India has always had a compromised, biased, inefficient and lethargic education system. PM Modi in 2014 was a beacon of change for many who thought that a long-sought revamp in the educational sector would be affected, however, not many are happy on the performance so far.
JNU has been an eyesore for the country since 2016 when first signs of frustration among the leftists against the Modi government began to catch the public eye. Similarly, institutions like Jamia Milia, Jadavpur University, AMU, among others have been guided on same lines. The thing about leftists is this – their protests are seldom bereft of violence and targeted harassment of the ‘other’. In a situation where many educational institutions face the brunt of leftist hegemony, one would have expected a dynamic and no-nonsense education minister to get things in order, and that is precisely what is not being observed.
While students who refuse to oblige to the buffoonery of the Left in places like Kerala and West Bengal continue to face unprecedented attacks, the education minister remains a mute spectator, while his primary concern as the minister should be the welfare of the student community in India. When Babul Supriyo was attacked in Jadavpur University for merely attending an event he was invited to by the ABVP, which then spiralled into a massive controversy complemented with blatant violence, what action did he and his ministry take against the perpetrators of such hooliganism? Inaction and massive levels of tolerance by the man towards violent protests are nothing short of cowardice and incapacity to deal with goons in a manner they should be dealt with.
Many would not even be aware of our current HRD Minister. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, MP from Haridwar was appointed as the education minister by PM Modi after the 2019 polls. Many were sceptical of the decision back then, and those fears have now proven to be right, as Pokhriyal is invisible when we need him the most. By invisible it is not meant that he has not spoken on the issue and the prevailing situation, but rather that he is incompetent to hold the portfolio and that the student community of India, who genuinely want to work hard and are not interested in this nonsensical field called ‘student politics’, are being done a great disservice.
On the JNU fiasco, Pokhriyal said, “I have said this earlier also that these autonomous institutions cannot be allowed to become political ‘adda’ (dens). Strong action will be initiated against people involved in such an attack.” It must be remembered that such statements are merely for the sake of not being perceived as a blind observer of the ongoing nuisance. They are met with no change on the ground. Had they have meant something, the JNU problem would have been uprooted when it first began to show effect. We cannot blame Nishank alone, his predecessor too must be held accountable for the same.
Which other country would allow professors of a central university to be harassed and even assaulted by students? However, that is what exactly happens in India, in universities like JNU, with staff members who refuse to toe the majoritarian leftist line.
Contrast the current Education Minister with Smriti Irani, who frankly, during her tenure, kicked leftist butts like nobody else. Who can forget her fiery speech in Parliament after the JNU controversy of 2016? She truly delivered her ministry to the last mile, and did justice to the portfolio she handled. People could reach out to her directly, like they do now, and she would make it her mission to ensure help to them. For reasons best known to the government, Smriti Irani was removed from the post. Many would call it a transfer, however I will mince no words to say that this was a disastrous decision of the Modi government in its first tenure.
Irani was followed by Prakash Javadekar, again, another individual seen inefficient in his handling of the ministry. He also made inane comments in his tenure and proudly proclaimed how the government had not fidgeted with history and that Mughal course was as it was when they had inherited the government from the Congress in 2014, while that was precisely what they were supposed to do – a course correction in the education system, more so in the syllabus. Nevertheless, people were at least aware of Javadekar’s existence as the education minister, unlike the person who holds the post now.
Education has not been in the top headlines, while it should have. A dilapidated system, with almost all students and teachers to this day frustrated with the way how things work were made to further stare at status-quo, while all of them hoped of drastic change.
Violence on campus’ is new. Be it JNU, Jadavpur or Jamia Milia, students creating a ruckus to the extent that the institute begins to resemble a war zone is something which has been let to fester by the current education minister. Where strict action was needed, all that came out was a meek condemnation. Where the situation demanded an iron-fisted solution, all that came out was an apologetic response and the standard ‘action will be taken’ rhetoric. Mr. Pokhriyal must understand that the ‘action will be taken’ period is over, and that the goons on certain campus’ have turned so confident due to the lack of stern action by government that they think of themselves to be owners of universities. While it is understandable that the Minister fears a massive outrage for “infringing upon the free thought of students”, now it is completely up to him whether he wants to sit back as a lame duck or deal with situations like these in a befitting manner.
For all I can remember, PM Modi has never been afraid of doing the right thing, as long as it is right. Pokhriyal must understand that his inefficiency as a minister is now beginning to be questioned and unless he acts in a manner which is befitting of him, we will soon be forced to demand his ouster.