After a gap of 19 years, a report on education reforms under Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government authored by leading industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Kumarmangalam Birla is finding resonance again under the Modi government.
Critics and observers say that the education reforms being seen under the current NDA government like fee hike in universities, raising funds from internal accruals, depoliticisation of campuses and setting up of private and foreign universities are all recommendations of the Birla-Ambani or Ambani-Birla report that was presented in the year 2000 when Vajpayee was Prime Minister leading the then NDA government.
Many of the reforms happening now are a mirror image of the Birla-Ambani report presented 19 years back. K.K. Ragesh, CPM MP from Kerala stated that without saying that these recommendations have been accepted, the government is implementing them from the Birla-Ambani report.
JNU students are protesting against fee hike, IITs have increased fee, AIIMS has proposed increasing its fee structure and several other central universities are hiking their fee structure.
The 'Report on a Policy Framework for Reforms in Education', was written by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) chief Mukesh Ambani (convenor) and Aditya Birla Group head Kumarmangalam Birla (member).
This was part of the Special Subject Group on Policy Framework for Private Investment in Education, Health and Rural Development under the Prime Minister's Council on Trade and Industry. The report was given in April 2000.
A perusal of the report shows that many of the recommendations are coming into play. "User pays principle to be enforced strictly for higher education supported by loan schemes as well as financial grants for economically and socially backward sections of society," the report said.
It has recommended de-politicisation of education. "Enable all political parties come to an understanding that they will keep away from universities and educational institutions. Ban any form of political activity on campuses of universities and educational institutions."
It advocated Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in education. "Allow foreign direct investment in education. To begin with, limit this to science and technology areas".
On allowing private universities it said, "Legislate a Private University Bill to encourage the establishment of new private universities in the fields of science and technology, management and finance areas."
It called for market oriented education. "Encourage schools of learning to constantly upgrade content and facilities to make them more market oriented."
CPM MP Ragesh alleged that all the education reforms being pursued by the present government including the New Education Policy, raising fees, ending student politics is part of the recommendations of a committee comprising Ambani and Birla on reforms in education.
Ragesh said the government never said that it had accepted the committee's recommendations but all the proposed changes are being implemented now. He alleged that the government is trying to hike fees of public education institutions and creating institutions for the elite. He said the institutions will become like Jio University with no students and faculty but become institutes of eminence.
Ragesh said that Birla-Ambani committee recommended hike in university fees, for universities to find 25 per cent recurring expenditure from internal resources, setting up of private and foreign universities, depoliticisation of campuses, market oriented education and creation of market oriented content.
"The crux of the recommendations is total commercialisation and corporatisation of the education system," he said.
Ragesh said that there have been fee hikes in several central universities under the current government. He said there is no information on where the education cess of Rs 89,000 crore has gone as even Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had in its report pointed out the inadequacy of government spending.
Ragesh said the universities have been starved of funds and 8,000 posts in universities are lying vacant.