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Lyngdoh formula may not work

WITH THE Supreme Court clearing the decks for the implementation of the Lyngdoh panel recommendations on student polls, two questions come to the fore; one, will these purge student polls of lumpenism and more importantly, will it build an effective student leadership in the country?

india Updated: Oct 02, 2006 15:56 IST

WITH THE Supreme Court clearing the decks for the implementation of the Lyngdoh panel recommendations on student polls, two questions come to the fore; one, will these purge student polls of lumpenism and more importantly, will it build an effective student leadership in the country?

If one were to go by the experience of Madhya Pradesh, the answers to both questions may turn out to be in the negative. A similar reform exercise was undertaken by Digvijay Singh in 2001 when his Government brought out an ordinance on ‘Students unions in colleges’ (July 25, 2001). Like the Lyngdoh model, Madhya Pradesh’s experiment too was marked by lofty ideals.

The Lyngdoh panel permits only those who do not have criminal records and have not been subject to disciplinary action by university authorities to contest polls. It also prohibits candidates from intimidating others during polls. The July 2001 ordinance of the Madhya Pradesh Government had similar provisions to curb lumpenism.

It bars those who have ‘been convicted by a court of law for any offence or against whom charges have been framed and proceedings are in progress’ (pt.19vii)(c)) and those who ‘have been punished’ or have a ‘disciplinary action pending against them in an institution’(pt.19vii)(g)) from contesting polls.

It also stipulates that ‘no one shall be intimidated or subjected to physical violence’(pt 19xi)(e)) during the elections. Clearly, the rules have had little effect in the State; over the last three years violent clashes have been taking place in different parts of the State during college elections, which finally culminated with the killing of Prof Sabharwal this year.

Unless college authorities and the district administration keep outsiders at bay, holding peaceful polls may be an extremely difficult task.

The Lyngdoh panel also prescribes that a candidate ‘should not have any academic arrears in their election year’ and must have the ‘minimum prescribed attendance or 75 per cent, whichever is higher.’ The MP Government ordinance had also laid down similar provisions to foster an intelligent and mature student leadership in the State.

It prohibits ‘failed’ examinees from contesting and also debars anyone who has ‘passed any yearly examinations of any degree through supplementary examinations or has carry forwarded any subject or has backlogged any subject of any semester.’(pt. 19 vii)(k)).

Have these provisions helped in building an intelligent, strong and sensible student leadership in the State? The answer is an unfortunate no. During the last five years or so, none of the academic issues like the observance of academic calendar in colleges, design of syllabi, conduct of examinations and evaluation system, fee hikes and shoddy college infrastructure have figured during campaigning or been a part of the agenda of the elected union members later in the state.

Hailed as the conscience keepers of society once, why have student unions become insignificant now? For one, the spirit of the times is completely incongruent with student activism. In a globalised epoch, there has been a profound change in the worldview of students – there is a complete disenchantment with social issues and all that matters is a well-paid job with the corporate sector.

Second, most present day student union office bearers are hardly conversant with the working of student unions – they do not know how to articulate student interests and use peaceful, democratic and legitimate techniques of protest such as hunger strikes, dharnas, gheraos and civil disobedience to advocate student causes.

Meanwhile, with student unions shying away from challenging the existing global and national economic and political order, it may be difficult to resuscitate the student movement in the country, Surely, the strength of student unions is ebbing out in the country – Lyngdoh or no Lyngdoh!
(The writer teaches at the National Law Institute University, Bhopal) 


Rules have had little effect
The Digvijay Singh Government in 2001 brought out an ordinance on ‘Students unions in colleges’, which was marked by lofty ideals. However, the rules have had little effect in the State; over the last three years violent clashes have been taking place in different parts of the State during college elections, which finally culminated with the killing of Prof Sabharwal this year.