Just an hour of protests organised by the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) compelled MP higher education minister Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya on Wednesday to concede to their demands and lift a ban on students’ union elections in degree colleges and universities. The protests also made him decide to do away with the semester system in under-graduate courses.
The students’ union elections were suspended five years ago. The last ‘direct elections’ were held in 1986. They were suspended for some years and finally resumed, albeit in an ‘indirect’ manner, under recommendations of the Lyngdoh committee. These continued till 2011 when they were again suspended.
According to the announcement made by the minister, the elections would be held from the next academic year and the semester system will also be done away with from the next session.
Citing violence on the campus due to the elections, the direct election was banned in 2008. In 2011, a student council election was held on the basis of merit but it was also discontinued later.
The semester system was introduced in 2008 and the associations said the syllabus was not divided well and since there were two examinations in one year, the universities and college management could not conduct the examinations properly and the exams were always delayed.
On Wednesday, hundreds of ABVP workers with their leaders staged a protest in the state capital on the issue of quality of education which, they alleged, got affected due to the semester system.
In the 35 charter demand, revocation of ban over student council election, ending semester system, increasing fees of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students and increase in number of hostels for girls were the main demands.
The ABVP claimed it had support from its parental organisation RSS to take on the political wing of the RSS — the Bahratiya Janata Party, the ruling party in MP — on the issue of education. They claimed the quality of education was deteriorating by the day whereas the government had adopted an indifferent attitude towards higher education.
ABVP national general secretary Vinay Bidre, state secretary Rohin Rai and technical wing head Ankit Garg were leading the protests. They took out a protest rally from Ayush Ground and were planning to gherao the state secretariat but the police stopped them at Tin Shed near New Market.
Rai said, “We urged the government many times but they were not paying any attention to our demands so we were compelled to take this step against the BJP-led state government.”
The pressure from its own student union forced MP’s higher education minister to appear in the rally and make the announcements conceding to four demands. Pawaiya announced that scholarship for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students will be increased and more hostels will be opened for girl students.
The protest rally was nothing but a drama by the ABVP and the BJP government, said Vivek Tripathi, spokesperson of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) – the student wing of the Congress.
Tripathi said, “In the capital city, contract teachers, contract employees and many other organisations held rallies for their pending demands but no minister ever bothered to listen to their problems. But in today’s rally, the higher education minister himself came to make the announcements.”
He said this all happened as the ABVP was losing its base from the educational institutes and to strengthen them, “the drama was staged.”
However, the teachers and the students welcomed the decision.
MP Government Collegiate Professor Association secretary Anand Sharma said, “The students’ union elections are an important part of the democratic set up. This will not only develop leadership qualities among the students but also help them in raising their problems.”
“The decision to end the semester system is also a good move as without proper infrastructure and teaching staff, the system had failed,” he added.