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Jawaharlal Nehru University

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]UGC’s decision to drastically cut the number of seats in MPhil and PhD courses will deplete JNU’s research base and affect education and society in ways policy-makers cannot at present contemplate

By Meha Mathur

Even as the Kanhaiya Kumar issue was cooling off within the JNU campus, the premier central university of the country was hit by a regulation that it will find difficult to circumvent. The new, strict UGC guideline will result in a drastic reduction in the number of MPhil and PhD seats in various streams.

The guideline of July 2016 stipulates that no professor can be a guide to more than three MPhil and eight PhD students at any point of time. This means that admissions to the forthcoming batch will depend on how many students are already enrolled under various professors—research work taking as many as five or six years. Then, there are programmes in which there can be no admission this year.

Here’s an overview of seat reduction in various schools, for which JNU is famed:

  • School of Social Sciences: 232 (present strength 330)
  • School of International Studies: 141 (present strength 232)
  • School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies: 73 (present strength 227)
  • No admission in MPhil and PhD this year at the Centre for Media Studies, Centre for African Studies, Centre for East African Studies, Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion

On the face of it, the UGC move to bring down the student-teacher ratio at research level seems very rational. After all, when international rankings of educational institutions are released, the student-teacher ratio and quality of teaching are important criteria, and cramped classrooms can’t aspire to figure on these lists. “No Indian institute among top 200 world universities, experts worried”, read a Hindustan Times headline in September 2016 when the Times Global rankings were released.

Excellence vs inclusivity

But then, there is more to it than meets the eye. Academics from JNU and Delhi University have voiced concerns at the long-term harm it will cause. The first issue that comes to mind is its impact on inclusivity. JNU is one of the few universities offering quality higher education and research opportunities at affordable cost. By limiting the number of seats, the government is shutting the door of opportunity on the poor.

Posters and graffiti in JNU

Posters and graffiti in JNU

Ajay Gudavarthy, associate professor of political science at JNU, says the move has been inspired by the aim of maintaining parity with global universities, but it can’t be feasible in a country of India’s size, where aspirations of people are now high. “The logic is fine, but you don’t have too many universities like JNU which can fulfil those aspirations of poor. This move will close opportunities for the disadvantaged youth of India.”

Ayesha Kidwai, professor at Centre of Linguistics in JNU, says this will push higher education out of the reach of poor. “So many youngsters come to JNU because they can avail of the opportunity by paying the same fee as the rich. Now, a good, affirmative action has been ended through this regulation. Instead of spreading such models of education, we are shrinking these options.”

Depleting research base

Then again, if you reduce the number of research scholars, who will teach at the level of higher education?

In a UGC report of 2008 titled “Higher Education in India: Issues Related to Expansion, Inclusiveness, Quality and Finance”, the then UGC chairman S Thorat had written about the then 11th Five Year Plan: “The 11th Plan recognised that the availability of adequate and qualified faculty is a pre-requisite for quality education. It also recognised that due to restrictions on the recruitment of the faculty in the state universities and colleges in 1980’s and 1990’s by various states, we faced serious problems related to the availability of faculty.” It seems that wisdom has again been lost on the policy makers.

Kidwai says that the national enrolment for PhDs is 0.5 percent. In all central universities it’s 3.2 percent, whereas in JNU it’s 62.5 percent. Now, this will come down to 15 to 20 percent. “Do you want MAs to teach in colleges?” she asks.

Abha Dev Habib, who teaches at Miranda House, Delhi University, says that for all the complaints that the research output is not good, we are reducing public money in education and the research grants have been constantly decreasing since 2013. The number of research proposals that have received grants has also come down and many institutions are feeling the pinch. Teachers in higher education are seen as a financial liability, because once they are recruited, they will have to be promoted, too. It’s clear, therefore, that all means are being adopted to dissuade research and recruitment in public institutions of higher learning.

The logical extension of this is that private universities will get more and more room to operate in research space, too. But as Gudavarthy points out, it will leave the poor out of the ambit of research. “About 50 percent of the students we have are poor. They will have to go back.” They might have to compromise on their dreams by joining second-rung universities, because private universities are outside their means.

What are the options?

Despite the Delhi High Court having already dismissed a petition from students for a stay on the UGC strictures on certain technical grounds, Siddiqui says the academics will not give in and that they will seek further legal recourse. But with the admission season already commencing, the future of at least the current batch of admission-seekers stands jeopardised.

The question that needs to be addressed in the long run is, what alternative does the government intend to provide to those who stand to lose? Are other universities on the anvil, offering research facilities on a par with JNU? Or does the government want to wean away youth from research and have them take up vocational and job-oriented courses only?

Move smacks of anti-intellectualism

Another dimension of the limit imposed on research students is the issue of politicisation. Abha Dev Habib puts it bluntly when she says that the government is disturbed by social movements. She says that JNU has a large number of research students who spend much more time on the campus than MA students, and there are more chances of their getting politicised. The government wants to minimise those chances. Kidwai agrees, saying this move smacks of “anti-intellectualism”.

The seat reduction has hit international studies and social sciences—disciplines associated with asking questions and with reasoning, in particular. Gudavarthy adds: “They don’t want a critical society. The focus is more on technology and vocational education. We will have a dearth of public intellectuals that way.”

Perhaps the move is also part of the shift away from research culture. After all, the Prime Minister has already set the agenda with “Harvard vs hard work”. There’s nothing wrong in having people respect vocational professions. But it takes all kinds of people to make this world. Pushing the pendulum to the other extreme will be counterproductive.

At this juncture, the questions need to be answered by policy-makers.

Photos by Anil Shakya and Meha Mathur[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

India News

Coding Ninjas faces social media criticism over prohibiting staff from leaving office without permission

According to the Indian labor law, the rights to safe working place with basic amenities, right to appropriate working hours, right to any assured incentive are protected under the law. There are many instances when companies have violated the Indian Labour Law



Coding Ninja

Computer training institute Coding Ninjas is facing a backlash after a video went viral in which a watchman can be seen locking doors of an office of Coding Ninjas so that employees could not exit without permission from the office.

Ed-tech entrepreneur Ravi Handa shared a video on Twitter saying Indian ed-tech founders are now literally locking their employees. He said that this company should to get out of this country. Nowhere else would anyone dare to pull off something like, they do in India.

Responding to the person, recording the video, the watchman informed that one of the managers has ordered to not let employees out of the office without permission. After the video went viral, several people on the internet reacted to it and demanded the strict action. People said such behaviour raises many serious concerns.

A Coding Ninjas spokesperson issued a statement, clarifying that the incident that occurred two days ago and was due to a regrettable action by an employee in one of their offices.  He added the same was immediately rectified within a few minutes. The employee acknowledged his mistake and apologized for such behaviour. Disciplinary action has been taken against the concerned employee as the company believes in their values and culture as an organization. As the incident caught everyone’s attention, the founders of the Coding Ninjas also expressed their regret and issued an apology to all their employees.

According to Indian labour law, the rights to safe working place with basic amenities, right to appropriate working hours, right to any assured incentive are protected under the law. There are many instances when companies have violated the Indian labour law. The authorities have to be more active in terms of labour law to check if they are being followed properly by companies.   

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India News

Tollbooth staffer dies after being assaulted by four persons on Mysuru-Bengaluru expressway | Watch viral video

The deceased has been identified as Pawan Kumar, a resident of Karikal Tandya in Bengaluru



Tollbooth staffer dies after being assaulted by four persons on Mysuru-Bengaluru expressway | Watch viral video

In a shocking incident, an employee of the Mysuru-Bengaluru Expressway toll plaza was beaten to death in Karnataka’s Ramanagar district. A video of the incident is now viral on the Internet.

In the viral video, some people on a highway can be seen hitting a man, reportedly for a fight over paying the toll fee.

The deceased has been identified as Pawan Kumar, a resident of Karikal Tandya in Bengaluru Taluk. His colleague Manjunath was also injured in the attack.

The incident took place on June 4, Sunday night, when an argument broke out between the toll staff and a group of men over paying the toll fee. The accused allegedly had a heated argument with the staff over the delay, which lead to a fistfight.

The passers-by stopped and pacified. It seemed that the fight was over for the time being but the angry accused reportedly waited for Kumar, the victim.

At midnight, as Kumar stepped out of the plaza, the four people attacked him and Manjunath with hockey sticks. The whole incident was captured on CCTV. Both were taken to the hospital where Pawan Kumar died because of the injuries. The accused fled the scene after the incident.

The Police have registered a case of murder and an investigation is ongoing to catch the accused at the earliest. According to the police, the accused have been identified based on the CCTV camera footage of the incident and is said to be from Bengaluru.

Users filled the comments section, where one person wrote, the accused should join school again and learn the importance of peace. Another user wrote that toll plaza employees should be taught how to behave as they misbehave with the commuters. He added the situation was good when the female employees were deployed in the tollbooth.

A user wrote it was a total failure of the law and order implementation by the local police.

Reports said local commuters have been protesting against the toll collection in the expressway as similar incidents of heated arguments with the toll employees have been reported in the past.

The Mysuru-Bengaluru expressway was inaugurated on March 12 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The local commuters have complained, whenever they travel by the Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway, there is a delay in opening the barrier despite a fast tag. The toll plaza employees said there had been a technical issue as there is a delay in the detection of vehicles near the toll plaza by the sensors.     

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Bihar news

Bride gets kidnapped by her brother over inter-caste marriage in Bihar’s Araria, video viral

After the incident Police reached the parent’s house and rescued her from them. The incidence took place in Shyamnagar village in Araria on June 3 which is going viral on social media. The woman is identified as Rupa Kumari who was in love with her boyfriend Chotu Kumar for a long time.



Bihar araria's bride kidnap

A video is doing a rounds on internet, a young girl is forcefully abducted by the two men happened to be her relatives. The distressing incident can be seen in the video, it is being claimed that the girl choose to marry someone from another caste. The young girl tied the knot with her lover a few days ago against the family decision since the groom had a different caste.

After the incident Police reached the parent’s house and rescued her from them. The incidence took place in Shyamnagar village in Araria on June 3 which is going viral on social media. The woman is identified as Rupa Kumari who was in love with her boyfriend Chotu Kumar for a long time. As her family members were against their marriage, they planned to escape on May 28 and went to adjoining Supaul district where they got married in a temple and also held a court marriage.

The family member of Chotu Kumar reached Supaul when they learned about their marriage and brought them back home. As the family member of the girl was against this marriage, a panchayat meeting was organized to resolve the issue.

The father of Chotu Surensh Kumar Thakur claimed that the family member of the girl attacked him while the panchayat meeting was underway. He said they were also looking for his son Chotu, doubting their intention he did not bring his son to the panchayat meeting. Taking the advantage of it, the girl’s brother dragged her to the bike and fled away from the spot.

SDPO, Forbesganj, Khusru Siraj said when the incident came to their notice, a team immediately rushed at the spot and managed to bring the girl from the captivity of her parents. The family members of the girl were involved in physical assault of Chotu’s father. The Police have registered an FIR in this connection on the statement of the girl and Chotu’s father.

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