An Imperialist Agent in Pro-people Garb

Globalization and ‘Left’ Front Government — A Fact-sheet



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Privatisation of Education

Those are the bygone days when the university campuses of west bengal were decorated with slogans against commercialisation of education. The youth comrades of the SFI/DYFI, youth organisations of the CPI(M) were martyred in Kerala while opposing commercia-lisation of education. Whereas in West Bengal they are implementing commercialisation of education, as a part of the liberalisation policies. But unlike others, the CPI(M) has a double face. Its hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Big business and the imperialists are in need of such an education that serves their unhindered production, for maximisation of profits. It serves them in many ways. It creates a social and cultural lease for the imperialists’ penetration. It supplies trained labour as per their necessity. Moreover, it opens a new front for lucrative business.

With globalisation, new industries are emerging. Consumerism is engulfing entire society. Computers are making their way into the suburban and even rural trading centres. Cellular services like cell phones have facilitated fast track communication even in some remote rural areas. All these, demand that the rural illiterate population should be literate to an extent. A survey shows that a literate farmer can increase the sale of fertilisers, seeds or any other items of multinational corporations by 25%. Consequently, imperialist capital does not lag behind to take up the challenge.

This position was marked by the Ashok Mitra education commission report of 1992. It stated that there is a "deficiency of a minimum infrastructure — there are 30% schools with one room, deficiency of teachers are eminent. More than 30% of schools are run by one or two teachers. There is a lack of commitment of the teachers. They are engaged in many economical activities besides education, etc..." The CAG report of 1998-99 also pictured a dismal scenario. It stated that since 1991-92 there have been no grants for primary school education. If such is the situation, then without going into details it can be concluded that this is not a conducive atmosphere for imperialist capital to operate. Consequently, the Overseas Development Corporation of the British government is engaged in the ‘spread’ of primary education. The program started primarily with 5 districts since 1994. Now the area of operation has increased. The State government’s share is 15%of the total expenditure. There are other projects meant for primary education run by the UNICEF. Moreover, the West Bengal government has plans to solve the problem in its own way.

The West Bengal commerce and industry minister has appealed to the NRIs and business houses to build up their schools, thereby justifying private educational institutions right from the primary level. Now, in Kolkata and the suburbs numerous kindergarten and Montessori schools are coming up. These spurious institutes are only hankering after money. They charge huge tuition fees. The government of West Bengal, though in its Commission in 1992 opined against these institutions, it takes no step to control their activities. On the other hand Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is busy training English teachers through the British Council. Moreover, a UK govt organisation, has made clear its real intention with regards to its concern for education. It stated that, "profit-making is the driving force of progress." This profit-making attitude delivers no secured job for the teachers, non-teaching staffs etc.

The government, in line with this, is introducing primary teachers’ recruitment on contract basis for Rs. 1000/per month with no PF or other facilities, under a central govt scheme named ‘Sarba Shiksha Abhijan.’ Thereby the government is legalising the inhuman exploitation of the teachers/non-teaching staffs. It also justifies the hire and fire policy. The school education minister, when asked about this contract system proudly exclaimed that there are 26 lakh graduate unemployed youths and as such there will be no dearth of teachers. Of course, he promised to appeal to the central govt to extend the tenure of contract teachers.42 Oh, what a pity for the teachers and commitment towards education!

The West Bengal government is utilising the noble idea that exists in our society regarding decentralisation, for namesake. Actually, nowadays the World Bank and its allied agencies are using this term to perpetuate their exploitation. In the Bengal case, an idea is cropping up that decentralised education through panchayats is beneficial for the people. But the govt of West Bengal has not spared this example to also champion the cause of globalisation. It is because the panchayat-run schools are sure to face a fund crunch problem. Thus the schools are left prey to fund-sanction/donations from the rural elite or will be forced to increase fees under various excuses.

Thus, the entire programme of primary education, funded and guided by imperialist agencies, seems to enhance the spread of education to an extent. But who will be educated? Despite tall claims, sons and daughters of the privileged families will be educated and others will remain waiting.

Higher education is the sector which has a huge potentiality for profit. Consequently an idea is slowly championed by both the central government and the West Bengal government, that higher education is a waste for society. This idea is paving the path for privatisation, thereby opening a vast area of profit for big business and imperialist capital. The idea becomes further clear if one goes through the report published by the research division of the World Bank’s education and training department. The report stated that "unless educational development becomes less dependent on public funds, developing countries well not be able to tap fully the profitability of further educational development". The report even advised to change the syllabus as per the needs of industries. In order to hide its intention, it argued against subsidised education that "most of the very few who benefit from heavily subsidised higher education comes from relatively wealthy homes."

In this context the CPI(M) is operating from two fronts. Through one action it is working in favour of commercialisation of education, fee hike etc. Through the other, the SFI, its student wing is fabricating a story/logic in favour of fee hike, as a compulsion!43

In West Bengal colleges and universities fee hikes are being carried out. Sometimes the monthly fees, admission fees, examination fees are increased more than 100%. Various colleges under Calcutta University are run by part-time lecturers with minimum salaries per class basis and devoid of any job security. But the fees are very high. In Paskura college, a suburban college, the annual fees for the microbiology course is Rs. 31,000 per month.44

Privatisation of education is so rampant that the state government has even started an information technology college by one business house, without any formal recognition from the All India Council of Technical Education. The annual fees for the said college in the first year was Rs. 40,000. Now, in private colleges the government has decided the fees to be Rs. 31,200 per year. But what about their opposition to the fees hike? Previously, in the 10.10.’85 issue of ‘Ganashakti’, the daily newspaper published by the CPI(M) in West Bengal, it was reported that the teacher’s organisation of the CPI(M), the ABTA, has vehemently criticised the policy of education of Rajiv Gandhi for its business and profit-making orientation. It seems that in real terms the CPI(M) has used that opposition to hoodwink the people! In Himachal Pradesh the SFI agitates against fee hike to tap student support, in West Bengal the same SFI not only supports fee-hike but physically attacks any students who try and oppose it. During the general election of 1996, the CPI(M) published a book titled ‘Merciless Marketisation : Education Under Rao Raj’. Please read in between the lines — CPI(M) is against ‘merciless marketisation’ of education, not against marketisation!

The desperateness of the West Bengal government in pleasing the business houses is further evident in the recent row over the medical college entrance. An eye-wash examination was conducted for the doctors who can pay. It could rake in about Rs. 7 crore into the West Bengal government’s coffers.46 A dental college has already started, owned by one J Singh, on B T Road, Kolkata. It obtained a no objection certificate from the state government. It has fixed the 1st year annual course fees at Rs. 2,90,000/-; Rs. 50,000/- as admission fees and Rs. 40.000/- as refundable caution deposit.47 Still can we say that the West Bengal government is against capitation fees and it is different from states like Tamilnadu or Karnataka where education is on sale like any other commodity?

Previously the CPI(M) opposed the deemed university, the autonomous college or the model schools because they felt these were to promote privatisation, elitism, dual citizenship in education.48 But now they have changed their stand. The Presidency and the St. Xavier’s College of Kolkata are first to apply for autonomy. It simply implies that the colleges concerned, have to look after everything on their own, starting from syllabus to finance. In line with this the Shibpur Engineering College has been turned into a deemed university by the West Bengal Government. A more astonishing fact is that the Bengal Government has withdrawn its objections regarding model schools, a brain child of the IMF-World Bank via Rajiv Gandhi.

It has also started a distance education programme under the open schemes, like the Netaji Subhas University, Vidyasagar University etc. These have minimum costs with maximum profit and no responsibilities.

Vocationalisation is always championed by multinational corporations for supply of trained cheap labour. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya started to ‘impart a ray of light’ for 4 to 5 lakh students appearing for the secondary and higher secondary exams. A maximum of students, according to Mr. Bhattacharya, will be in 2nd or 3rd division. For them vocational training will be conducted in schools. A committee headed by Dr. Sparshamani Chatterjee has also been formed. Oh, what a well wisher! In real terms, once the CPI(M) objected to vocationalisation of education, for its imperialist inclination. Now, they have come out in their true colours!

Thus, from each and every aspect education is on sale abiding by the whims and dictums of the IMF-World Bank and by business houses. Now, Birla is setting the trend of computerised education at the school level. The CPI(M) on its own has taken major steps to serve the purpose of globalisation.

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