There has been a sharp decline in the number of students participating in Gandhian studies since 2015-16. According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report 2019-20 released by the Ministry of Education, a total of 753 students are currently enrolled in the MA Gandhian Studies course compared to 872 enrollments in 2018-19, while the enrolment number was as high as 3,840 in 2015-16.
“Except for the Wardha University, the number of students and researchers on Gandhian Thought has substantially come down in the last decade,” the Culture Ministry had informed the PMO at a meeting held on June 22, 2018. Wardha’s Institute of Gandhian Studies had suspended the admission process in 2020 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Gandhian Studies centre in Andhra University was dissolved due to lack of funds, said Prof Ranga Rao, former director of the centre. “The institute offered summer courses on Gandhi to the school children as well as a part-time certificate course on Gandhi’s thoughts free of cost. The aim of the institute was to impart knowledge about Gandhi and his ideology to the young generation. To encourage research on Gandhian thought, the centre also offered two fellowships of Rs 10,000 to MPhil and PhD scholars,” Prof Rao said.
Other universities offering undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate courses in Gandhian studies also have witnessed a downward trend in enrolment.
Covid-19 takes a hit on international students enrollment
Panjab University, which enrolls students from India as well as abroad, also saw a decline in the past two years. However, its course chairperson, Dr Manish Sharma, said that the number of enrolments were down because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Before the Covid-19, our centre attracted students from Iran, Afghanistan, South Africa and other African countries. But the travel protocols have restricted them from returning to the university. Another reason for fewer enrollments can be our selection procedure since the university conducts entrance examinations for admissions to all programmes,” Sharma informed.
The story is similar at Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at Jindal Global University. The centre enrolls a minimum of 15-20 students in Gandhian Studies every semester, including exchange students from China and Afghanistan.
“The exchange students attended my previous classes on Gandhi. They left India because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Presently, there are no exchange students in our centre,” Ramin Jahanbegloo, director of the centre said.
Limited employability opportunities
Prof Rao, the former director of Gandhian Studies Centre at Andhra University said that one of the reasons for fewer students’ enrollment in such philosophical courses is the lack of job opportunities. Apart from teaching and some government exams, the Gandhian studies knowledge cannot be put to use to gain employment.
“Gandhi’s ideology should be promoted in a right way among the youth. His teachings on fearlessness, karma, and satisfaction in efforts are important lessons that will help students in the long run. Government should take steps to make the Gandhian studies programme more relevant in terms of employability,” Rao said.
Dr Manish Sharma, director of the Gandhian Studies department, Panjab University, said that the course is popular among government exam aspirants and those who are keen to study the life of Gandhi.
“Many of our students have qualified for the civil services exam as well as other government exams. The students enrolled with us come from various walks of life, from engineers to philosophers and even retired professionals. Some join the course to gain insights about the life of the father of the nation, some other read the course to perform better in competitive examinations,” he said.
IGNOU’s Gandhian centre raises hopes
While most of the universities reported a decline, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has been witnessing a surge in the number of students applying for the courses. The university offers four courses in Gandhian studies.
In 2017, a total of 170 students enrolled in the four courses, which increased to 231 in 2019 and 643 in 2020. However, this number dipped to 504 in 2021, but the overall improvement is still evident.
The programme coordinator of the Centre for Gandhi and Peace Studies, Prof Satish Kumar said that since four different courses are available in open and distance learning (ODL) as well as online mode, student enrollment is higher at IGNOU.
“We receive queries for admission on a daily basis. One of the many concerns of the students is the scope and future of the course. Our vision is to connect more learners to the Gandhian ideology. In the current scenario of the extraordinary crisis of the pandemic and uncertainty, Mahatma Gandhi acquires a greater significance than ever before,” Kumar explained.
Appreciate Gandhian studies, don’t run after jobs
Naresh Kumar Bhardwaj, 68, is currently pursuing MPhil in Gandhian Studies from Panjab University. Inspired by Gandhi’s teaching of non-violence, the retired executive engineer secured third rank in the university’s entrance exam for the course.
“Gandhi’s ideology had a great impact on my life. I was an aggressive person in my earlier days but reading Gandhi’s books helped me understand the virtue of patience and simplicity. Therefore, I recommend the young generation to study his life, not for the purpose of gaining a job but to learn the ideology of living,” Bhardwaj shared.
Amit Kumar, a navigation officer with the National Shipping Company, took a sabbatical leave to pursue Gandhian Studies. A BTech graduate from IIT Bombay, Kumar was inspired by his international counterparts’ knowledge on Gandhi.
“Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most prominent and honourable Indian names known to people on foreign soil. While I went to many Arab countries, I was amazed by their knowledge on Gandhi and his ideologies. It inspired me to learn more about Gandhi in greater depth and therefore I chose to pursue post graduation in Gandhian studies,” Amit told indianexpress.com.