The All India Forum for Right to Education’s March to Parliament,
starting from Ramlila Maidan at 9:30 am and culminating in a Jan
Sansad or People’s Parliament at Jantar Mantar from 1:00 pm to 5:00
pm., was held in Delhi on 21st October 2013.
More than 2500 Educationists, educators and activists representing 52
organizations from 18 states and 20 organizations from Delhi (see the
list below) came together in this action against the commercialization
and communalization of education. They unanimously passed a resolution
(attached herewith) against the increasing pace of closure and merger
of government schools, handing over of government schools to corporate
and private agencies including religious organizations,
contractualization of teaching and non-teaching services, drastic
reforms aimed at facilitating privatization, commercialization and
sharp increases in fees in higher education. They demanded the
withdrawal of ‘higher education’ as a tradable comordity offered by
Indian state to WTO in GATS. A fully state-funded and completely free
education system from ‘KG to PG’, including a Common School System up
to Class XII, and equal opportunity to pursue higher education in
consonance with the Constitution was a core demand of AIFRTE and the
allied organizations. They also expressed deep concern and opposition
to the role of religious fundamentalist forces that are opposed to
equal rights of Dalits, tribals, OBCs, linguistic and religious
minorities, and women.
Participants shared experiences of struggles in their respective
states. In view of the approaching general elections, the March and
Jan Sansad served an important purpose in drawing public attention to
the peoples’ democratic aspirations for a fully state funded system of
quality education for all. It exposed the failure of successive
governments to achieve this goal and warned against the latest attacks
on education under the euphemism of Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
A prominent example that was severely criticized was the fee
reimbursement scheme provided for by the Right to Education Act for
the 25% students from weaker sections to be admitted in profit-making
The united action demanded an immediate stop to neo-liberal policies
and practices aimed at
1) commercialization and communalization of education at any stage of
2) converting education into a profit-making business;
3) using PPP to transfer public funds and assets into private hands;
4) centralization, bureaucratization and corporatization of policy making;
5) offering higher education as a tradeable commodity under the
WTO-GATS regime; and
6) determining the structure, content and purpose of education only to
serve the needs of the market.
On behalf of the Jan Sansad, a delegation will meet the Prime Minister.
Prof. Anil Sadgopal Dr. Vikas Gupta Prof. G. Haragopal
Prof. Madhu Prasad
Former Dean, Faculty Deptt. of History National Fellow, ICSSR
Zakir Hussain College
of Education, DU Delhi University TISS, Hyderabad
21st October, 2013, Parliament Street, New Delhi
All India Forum for Right To Education (AIFRTE)
- The Peoples’ Parliament held on 21st October 2013 at the Parliament Street, New Delhi and attended by the members of various organisations of students, youth and teachers and trade unions; parents’ associations and school-level committees; organizations engaged in the struggle for Fundamental Right to free holistic early childhood care and cost-free education of equitable quality from pre-primary to Class XII and further for equitable access to free higher education as a democratic Right; groups fighting for equal educational rights with dignity of dalits, tribals, OBCs, religious and linguistic minorities, various gender identities and disabled people; scientists, educationists, writers, artists, journalists, researchers and other intellectuals/ professionals drawn from 18 states of India, note with grave concern the following developments in the field of education since the year 2000:
- The 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002 liquidated the Supreme Court’s historic judgment (1993), making education of children up to the age of 14 years a Fundamental Right. This amendment denied Fundamental Right to early childhood care and pre-primary education to 17 crore children under the age of 6 years, made the Fundamental Right of the children in the 6-14 year age group conditional to the requirements of the market and shifted the obligation to provide education to the parents/ guardians.
- The Right to Education Act, 2009, embedded in the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act was designed neither to develop government schools nor to regulate private schools. The Act cynically provided for inferior quality schools and discrimination through multi-layered school system. Further, it had provisions to deregulate fees in private schools and siphon public funds to private bodies through fee reimbursements. Expectedly, the Act has led to large scale closure of government schools and increased pace of commercialization.
- Six Higher Education Bills were introduced in the Parliament from the year 2010 onwards to commercialize and commoditize higher education. These, by their short names, are 1) ‘The Foreign Educational Institutions Bill – 2010’; 2) ‘The Educational Tribunals Bill – 2010’; 3) ‘The National Accreditation Bill – 2010’; 4) ‘The Prohibition of Unfair Practices Bill – 2010’; 5) ‘The Higher Education and Research Bill – 2011’; 6) ‘The Universities for Research and Innovation Bill – 2012. The Bills listed above, if enacted, would a) open floodgates to Foreign Direct Investment in higher education and reduce education into a tradable service; b) tribunalise justice in the field of education and marginalize access to courts; c) privatize assessment and accreditation process resulting in widespread corruption; d) reduce the misleading concept of ‘education service’ to one of transparency which allow transparent plunder; e) establish an ‘Independent Regulatory Authority’ in Higher Education (IRA in HE) in line with WTO guidelines, though with a different name viz., NCHER. This NCHER will be independent from democratic pressures of the people and regulate ‘trade in education service’ in the interest of foreign and domestic corporate houses.
- Government of India made ‘offer’ to the World Trade Organisation in Higher Education Sector which eventually will become‘commitments’ if not withdrawn before the conclusion of Doha Round Trade Negotiations. All the reforms in the field of education, the government intends to bring about, will only establish a legal and institutional framework for operationalization of agreements related to education under General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) – WTO regime.
- At executive level, the governments in different states are taking measures to outsource/ lease/ auction government schools; close/merge government schools; undertake successive budget cuts in public higher education system and open private universities; corporatize policy making; thwart democratic structures and functioning in universities and restrict freedom of student and karamchari unions and teachers’ associations; increase pace of contractualisation of teachers and non-teaching staff and refusal to fill up vacant posts; and dismantle public education system with Right to Education Act, 2009 and Public Private Partnership (PPP).
- The Peoples’ Parliament expresses its deep concern with regard to the communal, casteist and patriarchal ideas; prejudices rooted in language, region and disability; and irrational and superstitious content being promoted through the curriculum in general and text books and supplementary texts in particular; it calls for building an education system that fosters democratic, secular, egalitarian and scientific outlook and values.
- The Peoples’ Parliament is of the opinion that the policies of the various governments at the Centre and in the states are rooted in the following anti-people ideas: a) the state cannot and need not spend its resources for secondary and higher education, even though this will lead to denial of education to the disadvantaged and deprived; b) private agencies, compared to public institutions, can render better, efficient and cost-effective services and, therefore, the limited government funding should go to private agencies rather than to public institutions, even though such perceptions regarding private educational institutions stand against this premise; c) the Constitutional principles of equality and social justice can be replaced by the neo-liberal principle of inclusion, and, therefore, the goal of ‘free education of equitable quality for all’ from ‘KG to PG’ can be replaced by the scheme of either ‘fee reimbursement for few’ or ‘scholarships/ freeships for the few’; d) education is a tradable service rather than being a Right or an entitlement of every child and youth and, therefore, equal provision for all need not be ensured; e) since education is to be viewed as a tradable commodity, profiteering through education is a legitimate objective, just like in any other trade; f) education is a private good and, therefore, it is valid that opportunity for and quality of education one receives is proportionate to one’s capacity to pay; g) education is an industry for producing human resources for corporate and market needs, rather than a social process for building socially harmonious human beings for a democratic, egalitarian, secular and humane society; h) the character of knowledge should be determined by market, rather than by the internal requirements of the discipline or the economic, political and cultural needs of the society. Based on such misconceived premises, the various governments are introducing these so-called ‘reforms’ in favor of trade in education sector. The people of India reject these neo-liberal policies and contend that education cannot be spread in the medium of commerce and trade. Reducing education to tradable service not only denies education to the disadvantaged sections, but also that those who are able to access education do not receive education worth the name. Trade in education develops servile attitude in the youth and such youth will not be able to protect the nation and its democratic polity from external and internal threats. Trade in education reduces society to market, instead of developing education as a process of social development and transformation.
- The long overdue pro-people reforms in higher Education require to be directed at a) abolition of trade in education, b) abandoning the so-called Public Private Partnership (PPP) designed to siphon public funds and transfer public facilities and assets to private agencies, c) strengthening government universities and colleges by providing necessary infrastructure and appointing qualified teaching and non-teaching personnel in adequate numbers, d) democratizing and decentralizing administration in the field of education, e) universalizing school education upto age 18 years and constantly increasing opportunities in higher education to meet the aspirations of the youth and needs of the society, f) building an education system in conformity with the basic values of the Constitution, and g) last but not least, allocating adequate resources to fill up the cumulative gap of public expenditure building up since 1986 through Union and State Budgets.
- The Peoples’ Parliament resolves to struggle for building a fully state-funded and entirely free public education system from‘KG to PG’ in conformity with the values enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution and compelling the State to reconstruct the education system for promoting a democratic, socialist, secular, egalitarian, just and socialist Republic of India!
Delegates on behalf of the Peoples’ Parliament held in New Delhi on 21st October 2013,
1. President of India
2. Prime Minister of India
3. Minister for Human Resource Development, Govt. of India
4. Chairperson, Parliamentary Standing Committee related to Ministry of Human Resource
Leave a Reply