Elitisation and Saffronisation

The two-pronged onslaught on education

Recommendations of Ambani Birla Committee

  • Smart schools equipped with information technology and computer network should be established.
  • Arrangements should be made to impart necessary vocational training at secondary level and above.
  • As an alternative to formal education, remote education should be promoted.
  • Moral education should be emphasised at pre-secondary level and it should also be strongly implemented at primary, secondary and higher education.@q Uniform education system should be adopted at school level but scope for particularly language, history and cultural diversity must be there at regional and local levels.
  • Management of education should be decentralised. Financial and managerial responsibilities of literacy programmes at primary and secondary levels should lie at panchayat level.
  • Syllabus and facilities of educational institutions should be made market-oriented. Funds should be provided to government schools for building, telephone and computer on priority basis. With this, the financial assistance provided to universities should be cut and they should be taken to self-dependence. The syllabi of these institutions should be made up-to-date.
  • The role of government should be limited to fund primary education and make it compulsory and free, fund secondary education to make it compulsory, ensure cent-percent literacy, assist market-oriented education, assist and fund selected higher educational institutions, providing financial guarantee to students to get loan, bring uniformity in syllabus and its quality and plan for educational development. 
  • Institutions getting less governmental assistance or no assistance should be given freedom of imagination in management and in choosing the syllabus.
  • Private University Act should be enacted to open up new universities for imparting education in science, technology, management and finance.
  • Standard of schools, colleges and universities should be assessed from time to time by independent agencies in order to assess their rating and fix their grade like gradation of financial enterprises by Standard and Poors and Crysil.
  • Direct foreign investment should be permitted in education. In the beginning, this should be limited to science and technological education.
  • Indian universities and institutions should be encouraged to attract foreign students. In the beginning, international universities should be set up in our institutions of international fame.
  • There should be an agreement among all political parties to keep themselves away from universities and educational institutions. Political activities in universities and other educational institutions should be banned.
  • The economy should be freed from control, so that a market for education may be developed.
  • At graduate and above levels, research should be encouraged in all spheres.
  • There should be a provision that all trained teachers shall work within rural areas for a specified time. This should be taken as part of teachers’ development.
  • Various programmes should be undertaken to provide alternative education for working and destitute classes.

MANY KEEP wondering what this astrology business is all about. On the face of it, this is unbelievably silly. Is it a passing phenomenon, the outcome of a few saffron zealots, pitch-forked into positions of policy-making, getting carried away with their newly found powers? Just one more misguided step by the upstarts, in line with rewriting history and communalizing the curriculum, that will be rolled back in due course? Perhaps not. Saffronisation is the sordid other side of elitisation – five-star B-schools, state-of-the-art smart schools in IT, million-rupee-a-seat courses in medicine and engineering, in short, a sprawling educational supermarket that is the exclusive preserve of the rich and famous. It is the same saffron regime that champions this elitisation as well. For the middle class, not to speak of the toiling sections, quality education is beyond reach. From nursery schools to institutions of higher learning, both private and government-run, unaffordable fee hikes are a general phenomenon. It is in this backdrop that the saffron hordes have seized control of educational policy-making and administration, from NCERT to UGC, to revise textbooks and curricula to suit the saffron agenda. Superior education for the “best and beautiful” and saffron trash for the rest.

Rajiv Gandhi called the country’s youth “unemployed and unemployable” and set out to restructure the education system to suit liberalizing capitalism, in the name of taking it into the 21st century. His New Education Policy of 1986 has arrived in the 21st century and found its logical culmination in astrology. There is a continuum. Saffronisation is the Siamese twin of elitisation and commercialization. An inbuilt red herring to make it politically sustainable. The innovative strategists of the Sangh Parivar have found a political use for the sprawling state sector infrastructure which they cannot dismantle at one go. It can be used to convert and cultivate minds in a communal way. To make storm troopers out of the “unemployed and unemployable”. The core of Rajiv Gandhi’s strategy has been retained. Going a step ahead, they have undertaken saffron restructuring, following a fascist takeover of massive state resources. The secularists and liberals have been reduced to the sad state of debating whether astrology is a science or not.

To give a picture of totality, we reproduce here the recommendations of the Birla-Ambani Committee, the Prime Minister’s Task Force on education, and also, brief excerpts from a somewhat dated but excellent documentation of the saffronisation of education by Nalini Taneja.

Today the battle is not just to preserve the secular content of education and its accessibility. It is not enough to resist the communal rewriting of history. What is being challenged is science and rationalism. One confident prediction is that the saffron ideologues will bite dust. For they are ranged against, not only history, but also all human progress in the realm of knowledge. One doesn’t need astrology to foretell this.