is a ray of opportunity in the darkest of crisis. While some have looked at the FYUP controversy to dismantle DU’s reputation to get greater number of seats for the private colleges, some have fought it to keep status quo in matters of curriculum to let the old text flourish and keep Karl Marx smiling behind his bushy beard and some others would have genuinely grieved over failure of the administration to accommodate varied opinion.

The struggle would have been just and fair but for an absolutely imbecile referee, the chairperson of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Ved Prakash, I would refuse calling him a professor. He has presented to the various dictionary publishing houses through his acts of misdemeanour the best definition of what a weather cock is. Delhi University today stands wounded. I am not confident whether HRD minister Smriti Irani is capable of nursing it back to normalcy. I wish I am proven wrong. The university belongs not just to its politicking faculty and rabble-rousing students’ union but to a large community of its alumni, who take pride in their DU. Pray our pride remains intact.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor,
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