1) Copy this list of Opposition MPs from Tamil Nadu in the “to” field of your email client:
2) Paste in the “to” field of your email client.
3) In the “subject” field, copy/paste: “REQUEST TO OPPOSE HECI DRAFT BILL 2018”
4) In the body of the mail, copy/paste the following:
Dear Member of the Parliament,
I am writing to request you to save universities and educational institutions in the country by opposing the introduction of the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill 2018 in Parliament this monsoon session.
The Bill, which will simultaneously repeal the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act 1956, is being rushed through without any explanation as to why this must be done in a hurry. The UGC has been in existence since 1956, and dismantling it in less than three months is not advisable. There has also been no discussion with students, teachers and higher educational institutions, the major stakeholders in the education system. Nor have the States been given enough time to fully discuss the implications of this Bill.
The Bill has many shortcomings and will have a disastrous effect on the higher education system in our country. The Draft of the Bill was made public on 27 June 2018, and feedback was invited. In less than three weeks’ time, it attracted an overwhelming 7529 responses from the general public and concerned citizens – opposing a range of controversial provisions in the Bill. The fact that the Draft Bill provoked such massive discomfort from different sections of the society is proof of the need for wider discussion and consultation before introducing it in Parliament. The MHRD has acknowledged the bulk of feedback received on the issue, but then decided to steer clear of democratic processes. It has reportedly introduced some amendments in the Draft, and – with absolutely no information on the exact content and extent of the changes – it has decided to table the Bill in the monsoon session. The stakeholders who had urgently expressed their alarm about the Bill in such large numbers have been kept in the dark about the current version of the legislation. Further, the primary demand made by teachers, students and associations from across the country has been to withdraw the Bill altogether and retain the UGC. The government’s intentions therefore seem to completely ignore this public mandate against the spirit of the Bill.
Please see WEBLINK for all the criticisms the Bill has received in the public media as well as from national-level student and teacher organisations. (https://betteruniversities.in/2018/07/23/heci-draft-bill-2018-responses/)
Some of the most pressing concerns voiced have been:
1. The HECI Bill takes away the financial powers of the Commission, and the proposal is to make MHRD or another body responsible for disbursing grants. This will make the process of grant allocation more bureaucratic, arbitrary, and subject to political considerations, as HECI has no power to ensure that its recommendations are taken seriously and implemented. By separating the function of policy-making from the allocation of financial resources, the proposed Bill will use ‘public funding’ as a reward or punishment for institutional loyalties. It will also heighten hierarchies between different tiers of institutions (Central and state, general and professional, scientific and technical, research and vocational, metropolitan and rural, etc).
2. The composition of the HECI signals a takeover of higher education by the officials of the Central government. 10 of the 12 members of the Commission are either officers of the Central government or those appointed to various offices by it. Teachers are reduced to just two, which is absolutely unacceptable in a body that is to determine the standards and quality of higher education in the country. The composition of the commission does not also reflect the diversity of the country and gives no representation to marginalised groups like SCs, STs, OBCs, women, transpersons, persons with disabilities, and minorities.
3. The regulatory provisions — grant of authorisation, graded autonomy, and ordering closure of institutions — of the Bill will install a heavily centralised regime that will lead to chaos, wastage of time and resources, greater job insecurity for teachers, massive fee hikes, and privatisation. This will cause students and their families great unrest and anxiety. Finally, the fact that the HECI Bill has been given overriding effect over all previous legislation will have serious consequences for the nation’s federal character.
4. With regards to the setting of standards for higher education, a ‘one size fits all’ model can never succeed. The diversity of this country, and the fact that higher education is still expanding to various sections of the society, demands a regulator that is socially responsive and geared towards social justice. The HECI Bill does not set such up such a flexible body geared to expansion of higher education, and the enhancement of equity and access to it.
5. The HECI Bill puts an end to the autonomy of institutions of higher education from the government control. Every regulation relating to standards made by the Commission has to have the prior approval of the Central government. This will encourage the use of regulations as a means to stifle freedom of speech, thought, and dissenting opinion in higher educational institutions. An atmosphere of forced obedience does not encourage meaningful improvements in society or in the state of knowledge.
I hope that you will consent to present my opinion before Parliament, and speak in the debate against the Bill. I request you to ask for the Bill to be referred to the Standing Committee so that teachers, students, and educationists are given enough opportunity to present their case.
5) Press SEND