16, Mar 2018 | CJP Team
TISS students from the campuses in Mumbai, Tuljapur, Hyderabad and Guwahati have been on strike since February 21, 2018. Their peaceful protest focuses on issues that have a universal and far reaching impact on the education system in India. The main concern behind the protests is against the withdrawal of fee exemption and waivers to students from deprived and marginalised sections and a 45 per cent hike in fees between the academic years 2013-14 and 2016-2017.
Specifically, the protest of the TISS student community is against the withdrawal by the institute of the waivers under the GOI-PMS scheme for OBC students in 2014 and for SC/ST students in 2016.
CJP unequivocally supports the demands of the students which are:
a. Immediate restoration of fee exemption and waivers to SC, ST, OBC students for all batches (present and upcoming)
b. Financial transparency by TISS administration
c. Complete Hostel and Dining Hall Fees waiver/ exemption to the ST/SC/ OBC (NC) GoI- PMS students for the upcoming batch of 2018-2020 (B.A./ M.A./ Mphil- Ph.D.)
d. Immediately consider demands of students in Guwahati campus on hunger strike
e. Students of current batches in Mumbai, Guwahati and Tuljapur should also be provided the fee waiver
d. Symbolic representation of the office of Dean SPO from SC, ST, OBC category.
CJP appeals to the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) to intervene and ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not denied education due to withdrawal of welfare schemes and benefits. The attitude of the government in executing fee hikes and withdrawal of financial aid to students from socially marginalized sections of society is reprehensible. It retracts from the government’s obligation towards social inclusion in education, and has the effect of disallowing and depriving such students from receiving education and better opportunities.
Need for Affirmative Action in Higher Education
The government’s move towards emphasising and promoting privatisation of education has resulted in shrinking access to the public education system, democratisation of which happened after decades of struggle. India’s central universities and public education system have been originally created and credited for enabling access to education for the widest possible section of Indian society. These blatant moves of this government deviates from these fundamental objectives. In fact it ensures that India moves into an era of deepening inequalities.
Affirmative action for deprived sections and reservation are constitutional rights. Financial assistance in the form of scholarships and fee waivers have played an important role in making education available to the students from marginalised sections. Cutbacks on these measures are no ‘reform’, removal of this financial assistance in fact strikes at the base of these constitutional safeguards.
Funding Cuts help No one
From Hyderabad Central University, to JNU, to Allahabad Central University and now TISS, this regime has a clear agenda. Higher education is under attack. Several public universities and students have been targeted and democratic spaces in campuses are shrinking. TISS, which is a deemed university under UGC, has already faced severe fund cuts, including the withdrawal of funding for centres of Women Studies and Study of Social Exclusion and Policy, in spite of their obvious importance. TISS has also faced threats in 2015 of withdrawal of state funding.
Within this overall cutback and intimidation, the central government’s attitude and that of the TISS administration is most discriminatory. It is aimed at thwarting diversity, democratic expression and inclusive spaces within the campus. Most of all it has forced students of the institution, at a crucial time in their academic year when submissions and exams are in full swing, to continue the protest in the wake of non-resolution of the issues by the administration.
Stop the InjusTISS
From the statement released by TISS students on the 23rd day of the strike, it appears that although talks are ongoing with the administration, all the demands of the students have not been accepted. Just as protests were gaining ground, the GOI-PMS students from the TISS Guwahati campus have gone on hunger strike, a situation that could have been avoided with effective and timely resolution of the issues by the TISS administration. Instead of engaging in meaningful solution oriented communication with the students, the TISS management has tried everything from shutting down the wifi to calling police on campus on March 26 after making a false complaint of property damage against the students.
CJP calls upon citizens from all walks of life to stand in solidarity with protesting TISS students. We believe that the just and fair demands made by TISS students should be accepted immediately and the notification for present and upcoming batch of GOI-PMS students to pay fees should be unconditionally retracted. The TISS administration should take all steps to resolve the issues by offering permanent solutions and to preserve the ethos of social justice in its campuses and as a policy matter.
CJP expresses solidarity with protesting TISS students. We also urge fellow citizens to give strength and solidarity to the protest as the issue that students are protesting involve universal issues plaguing the education system such as privatization of education and government policies aimed at excluding socially marginalised sections from education and undermining social justice.
We urge you to sign our petition to the Ministry to Human Resource Development here:
Sabrang India covered the protests. You can watch a video of the students protest here: