OPPOSING THE central government’s proposal to scrap the UGC and replace it with a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi arguing that the draft legislation if enacted in the present form will have a “major adverse impact” on higher education in general and public funded higher education in particular.
“As it is often said, it does not require an external enemy to destroy a country; destruction of its education system is more than adequate to ensure that outcome. I am afraid that the present draft Bill needs to be withdrawn to avert that eventuality,” he wrote.
He argued that the HECI Bill undermines public trust and educational needs of the people. He said while the concern over “quality” is repeated several times, “equity and access” do not even find a passing mention.
“There is not even token representation of representatives from disadvantaged sections like women, dalits, adivasis, backward castes, minorities or persons with disabilities in the composition of the Commission, while the Industry and Commercial sector has been singled out as a stakeholder and included in the composition,” he said.
The draft Bill, he said, signals a step backwards in the history of higher education policy and regulation. “It is designed to arrest the progressive social transformation that marginalised social groups and classes in India have, since Independence, historically achieved through access to higher education. Through the draft Bill, the central government aims at restoring the exclusive educational privileges of traditionally powerful groups in society and offering a ‘level-playing field’ (as per WTO-GATS diktats) to public and private institutions,” he said.