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What purpose does JNU violence and so many agitations serve? It is a very tragic story not yet fully unveiled and the days and months to come would be severely lost and no public good is likely to be served if the antagonists and the protagonists are to settle their dues in this way.

If the senior political leaders, specially, the Communist party leaders, are to be taken seriously, then, the time has come for someone to tell these gentlemen that this sort of agitation politics at a premier university carrying the great of no less a leader than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who almost symbolizes all that is great and heroic in the country’s glorious heritage, history, the ideals, tolerance, truth and ahimsa etc. would be sadly lost if we, the present generation and the ones that are there to lead them, the senior politicians would be failing in our duties to the great causes for which our freedom struggle was waged with such uniqueness in all of the nations of the world.

This sort of intolerance including those we have seen in the current turmoil is not a worthy emulation. Two innocent ladies were thrown out for the simple reason they held flags opposing the CAA cause!

Now, university education? It is in doldrums, we all can see. The visiting eminent Indian intellectual and economist, the Nobel Laureate, Prof.Amartya Sen lamented at the Infosys Prize distribution ceremony in Bangalore the other day that the current scene in Indian universities is ‘appalling’. Sen had in mind the yet to be resolved violence in the JNU, New Delhi.

With the latest violence at the JNU at the top of the minds of Indians, Sen could have dwelt at some length and the country would have benefited with his superior academic wisdom. Sen observed that the current law, the CAA and its two more related legislations are controversial and widely considered even not constitutional and many hope the Supreme Court would find so. The academic scene in India is even otherwise too bad, really pathetic and in particular the universities are really in a very bad shape. Many eminent educators have been involved and yet the so-called new Education Draft hasn’t seen the light of the day. Education policy making in the BJP governments era has become a standing joke. How many ministers have come and gone and yet the very many drafts are under wraps, for no genuine reasons. Perhaps there is confusion at many levels and the sadder is the fact that the many very competent educationists and the intellectuals are choosing to remain silent for obvious reasons.

Even the new education (HRD) minister, it seems, hasn’t got grips with so many vested interests, besides other issues are bedeviling the critical sector. First, there is widespread corruption in university education and university administration, so many unseemly episodes happening, raids and arrest and even jailing of VCs is now day-to-day news headlines!

The state universities with the incumbent Governors as Chancellors of the State universities are now facing competition for resources and power, both social and political power with the thriving private universities. There are some 900 universities and more than 40,000 colleges with a student strength of 40,000 students.

The State governments nowadays are controlling the universities and given their penchant for favouratism the whole university system is politicized. Private universities have become a menace! You can imagine the quality, the qualifications of an average education minister and the havoc they are wreaking the system. The education ministers brag on public platforms about the gross enrolment ratios in higher education. While we were reading through the news page that reported Prof. Sen’s address; the very same page carried a half page paid advertisement that proclaimed the achievements of a private university that said it all, we thought. There are so many private universities in India at present and their population is bound to go up in leaps and bounds. In particular, the Southern States seem to be in a race.

In TN there is a proliferation of these pseudo institutions already causing havoc! Some of the founders of these shadow institutions have become enormously rich and powerful. They are some of the richest politicians in the State; some run many other related and unrelated businesses, including TV news channels and also got elected to Parliament and run many other dubious activities. Imagine for a moment what sort of academic merit such univerisities can carry when the founders are practicing politicians, nay, even when some of them are film producers of very cheap entertainers!

Lately, they have resorted to conducing high profile public shows of awarding honorable degrees of ‘doctors’, even to the incumbent Chief Ministers. The incumbent Governors of the State, being the Chancellors of the government -controlled universities, the Governors are mute figures only decorating the platforms and thus creating false public images of government and political authority to the functions. These Universities also surreptitiously conduct the Founders’ birthdays this way and outcome of all these dubious activities, in our opinion, is to further debase the genuine educational values a university is supposed to instill in the minds of the pupils, academic staff and on the general public.

It is also unfortunate, that every day we read in the media that some Vice-Chancellor or other is found jailed for misappropriation and some VC’s appointments are invalidated. Besides, university appointments are held invalid by the courts and many corruption cases involving the universities are creating a bad feeling. There are now ceremoniously many other university diversifications announced like distance education, a clear source of bogus degrees awarded with no sound academic scrutiny.

Now, as for real academic merit in the Indian universities, the real test is how far the Indian universities, both in the government and the private sector are attracting students from within India and also from outside. Even now, there is almost an exodus of sorts for Indian students to migrate to foreign lands, not to UK and USA alone, even to neighboring countries like Australia, Germany and even Ukraine(for cheap medical degrees).Yes, there are reports that there is now a reverse trend, the number of Indian students going to USA is even declining. For USA alone, the number is declining from 12.3 percent 2016-17 to 5.4 percent in 2018-19, second only to China. Detailed figures are available to show this declining trend. The point here is that the outside world is changing and yet within India we seem not to have given up this craze for foreign education and also true that the standards of higher education within India are really appalling.

So, what to do in the days and months ahead in the Indian education sector and that too in the higher education sector? No one is talking about education reform in a serious way.

Of course, the men and women who matter in education know of all these ills. They also know well the ways of reforms needed. Urgently, we need to combat the corrupt practices that had already crept into the university education system. Unless there is a determined effort on the part of the Central government to reform higher education with suitable inputs from international faculty the situation won’t change easily. Let us all introspect and speak out.

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