Tuesday, August 08, 2006

M.A.Baby, Minister for Education in Kerala claimed that the Kerala Professional Colleges Act was A Balancing Act for Justice To All....

Well, can there be justice to all in an unequal society???

I don't think it is possible. In any case, it is Un-Marxist to talk about justice to all in a society that rests on inequality...

And about the Act as such, I hold a different view

The Kerala unit of the Students Federation of India (SFI), an affiliate of the CPI(M), is used to organizing protests. The fact is that unlike in West Bengal, the CPI(M) has not been able to retain power continuously. The party ends up in the opposition too in regular intervals. And every time this happens, the party apparatchiks let loose the boys on the streets provoking the police to ``handle’’ them.

By doing this, the party has gained. At least a few hundred young men and women experience the brutal ways of the police and are made to realise the oppressive ways of the state machinery. This shared experience draws them closer to the party and ensures their lasting association with the party. Apart from being a practical lesson on the repressive nature of the ``bourgeois’’ state, these young men and women end up depending on the party to fight the criminal cases against this helps the party too to co-opt them into the fold. This way, the party has found fresh recruits.

All this did not happen when the SFI resorted to an agitation in the past couple of weeks. Unlike in the past, the agitation this time was not against the Government. It was against those who were in the business of education. With the CPI(M) in power, the police were under instruction to simply watch the show of strength on the streets. So much so, the young comrades were not ``dealt’’ with in the same way as they used to be when the Congress-led UDF was in power. And in this sense, the party lost an opportunity to recruit new members.

The Chief Minister, V.S.Achuthanandan even went to the extent of describing the SFI’s leaders as ill-mannered. He has also said that the agitation was ill-advised and ended up uniting those in the business of education against his Government. That the student leaders had to face all this for having organised an agitation in defence of the Kerala Professional Colleges Act, 2006, piloted by M.A.Baby, now the Education Minister and one of the founder members of the SFI may appear to be an irony. But then, this is merely a reflection of the faction feuds in the Kerala unit of the CPI(M).

The fact is that Achuthanandan was once again taking on his detractors within the party by speaking against the SFI’s agitation. M.A.Baby, for whom the SFI leaders were speaking for, is one of them. Achuthanandan himself is a battle-hardened man and has learnt a lot from the struggles he has had to wage and carry out within the party for his own survival. Recall the fact that he had to do that until days before the nominations closed for the May 2006 State Assembly polls; the party had initially decided against fielding him as a candidate and even if he managed to frustrate that evil design, he was forced to constitute a cabinet including a whole lot of his detractors.

It is a different matter that the SFI leaders in Kerala have shown their inability to learn lessons from the past. After having fought pitched battles with the police when they protested against the setting up of private polytechnic colleges (in 1986), the SFI ended up as passive supporters of the same move when it was resorted to by their own party’s Government in a couple of years. Similarly, hundreds of them face criminal cases and suffer from the wounds inflicted on them by the police (in 2003-04) when they agitated against the decision by the previous State Government to allow private players set up engineering and medical colleges.

And now, they were there on the streets in support of an Act that legitimises private players to set up engineering and medical colleges where the managements are allowed to sell a portion of the seats to the highest bidder! The Education Minister, Baby described this legislation as capable of ensuring justice to all and that it will ensure merit and social justice in the unaided professional colleges.

This is indeed strange. The Act provides sufficient scope for making money out of the enterprise by setting aside at least 30 % of the seats in engineering colleges to the managements to sell it among NRI parents and resident Indians who have the money to buy admissions to their children. And it defies logic if someone claims that this will ensure merit and social justice!

Well. The State Government cannot be blamed for enacting such an Act. It is bound by the Supreme Court’s verdict in the TMA Pai case. Once the party decided in favour of letting in private players in the education business, the CPI(M) could not have done anything different. The Supreme Court had, after all, decried that those who invested money in the education business cannot be denied the right to run it as any other business enterprise. But then, the party could have decided against letting in private players in this business and this indeed was the position that the party had taken until a few months ago.

It is appropriate to recall an event from the distant past involving the communist movement in Kerala in the sphere of education. Professor Joseph Mundaserri, as Education Minister in the EMS Namboodiripad ministry between 1957 and 1959 had moved a Bill in the State Assembly that aimed to stop managements of aided schools in the State minting money while appointing teachers. The Bill was aimed at securing state control over the appointment of teachers in the aided schools. This was found necessary because the managements were making a lot of money at the time of appointing teachers, whose salaries, in any case, was being paid out of the State’s coffers.

This provoked the Church and the moneybags in the education business to organize a violent agitation against the communist ministry that led to the dismissal of the EMS ministry. The first instance of abuse of Article 356 of the Constitution by Jawaharlal Nehru’s Government and done at the instance of the then Congress president, Indira Gandhi! And the Church also decried that Professor Mundaserri be buried among the rogues!

Well, M.A.Baby cannot be compared with Professor Mundaserri and Achuthanandan with EMS Namboodiripad. In the same way, the private players in the education sector are no longer looking for aids to pay the salaries of the teachers as did the schools. Everything is different now!


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