In a short span of time, I have witnessed two faces of the Indian higher education system in two different states. One is from a state under the Red flag, where politics rules practically everything possible. You have to enlist your affiliation to a party the moment you get enrolled in college. After that you campaign for college elections or stand to get elected, you participate in demonstrations (mostly violent) and stage strikes for any trivial matter that you can come up with. Mass bunking of examinations as a sign of protest is not too rare a phenomenon. As a result, students have more than their fair share of say in all affairs of college.
Bad as it may seem, it’s not all nightmare. Some make use of this stage to catapult themselves into national politics. Some become social activists and it has to be admitted that in a vast democracy such as ours, these fields need influx of bright minds as well as any other.The other scenario is from my college here, which is quite contrary to the former case. Students have little say in anything and everything is predetermined by the college authorities. There are no student elections and the few student bodies are chosen by the staff. There is a dire lack of democracy. Grievances are not addressed readily but the system enables stability and smooth running of the college to ensure unhampered pursuit of academic interests. But is pure academic knowledge sufficient to make us responsible citizens?
Filled with technical perspicacity, we are completely alienated from matters of national importance. When the nation is ablaze with the question of the nuclear deal, students here are quite unperturbed by such issues. Even if they care, there is hardly any discussion on such topics. Serious talk is ‘uncool’. People who read editorials are old. Such notions are predominant. And what exactly is the energy crisis? Is Earth affected? Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? But this is not an exaggeration. Most people in my hostel never switch off the lights and fans when they leave their rooms. Asked why, the reply is always , “Haven’t we paid the hostel fees. Why should we bother? It’s the college that loses, not us.” I find myself unable to reply to such ignorance.
My university has a strength of about ten thousand. That is one huge vote bank of eligible voters. But most will not be able to vote for the national elections next year as they are listed as voters in their respective hometowns and not here. Should not the college make sure we get listed in Chennai? Shouldn’t we urge the college to do so? But we won’t (or maybe can’t), because we are political voids now. We have no voice.What is most disturbing are the two extremities that exist in our higher education system.
Can college democracy not exist in harmony with academic pursuits? Perfection is difficult to achieve yet one hopes to see a better balance in future generations. But hoping without action is bound to be fruitless. No one thinks twice before accusing politicians for every flaw in the society yet what are we doing to better our society? We can contribute in our own small way; especially the ones privileged enough to receive higher education in our country. And the first step is to be aware…
SAYAN CHAKRABARTY, IV Year, B.Tech, SRM Institute of Science & Technology
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