AISA's 7th National Conference
AISA's 7th National Conference was held in Kolkata from 8-10 February. On 8 February, AISA activists from 18 states marched through the streets of central Kolkata and assembled at College Street for a public meeting. The meeting started with the rendition of popular songs by Com. Sanjay Tiwari and a dance performance by AISA activists from Karbi Anglong. Com Ravi Rai, National Secretary, AISA, addressed the gathering from 'Bharat-Selim-Tapashi' manch and called for a student movement to resist state repression and Operation Green Hunt and struggling for the right to education and employment. Ramesh Patnaik, educationist and convener of Save Education Council of Andhra Pradesh demanded that education from KG to PG be made free and urged AISA activists to resist Public-Private Partnership in education. CPRM leader Com. Birendra from Darjeeling Hills said that Gorkhas are deemed fit only for guarding the country's borders and are not recruited to high posts. He reiterated his organization's demand for Gorkhaland state and thanked AISA for its support to the Gorkha people's struggle for identity and against discrimination. Com.Partho Ghosh, State Secretary, CPI(ML), called for the students to raise the banner of resistance against the Conference of CMs convened by the Union Home Minister which Kolkata was hosting the next day to give finishing touches to Operation Green Hunt. He also pointed out that Mamata Banerjee's slogan of "change" in West Bengal cannot change the fact that she is firmly behind Operation Greenhunt. Anil Sadgopal, Convener of Save Education Council of Madhya Pradesh, exposed the agenda of 'privatisation' and exclusion of poor students that underlies the UPA Government's rosy promises of educational 'reform' and 'Right to Education.' Nabarun Bhattacharya, Bangla poet, said that restrictions on cultural programmes in Jadavpur University are an attempt on the part of the authorities to intimidate students. Com.Indresh Maikhuri, National President, AISA, spoke of the assaults on campus democracy.
On the second day of the National Conference, the organisational session began at the Triguna Sen auditorium at Jadavpur University with a 'John Henry' ballet mime performance by the Thakurnagar Cultural Association. Comrade Dipankar, General Secretary, CPI(ML), delivering the inaugural address, said that it is the duty of revolutionary student activists to free student politics from the clutches of the establishment and direct it towards the struggle of the toiling masses and for democracy.
Comrade Ravi Rai presented the draft document of the Conference. 309 delegates from 18 states attended the Conference, and discussed the document on the last day of the Conference. The draft was unanimously passed and a 95 member National Council was elected by the house. The National Council elected a 45-member National Executive and a 10 member office-bearer team. A 13-point resolution was also adopted by the house. Comrade Ravi Rai was re-elected General Secretary and Comrade Sandeep Singh was elected President.
Students on the Warpath against ‘Coaching Mafia’
On February 8 at a crowded crossroad in Patna’s Bazaar Samiti area famed for its coaching centres, two students held placards in their hands and raised slogans against coaching centre operator Neeraj Singh who had humiliated them by tearing up their identity cards and throwing them out of class when they asked a question. Within half an hour, thousands of students collected at the crossroads, targeting first Neeraj Singh’s coaching institute and then other such institutes in the area. The ever-swelling flood of students’ made its way to other parts of the State capital. On 9 February, students targeted coaching institutes at Musallahpur, Naya Tola, Lal Bag, and Ramna Road. Coaching institutes run by K Singh and S K Mishra, and Kartar Coaching. A guard in the S K Mishra institute fired and killed a student Sachin Sharma (from Nalanda) on the spot. The killing made the students’ protests erupt in anger.
Students injured in the brutal police lathicharge were dumped in PMCH hospital where they received no treatment. A student Krishnakant Jha from Saharsa succumbed to injuries for lack of medical care.
The upsurge against these coaching institutes is the expression of long-simmering rage within students against commercialisation and sheer loot in the name of education. The episode has again exposed the reality behind the Nitish Government’s tall claims of ‘educational reforms.’ The fact is that a massive education business has mushroomed in the State capital, with a turnover of 1000 crore every year; and far from any government supervision or control, the whole exploitative business has protection and patronage of various ruling class parties. The ‘coaching industry’ is an extremely unscrupulous one – capitalising on students’ aspirations with faked statistics of successes in competitive exams, ads full of falsehoods, and baseless commendations procured by ruling politicians.
Nitish Kumar’s first response to the news of the upsurge was a flippant, “Such things keep happening in Bihar.” Subsequently, he went into damage control mode, hurriedly announcing that a Bill to regulate the coaching industry would be introduced in the next Assembly session and getting the Patna DM to invite student representatives for a discussion.
But weak and superficial measures cannot address the problem – the root of which lies in the government’s policy of promoting privatisation and commercialisation of education.