The protests in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have been going on for quite some time now. Though the media is coming up with a number of stories and facts regarding JNU, there is one facet of JNU protests that only very few news pages are talking about. While students are protesting against the sudden hike in fees, news channels are diverting our attention to the age of the students of JNU. Being a doctorate myself, I know very well about the challenges and hardships that any student has to go through to attain the PhD degree; a lot of factors like supervisor, topic chosen, publications etc. have a cumulative affect on the duration of any student’s PhD. Ideally, any person would be completing phd by the age of 27-28 years if he/she had an academic career without any gaps or breaks. In the field of academics, a person attaining the doctorate by the age of around 35 years is considered to be “young”. So it is merely a myth that the students of JNU are in the University campus for the fun just in the name of “subsidized education.”

While talking about subsidized education, an important fact is that a number of countries provide “free education” to their children; so why not India? And why is it that always education is considered as “wasting the tax payer’s money?”. Crores of rupees were invested in building “The Statue of Unity” as well as in all the foreign visits that all the government ministers undertake – so why doesn’t the media talk about tax payers’ money in these cases? Why isn’t tax payers’ money being utilized to provide clean water, proper hygiene and sanitation and most importantly on ensuring women’s safety? Tax payers’ money can be utilized to building and maintaining a 50 feet high flag post on a hill top that can be viewed from the entire city but not for providing proper nourishment to the children dying of malnutrition. And anyone who questions the govt. in these issues, he or she is branded as an “Anti-national!”

JNU is one educational institution that has provided the country with people like Nirmala Sitharaman and from where students crack IAS examinations every year. And if we forget JNU for one second, this same step will be taken soon on all the IITs and NITs! These are the premiere institutions of the country that have shaped up students brilliantly – taught them to voice their opinions, to take correct stand and so on. But steps are again taken to curb such voices who dare to raise questions – but isn’t “Freedom of Speech” our fundamental right?

I came across one news piece where the TV anchor was screaming the words like this – “Mehez 300 rupaye dene me inn students ko problem ho rahi hai – 300 rupaye jo ye log shayad ek din CCD me ek coffee pe kharch kar de!” I just want to say to people with such mindset that how will you know the pain of a family whose monthly income is 1200-1500 rupees? In that amount, the bread earner has to mange rent, food, clothing, educate the children and save some (if possible) for a rainy day too. Places like JNU are the only institutions where brilliant students from the poor section of the country can afford to get educated.  India is not a developed country like the USA or UK – we still have villages where there is no water and electricity. If students from humble background manage to get selected in these institutions, does the govt. want them to quit everything and work as a laborer like their father? We are still a country where people change their tracks if a black cat crosses our path. Is it possible that just by showing the “Antilla (Ambani’s residence)” in Mumbai and ignoring the huge slums in the same city, the govt. can claim to have achieved “Vikas” or development on the global patform?

On one hand the govt.talks about development and bright future but on the other hand they are making means to curtail the education on students who are going to make up “that bright future!” Hypocrisy in its extreme peak, isn’t it? This outrage is not mine alone – it is there the minds of all the “sane minded” Indians but not everyone can voice their opinion, can they?

Dr Ishani Chakrabartty, HOD, Department of Science, PAFGC, Mangalore University


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