ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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For a New Left Party

LETTERS

Issn 0012-9976

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Transition in Higher Education Policy

T
he serious concerns raised by Jandhyala B G Tilak that the transition in the policy directions for expansion of higher education in the country is being guided by the neo-liberal market forces indeed reflect the hard realities of global “consumerism” engulfi ng the so-called “not-for-profi t” education sector (“Higher Education Policy in India in Transition”, EPW, 31 March 2012).

One could see it coming sooner or later with the opening up of the economy in the last two decades. However, the problem lies not so much in allowing private participation in higher education as in monitoring and controlling them. If the proliferation of substandard higher/professional “educational shops” could not be checked in the last one decade or so despite a plethora of legislative measures and the many accreditation system and bodies, it puts a serious question on the working of these bodies, all of which are public institutions.

The past experience of ruthless illmonitored expansion of the Indian higher education system points to the gravity of the issue of “governance” and accountability of these bodies rather than the “source of finance” and “type of management” of higher education institutions.

Also one often wonders why there is very little talk and commitment in policy circles towards revival and improvement of the already existing network of central/ state universities, many of which are like white elephants today, rather than opening many more institutions with poor regulation. The lack of the government’s commitment to ensure this is clearly reflected from Tilak’s article. Surveys and studies have pointed to a clear-cut preference for private education institutions against the public institutions of higher learning, barring a few in the larger cities.

While seats in government universities and colleges are lying vacant, more and more private education shops are thriving because the inflow of students is increasing day by day. Why are people willing to go to substandard private institutions despite higher fees? Why have the public institutions of higher learning failed to

april 14, 2012

reorient themselves to the changing needs of society? Is it apathy, lethargy, a lack of flexibility or autonomy? There is defi nitely a lack of any incentive to come out of one’s comfort zone and take the risk of doing anything new. Is it corruption and malpractices that deter people from innovating and experimenting? These are some important questions that have been around with us for a long time – questioning the very credibility of majority of our public institutions of higher learning.

However, there can be no debate on the fact that expansion of higher education is important for “sustaining growth” be it through public or private fi nancing, but it is the role of the regulatory authorities that will be largely responsible in determining the future direction of the Indian higher education system.

Mona Khare

National University of Educational Planning and Administration

New Delhi

CPI and the Quit India Movement

P
rabhat Patnaik’s assertion that the Communist Party of India’s (CPI) stand on the Quit India Movement was a decision entirely of its leadership is technically correct (“The Left in Decline: A Response”, EPW, 10 March 2012). But the decision was certainly influenced by the Comintern documents on the second world war that were prepared following the Nazi invasion of Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, which were transmitted to the CPI leadership in jail by Achar Singh Chinna who returned to India from Moscow under the instruction of the Comintern leadership headed by Stalin.

The re-evaluation of the August 1942 Indian National Congress resolution that led to the Quit India Movement by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was also decisive in infl uencing the CPI stand.

An inner-party document of the CPI at that time was titled “Our New Line on War

– British Comrades Correct Us” which can be found in Indian Communism: Unpublished Documents 1935-1945 (National Book Agency, Calcutta, 1976). There is also more recent archival evidence to substantiate

vol xlviI no 15

EPW
Economic & Political Weekly

LETTERS

this which has been cited by Shobhanlal Datta Gupta in the second revised and enlarged edition of his 2006 book,

Comintern and the Destiny of Communism in India 1919-1943 (Seribaan, Kolkata).

The CPI delegation met Stalin much later. If Stalin was critical of such a crucial decision as that of the CPI on Quit India Movement as he reportedly told the party delegation, he would have communicated his criticism through the Comintern or the CPGB. I believe M Basavapunniah and Prabhat Patnaik. But Stalin could well have been wiser after the event.

N Madhavan Kutty

Thiruvananthapuram

For a New Left Party

T
he tragedy of the communist movement in India has been its total subservience to the Soviet Union. Whatever direction came from it had to be accepted as a religious gospel to be faithfully implemented. After the second world war when the Soviet Union found that imperialist powers were conspiring to encircle and weaken it, it called upon the Communist Party of India (CPI) to fight to the finish the newly independent Government of India as it considered it to be a lackey of British imperialism and should be dethroned by all means including an armed struggle. The party was badly bruised.

But soon the Soviet Union realised that the bourgeois government in India was not a lackey of imperialism. On the other hand, it wanted to cultivate close friendly ties with Soviet Union to build its economy. There was a complete U-turn in its thinking and it called upon the CPI to build a united front with the Indian bourgeoisie in 1950 as it was anti-imperialist.

Thus began the downhill journey which ultimately turned it into a party of the retrograde bourgeois party to serve the same vested interest and the establishment. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) which ruled West Bengal uninterruptedly for more than three decades could initiate some measures towards an alternative path through empowering the people even in terms of 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution to empower panchayats and municipalities to act as organs of self-rule. Rather than distributing land to the landless even after full compensation, it was more concerned with acquiring land for big corporate houses. It was precisely the unwillingness of the party to empower the people in the real sense that led to its degeneration and decadence.

It appears that capture of power is not a sufficient condition for initiating a process of radical transformation of society. Unless the people are empowered in a genuine manner, the gains of the revolution will be lost and ultimately a coterie in the party will usurp all power.

Hence the path to revolution lies through mass upheaval where the people organise and lead the struggles while simultaneously reining in the party so that it does not deviate from the cardinal principle of “all power to the people and their elected committees”.

The task before the revolutionaries is to come together to form a new left party which should eschew all types of dogma and sectarianism and which should be guided by the cardinal principle of all power to the people. Educating the people and through mass struggles, a powerful people’s movement can be built. If people come to the streets in a mighty wave of protest, it will be on the crest of such an upheaval that the ruling classes will be forced to retreat. Such a party should not join the cobweb of electoral politics, but it should not give any call for boycott of elections. It should educate the masses that ultimately they will have to come to the streets to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie and its hirelings.

Kripa Shankar

Allahabad

Mining in ‘Schedule V’ Areas

T
he Andhra Pradesh (AP) government’s desperate bid to mine bauxite in Galikonda, Raktakonda, Chittamgondi, Sapparla, Gudem, Jerrala (all come under the Schedule V area category) by circumventing the law is an example of how the trustee of the natural resources of our land is acting like a front company for industrial houses. According to the Samata judgment of the Supreme Court in 1997, no private company can hold or take lease of the lands which fall under “scheduled area” for the purpose of mining and industry. To get around this hurdle, the state government roped in the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation, a public undertaking, which will mine bauxite in the Eastern Ghats, an area with green forests, waterfalls and a large number of traditional tribal inhabitants.

The AP government has signed memoranda of understanding with Jindal South West Holdings and Anrak, which is a joint venture between the government of Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates and Andhra-based Penna Cements. The former will produce 1.4 million tonnes of alumina per year, mainly for export, with an investment of Rs 900 million, and the latter’s production will be 1 million tonnes of alumina and 2,50,000 tonnes of aluminium a year with a $2 billion investment. Being a power and water guzzler, the refineries will consume 36,45,000 MWH of electricity per year and eight million gallons of water per day. Besides these, the waste produced in the form of red mud during the extraction of alumina from bauxite is highly toxic and radioactive. These will pose a serious threat to the rich biodiversity of the Eastern Ghats and also endanger the livelihood of the tribals engaged in the cultivation of coarse rice, jowar, pulses, varieties of beans and coffee.

Notwithstanding the social movement of tribals of the region, who are unwilling to part with their traditional forestlands, both the centre and state governments are slowly advancing their agenda of helping the big corporate houses. Environment clearance was given to these projects without a proper evaluation of the related impacts. The state is trying its best to vacate the tribals peacefully; if they do not, they will soon be subjected to overwhelming force. Arnab Pal

Kharagpur, West Bengal

Corrigendum ‘Why People Should Not Be Poor’

In the special article by Neera Chandhoke published in the issue of 7 April, the title was erroneously printed as “Why People Should Not Be Poor?” The correct title is “Why People Should Not Be Poor”. The necessary corrections have been made in the website. The e rror is regretted.

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
april 14, 2012 vol xlviI no 15

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