Wednesday, 30 March 2011 00:00 GFP Columnist - R.L. Francis
Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar had asked the people of the deprived section to have a good education to cut the social slavery, to gain social staus, for economic betterment and political freedom. But, the post-globalisation process has dampened the spirit of the deprived section to get a good education as it has excluded them from the education system. It has strengthened the Brahminical social order and Elite culture in the education sector specially in the professional collages of the country.

The globalization has weakened the state finances of the country. More than 70% of the state exchequer goes for meeting the administrative expenses. This situation has been further worsened with the implementation of the sixth pay commission in the year 2008. The weak state finances has forced the various states to spend less money on the higher education. Very few state owned professional collages – Engineering, Medical and Management – have been opened since the New Economic Policy has been introduced in the country in May, 1991. Instead, the government has adopted a policy to allow the private players to open new collages in these professional streams.

These private professional collages are beyond the reach of the SC and ST students. They claim to follow the guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and provide 15% reservation to the SC students and 8% reservation for the ST students.

But, the fee structure in these collages is so high that it is very difficult for the students of the deprived section to afford it.

For example, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) University in Odisha is one of the popular private educational institution which offers courses in all the professional streams. Its course fee per annum for the four year engineering course is Rs 1,80,000/- and the student has to pay another Rs 60,000/- if he or she opts hostel facilities with food. The total fee for the residential students for the four years course comes around Rs 9,60,000/-. It excludes the project and internship cost which the students have to bear during the said duration. The total cost for completing the engineering course is around Rs 12 lakhs to Rs 15 lakhs. Likewise, the KIIT takes around Rs 6 lakhs towards course fee for the two years management studies which is popularly known as MBA. The students have to bear an additional cost for the boarding, lodging and all other facilities for completing this course.

The fee structure is 30% to 40% lesser in all the one hundred professional colleges affiliated to Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT). The colleges affiliated to the University offer courses in Engineering, Pharmacy, Architecture, MCA and MBA.

The parents of SC and ST students find it very difficult to pay the fee for their children since they can not afford it. The government or these private colleges do not have a provision to give concession in fee to the students of the deprived section.

There are a large number of cases in Odisha where the Dalit and Tribal parents sell their small land holding to fill the huge collage fee. Some were forced to drop their studies during the course period as they were unable to meet the high cost of these professional courses.

The government should make the provision of 50% fee concession to the students of the SC and ST students in these professional courses. The 50% fee concession should be bear equally by the collage management and the government – 25% fee by the college management and 25% by the state or Central government.

The government should also direct these professional collages to take a special personal care for the students of the deprived section because the collage staff of these professional courses are not fully equipped academically. The government should also ensure that the Lab standards are upto the mark. Both the government and the Collage management should also ensure that the students of the deprived section get a proper placement in the public or private sector after completing their courses.

In this backdrop, the Church run educational institutions can play a vital role in the upliftment of the SC and ST students. They are second major stake holders in the educational set up after Indian government.

According to the Church insiders, Catholic Church runs 480 collages (4, 26,784 students); 63 medical and nursing collages (180,080 students); 9,414 seconadry schools (35, 78206 students); 513 traning schools; 900 technical schools; 263 professional institutions and six engineering collages. They also run a large number of schools and all other forms of educational institutions.

Apart from Catholic Church, there are 40 other Christian denominations including the Protestant and the Orthodox Churches that run similar institutions all over the country. One can add 20 to 25 per cent to the Catholic figures to arrive at the total number of institutions run by Christians of different denominations.

Out of 2.5 per cent Christians of the total Indian population of 1.10 billion, 1.6% are Catholics. More than 70% are from the Dalit and Tribal origin. But, these Christian Dalits and Tribals hardly get any place in the educational institutions run by the Church.

Indian Church leaders have been saying that the dalits and tribals are victimized in the Brahminical social order. They claim themselves the champions of the SC and ST community and influence the deprived section to convert into Christianity for better education, health and living standards. It is high time for the Church leadership to fulfill their duty and provide proper higher and professional education to the SC and ST specially the converted Christians at a concessional fee.

Similarly, all other religious and community run collages, institutions and Universities should follow this line of action plan throughout the country. All these private professional collages including Church run institutes should also provide reservation in the teaching staff. Currently, their faculty is packed with the Brahmin led upper castes. They should reserve 15% teaching posts for the SC and 8% for the ST candidates.

All the state government and UGC should have a strict monitoring on the functioning of these collages in India. They should ask these collages, institutes and Universities to submit an annual report on how many SC and ST students have taken admission and how many have completed their courses. Similarly, they should ensure that these collages implement the reservation policy in the recruitment of the teaching staff.

Dr Ambedkar has called upon the deprived section to educate, organize and agitate. The re-Brahminisation of the education system is weakening this process carried by the Ambedkarities. The opinion makers, academicians, activists and the political leaders working for the development of the dalits and tribals should united pressurize the Union and state governments to implement an inclusive higher and professional education policy for the SC and ST students for a holistic development of the country. Otherwise, India will face a strong backlash from the youth of these communities as the discontentment is already simmering among them.

Image Courtesy of WikiPedia - B.R. Ambedkar delivering a speech to a rally at Yeola, Nasik, on 13 October 1935.

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