PUCL expresses solidarity with TISS students from the campuses in Mumbai, Tuljapur, Hyderabad and Guwahati who have been on strike since 21st February 2018 i.e. for the last 20 days, on issues that have universal and far reaching effect on the education system in India.
The protest by the TISS student community is a result of the withdrawal by the institute of the waivers under the GOI-PMS scheme for OBC students in 2014 and for SC/ST students in 2016 and the 45% hike in fees at TISS between the academic years 2013-14 and 2016-2017. The protesting students have broadly demanded.
i. immediate restoration of financial aid to SC, ST, OBC students,
ii. financial transparency, and
iii. symbolic representation of the office of Dean SPO from SC, ST, OBC category.
TISS students’ protest involves universal issues plaguing the education system such as privatization of education and
government policies aimed at excluding socially marginalized sections from education and undermining social justice. From the
latest statement released by TISS students on the 19th day of the strike, it appears that although talks are ongoing with the
administration, all the demands of the students have not been accepted. Meanwhile the GOI-PMS students from the TISS
Guwahati campus have gone on hunger strike today, a situation that could have been avoided with effective and timely
resolution of the issues by the TISS administration.
Fee hikes and withdrawal of financial aid to students from socially marginalized sections of society retracts from the
government’s obligation towards social inclusion in education, and has the effect of disallowing and depriving such students
from receiving education and better opportunities. The government’s move towards increasing privatization of education is
resulting in the public education system, which has been originally credited for enabling access to education to the widest
section of Indian society, from deviating from its objectives and thereby moving towards an era of deepening inequalities.
While reservation is a constitutional right and financial assistance in the form of scholarships and freeships have played an
important role in making education available to the students from marginalized sections, the reforms brought in by the
government through removal of this financial assistance would render useless these constitutional safeguards.
It is clear that this is a critical time in higher education, with several public universities and students under attack, the higher
education system in upheaval and the democratic spaces in campuses shrinking. TISS, which is a deemed university under
UGC, has already faced severe fund cuts, including the withdrawal of funding for centres of Women Studies and Study of
Social Exclusion and Policy, inspite of their obvious importance, and has faced threats in 2015 of withdrawal of state funding.
In such an atmosphere, the approach of the government and TISS administration is most discriminatory and aimed at thwarting
diversity, democratic expression and inclusive spaces within the campus. Most of all it has forced students of the institution, at
a crucial time in their academic year when submissions and exams are in full swing, to continue the protest in the wake of nonresolution of the issues by the administration.
PUCL stands in solidarity with the protesting TISS students. We believe that the just and fair demands made by TISS students
should be accepted immediately and the notification for present and upcoming batch of GOI-PMS students to pay fees should
be unconditionally retracted. TISS administration should take all steps to resolve the issues by offering permanent so preserve the ethos of social justice in its campuses and as a policy matter.
Convenor, Ad-Hoc Committee,
People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Maharashtra