Thursday, 13 April 2017

Brutal Police Lathicharge on Punjab University Campus Injures Dozens of Students

Mega Drive for Commercialisation of Education Underway

66 Students Booked Falsely on Charges of Sedition, Rioting and Destruction of Property

- WSP Reporter/ 11.4.2017

Dozens of Students have been injured, few profusing badly with limbs broken, after the police resorted to a brutal lathicharge on Punjab University Campus today.

Lathicharge was sequel to the use of water cannons and tear gas shells by the police on the campus. Use of violence by the police was completely unprovoked and in response to a peaceful protest by the students.

The students had been protesting on the campus against unprecedented fee hike by the authorities upto 11 times of the existing fee scales, ranging between INR 2000 to 82000.

To water down the astronomical hike, the University authorities lied that the fee hike was only 12.5 percent. By this they meant only the average hike in tution fee.

Fee hike is unprecedented and so steep. For example in B. Pharma course the fee is raised from Rs. 5080 annually to Rs. 50,000/-, in Masters of Journalism from Rs.5290/- to Rs.30,000/- and in Dental course from Rs. 86,400 to Rs.1.50 lakh.

Student protests came up after the news of the Senate of the University clearing the proposal for the fee hike, spread on the campus. Students came out in protest for a strike on the campus.

Police had made preparation for a showdown on the campus and suppression of the student protest by violence. Water cannon, Tear gas shells and lathi wielding companies of armed police awaited near the VC office for students. As the students demanded a hearing by the VC of their grievances against the fee hike and tried to barge their way inside the VC office as VC refused to listen to them, the police unleashed violence. The manner in which police had acted clearly demonstrated that the same was premediated and well planned beforehand.

The decision of the Senate has come after the instructions of the UGC to all Universities signaling withdrawal of all grants by the government to them and demanding that the Universities must become self-reliant. This signaling by the UGC, the body that was formed primarily to decide and disburse the grants to Universities, is an apparent act of self-abnegation, a fallout of the overall policy of the central government to completely pull back from all social funding in public sector, especially health and education.

Last budget has proposed 16.54% cut in budget allocations for education. While the school education sector has got an outlay of Rs 42,219.50 crore for 2015-16, the higher education sector has got Rs 26,855 crore.

The University had been reeling under the financial crunch for long because of the callousness of the successive governments, that includes, not only very low budget allocations, but also erratic payments of the same to the Universities. For last many months, even the regular salaries of teaching and non-teaching employees could not be paid in time for these reasons.

Punjab University, situated in Chandigarh, a Union territory, is by and large a Central University though not so notified. Its annual deficit goes around 546 Crore,  40% of which is financed by Punjab Government while 60% by the Central Govt. through MHRD.

The withdrawal of all grants and subsidies by the government in education sector, especially in higher education, is accentuated by a malicious design to boost the private sector. The big investors, both domestic and foreign, had been eyeing the higher education sector as one of the most profitable sectors with 7 crore aspiring students across the country. Private institutions would get big impetus if the public education funded by the government, gets subverted.

If the government is arguing that the hike would not affect the affiliated colleges, it is for the simple reason that these colleges already have very high fee structures. They had already been working as institutions of self-financing.

The pro-corporate and pro-investor education policy of the central government, pulling out all public expenditure in education sector, in its turn is in compliance of the WTO mandates that make it obligatory upon the subject governments to finish all grants and subsidies in public sector within a time frame. This is in consonance with a new world regime implemented through the global trade agreements like the WTO that debar all national barricading, subsidizing, public funding of social sectors etc. by the member states and instead open them to global exploitation of the capital for profits.

The concept of ‘self-financing’ of public institutions, is not the luxury or choice of the governments. It is imposed upon them by the ever intensifying economic crisis that these governments have so zealously been attempting to hide from the public. The steeply rising repayments of the global loans and spiralling expenditure on defence and security, coupled with ever increasing luxuries of bureaucracy, are compounding the crisis to its zenith. People would be squeezed to pay for this crisis through their nose!

6%-10% of the budget allocations must go to the education at least in order to satisfy the minimum required levels of public education. However the real allocation does not cross even 4%, while expenditure remains even below that. Instead of raising this allocation and expenditure on public education, the big-bourgeois governments propose to wipe it out after gradually reducing it year after year.

Calculated agenda of central government, is to privatize and commercialise education. The commercialisation of education, is part of the overall pro-corporate agenda of the government to subject all public sector and utility services to the profit oriented drive of the big-business.

All out withdrawal from social spending by the government is part of the austerity programs being dictated by the World Bank and IMF. Punjab University is not alone to suffer under the axe of austerity. In Allahabad University also, there is proposal for an increase in the fee upto 3 times alongside drastic seat cut in JNU and at Vardha. The move for privatisation of DU colleges is underway while fellowships in Jadhavpur University are wiped out. 

Private Universities and self-financing colleges are dens of exploitation of teachers and loot of students and hotbed of all sorts corrupt and malpractices. There are no parameters to maintain any academic standards, that includes employment of faculties. Untrained fellows from the same departments are employed on contract for teaching and are subjected to immense exploitation without any job security. These institutions run on extreme loot of the students that go to the coffers of the few who run them, in the form of super-profits.

A considerable part of the whole education sector is already occupied by such private Universities and colleges. Whatever remains of it, is being dismantled in a calculated manner by the governments and the authorities under them.

It is this conspiracy against which the students of Punjab University were forced to struggle and resist.

The Police, in its over-zeal to please the political bosses, booked 66 students for ‘sedition’ besides charging them for various other offences under the Penal Code that include rioting and destruction of property. After an uproar, shamefaced and taking a volte-face later, the police claimed that the charges under sedition would be dropped if no evidence is found.

The ardour with which the government has attempted to suppress the student opposition to its policy of commercialization of education, speaks for itself. It demonstrates beyond all pale of doubt that the pro-business governments would leave no stone unturned to assist the profiteers and destroy whatever is left of public sector and public spending.

Blaming the students for violence, Eish Singhal, the Superintendent of Police, UT, Chandigarh, churned out the white lies that the students had attacked the police first. “We resorted to force after students turned violent” claimed Singhal. However, the videos clearly show that the police was the attacker without even least provocation, only after the students had insisted to meet the VC and tried to enter his office.  

Even after the dispersal of students, police personnel can be heard in video saying that, “some of them should be caught at least to teach a lesson”. The police really taught that lesson by brutally attacking some students.

Those who are arrested by the police are the ones who tried to take asylum inside the Gurudwara on the campus. Police surrounded it and compelled the students to come out and then arrested them, beat them up and falsely charged them for rioting.

Adding further lies, Eish claimed, “Police vehicles were also damaged and five-six police officials have sustained injuries”. All this is police fabrication that has not even a grain of truth.

Echoing the police version, Corporate media blamed the students for violence. Newspapers and media in one voice screamed against the students defending not only the fraudulent education policy of the government but the brutal repression upon the student opposition by the Police too. The PTI, UNI, Business Standard, Times of India, NDTV, Zee TV and all in one voice supported the government and the police. They displayed edited and doctored videos of the incident suppressing the provocative and violent role of the police.

More interestingly the official Student’s Union, Punjab University Campus Student’s Council, PUCSC, and its leaders were exposed for being complacent with the University authorities, after Prof. Dinesh Gupta, Dean of Instructions at the University, told the senate that the Student Union has been kept in loop. Later, justifying the decision of fee hike, PUCSC President Nishant Kaushal, claimed that that, “The body would ensure that enough scholarships and freeships are provided to the students so that no meritorious student is denied education because of his economic background.

This in itself is a fraud upon the students. The scholarships and freeships are limited to 50% concessions in tution fee only while the hike involves far more than tution fee.

The betrayal of the students by their own leaders holding positions in in official Union is no surprise. The Union bosses everywhere are in league with authorities and have become their trozan horses for all malicious drives. Rank and file must overthrow these false leaders and tear apart the official Unions they represent. We must get rid of this malware sooner than later.

While the University administration is citing the anticipated deficit of Rs.244 Crores this year as the underlying the reason behind the fee hike, the students despite police violence are undeterred in their demand for complete rollback of the fee hike.

When it comes to financing the education and health for common man, there is always dearth of funds. However there is no dearth of funds when the same gets spent upon the bogus projects like "Man ki Baat" to the tune of 1100 crores, or the loans of thousands of crores of big-business are waived at one stroke.

Needless to say that capitalism in decay and crisis cannot give the people even this minimum. In countries of backward capitalism like India, the consequences of further survival of it are going to be disastrous for majority of us. Without delay, we have to transcend capitalism to step over to socialism through a revolution from below. This is the only way out of the capitalist loot, exploitation and barbarism!

All deficit of the Universities must be paid from the huge exchequer that Central and State governments collect from the people in the form of various direct and indirect taxes. The very concept of the self-financing the public utilities after paying huge taxes to the governments, must be opposed tooth and nail. Not only the fee and charges for utilities like education and health must not be increased but they must be abolished at all forthwith. Free education and free health services must be available to every citizen without any payments.

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