Demand Immediate Withdrawal of ‘Offer’ of Higher Education for Trade Regulation Before it is too late!
CPI (ML) Red Star central committee has called for supporting the movement led by All India Forum-Right To Education (AIF-RTE) against commercialization of education.
Call of the Hour
WTO-GATS regime reduces education into a commodity and turns the student into a consumer in clear legal terms. Turning education into a tradable commodity will lead not only to denial of education to the poor and disadvantaged but also to deception of those who can afford it because the very purpose, content and quality of all education and research will be degraded to suit the interests of corporate capital. It would also abandon the role of education as an enlightening, empowering and transforming process required to develop social individuals imbued with self-dignity, and citizens inspired by the constitutional values of democracy, plurality, social justice, secularism and socialism so that they are able to protect the independence and sovereignty of the nation. Education loving people and organisations in India have resisted the attempts by successive governments for inclusion of Higher Education under the WTO-GATS regulations since 1998 when WTO initiated moves in favour of bringing education under its regime. Yet, this could not stop the government from allowing 100% FDI across all sectors of education in February 2000 outside WTO and from making ‘offers’ under WTO in Higher education sector in August 2005.
With the impending conclusion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations in December 2015, it is imperative to build a strong movement demanding the withdrawal of the ‘offers’ for market access before they become irrevocable ‘commitments’. AIFRTE appeals to all pro-people organizations, activists, intellectuals, teachers, students and all sections of the struggling masses to join hands for a resolute struggle against this neoliberal assault on our education system and demand immediate withdrawal of the ‘offers’ given to WTO-GATS in Higher Education as they would become an irrevocable bondage for the nation and people!
The Central Committee of the CPI(ML) Red Star has supported this call and has decided to join it to make it a great success.
Programme of Action Against Committing Higher Education to WTO : "Fight WTO ! Save Education ! Stop Committing Higher Education to WTO"
The 4th National Council Meet of the All India Forum for Right to education (AIFRTE) held in Sewagram, Wardha, from 14th to 16th June, 2015 has taken serious note of all neo-liberal attacks on education and how the nexus between commercialization and communalization of education is playing havoc in the life of the people. The Council noted with grave concern that there is every possibility that the Government of India (GOI) will ‘commit’ Higher Education Sector for ‘Market Access’ to WTO in the ensuing 10th Ministerial Meet to be held at Nairobi, Kenya from 15th to 18th December this year. It is also noted that India has already made ‘offers’, an initial step of ‘commitment’, way back in 2005. In the case the ‘commitment’ materialises in higher education sector, the trade rules of the ‘General Agreement of Trade in Services’ (GATS), WTO will entangle higher education system of India in perpetuity. It is further noted that India, for that matter any member country, has the option to keep its education sector (or any service sector) outside the agreement before ‘committing’ it for ‘market access’ and also that if once a ‘commitment’ is made, it becomes irreversible for all practical purposes. It means that, as on date, India has an option open to it to keep its education sector outside the WTO regime and the option has to be exercised before the Nairobi Meet in December. If we do not persuade/compel the GOI to withdraw the ‘offers’ forthwith, education would be enmeshed in imperialist world trade rules perpetually. Proceeding from this understanding of the situation, the National Council decided to organize an intense campaign of resistance throughout India against the possible commitment to market access in higher education by GOI to WTO and demand the withdrawal of the ‘offer’ forthwith.
Further, the National Council decided that while every member-organisation of AIFRTE shall continue the struggles they are conducting for school education and higher education for protection and extension of educational rights of the people, they shall also build extensive campaign for withdrawal of ‘offer’ in higher education made to WTO in order to resist the neo-liberal onslaught. The ongoing struggles in the field of higher education shall be consciously linked with our proposed campaign against WTO-GATS. Since the strength of our member-organisations is limited, the priority of our campaign against WTO shall be to mobilise the teachers and students of Universities and colleges. We should also identify individuals and organisations that can join our campaign against WTO along with all those who stand against neo-liberalism. Our campaign shall be widespread in terms of opinion mobilization and our programmes should be persuasive and compelling so that the government is pressurized to withdraw higher education from WTO.
Campaigns and Resistance Programmes on Selected Dates/Periods:
1) Observe 9th August 2015, the legendary ‘Quit India Day’, as ‘WTO Quit Education, Quit India Day’. This shall be organised in a decentralized mode in all universities and as many colleges as possible in all districts in various states. For the purpose, leafleting, postering, signature campaign, group discussions, seminars shall be conducted from now onwards widely in universities and colleges. AIFRTE member-organisations shall plan the whole campaign such that the academic community in their area of activity get to know the danger of entanglement of education with global trade regime before 9th August. By this campaign we achieve a stage where even if a section of students and teachers may not join us immediately in protest programmes they are aware of what for these protests are taking place. This campaign shall prepare solid ground for further agitation.
March to Gowalia Tank, Mumbai: As part of the all-India call to observe ‘WTO Quit Education, Quit India Day’ on 9th of August, it is proposed to have a centralised programme in Mumbai on 9th August, 2015 as far as the state of Maharashtra is concerned. Our member-organisations in Maharashtra shall organise ‘WTO! Quit Education, Quit India! Day’ by marching to Gowalia Tank in Mumbai, drawing upon the imagery of the 1942 Quit India Day. Our member-organisations in Maharashtra may have to mobilise students, teachers and people from some select districts for the Mumbai programme. Further, they have to send campaign squads to Mumbai well in advance to go to all universities and colleges in Mumbai to mobilise students and teachers for the ‘March to Gowalia Tank’. All students’ organisations working with us, who have got working units in Mumbai and Maharashtra, may direct their units to make this programme a grand success. The Presidium and Secretariat of AIFRTE will also endeavour to take the support from AIFUCTO and FEDCUTA to mobilise university teachers for the historical programme. This proposed ‘March to Gowalia Tank’ will add a feather to the nationwide decentralised observance of 9th August as ‘WTO Quit Education, Quit India Day’.
2) All India Protest Week: Observe 28th September, the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and 2nd October, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi (either of them or both) as ‘Stop Modi! Stop WTO! Save Education! Day’. The two dates may also be connected by member-organisations through a series of ‘Anti-Imperialist Consciousness Raising’ campaigns. Organise law break on 28th September and/or Observe Satyagraha and court arrest on 2nd October in big numbers in district headquarters. If the member-organisations in different states find any practical problem with either of the dates, they are free to organise protest on any day between 28th September and 2nd October. Irrespective of the date and form of protest, we should involve all organisations that come forward and more particularly people of different sections in these programmes. These programmes shall express the anguish of a cross-section of academic community along with local intellectuals, writers and artists of repute that the government can ill-afford to ignore. If some organisations can mobilise workers, peasants and masses of people that will be really great. These programmes shall be organised with such a great strength and vigour that the ruling circles should understand that people of India are rejecting handing over of education to the imperialist organ, WTO.
Satyagraha at Rajghat, Delhi: As a part of ‘All India Protest Week’ a Muhim (March) will be organised from Village Khatkad Kalan (Dist. Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Punjab), the place where Bhagat Singh lived his childhood and received early revolutionary orientation, to Rajghat in Delhi where Mahatma Gandhi’s Samadhi is established. The Muhim starts on 28th September (birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh) and culminates in Rajghat on 2nd October, 2015(birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi). Our member-organisations in J&K, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi States will organize the ‘Muhim’. Systematic efforts shall be made to mobilise students, youth and karmacharis from universities and colleges in Delhi with the support and participation of all-India students’ organisations, university teachers’ organisations (including AIFUCTO and FEDUCTA) and Delhi-based student, youth and cultural organisations. Renowned personalities from Delhi and nearby states shall also be involved.
This wave-like nation-wide protest held simultaneously in around two hundred districts and the capital of the nation, Delhi from 28th September to 2nd October shall be an eye opener to the ruling class and bring a break in the process of committing education to WTO. If all our organisations take this call seriously, as they do, the protests that are to be organised from 28th September to 2nd October would develop a synergy and if propagated properly through regular media and social media would influence the government decision-making process. The protests, in this period, throughout the width and breadth of the country by creating a public mood would confer great importance to the Delhi Protest on 2nd October and both, the people who are yet to join us, and government will understand that the struggle is not one-day affair but a widespread and protracted struggle that can sustain.
3) State-level demonstrations: State-level demonstrations shall be organised in various state capitals on any one day during the period from 1st to 10th November according to the convenience of member-organisations. If the dates are communicated to the AIFRTE Secretariat well in advance, the latter shall try to arrange for the participation of the AIFRTE Presidium Members or well-known personalities in these programmes. These demonstrations may be held at or lead to Governor’s residence and a memorandum addressed to the President of India shall be handed over to the Governor receiving an acknowledgment from his office for the same. These state-level demonstrations, in as many states as possible shall be organised impressively and shall be an advanced step after ‘All India Protest Week’ in our campaign against WTO. By this time, we shall also find newspapers widely reporting about the scheduled meetings of the WTO and the topics of trade that would be ‘discussed’ and resolved at the Nairobi Meet. We have to mobilise maximum number of people in these demonstrations not only to continue but to intensify our protest, both to retain the gains of observance of ‘All India Protest Week’ and also to mount more pressure on the government to desist from the process of committing education to WTO. The caption for this stage of struggle can be worked out by the end of September to be declared on 2nd October. We will have to keep our eyes on the developments in trade negotiations of WTO and develop proper slogans accordingly.
4) A Six-day Resistance Camp at Delhi, to be named ‘Resistance Camp against WTO Meet@ Nairobi’ will be organized by AIFRTE at Town Hall Premises in Chandni Chowk/Jantar Mantar/Rajghat/Red Fort/ from 13th to 18th December, 2015.This Resistance Camp will stand in solidarity with people fighting all over the world against the WTO’s neoliberal agenda and against listing of education as tradable service. This stage of struggle, though cannot be elaborated now, is very important. The struggles in different countries in WTO and resistance at Nairobi will be peaking at this stage. Things can be reversed even at this stage. Cancun meet in 2003 stands a testimony to it. The WTO was to go back in Cancun Meet at the last minute in the face of resistance. We shall hold the flag till the end and even thereafter! Note: The delegations of fighting organisations in India representing different spheres of life which will be going to Nairobi to protest there will be invited on 13th November to our ‘WTO Resistance Camp’ to express solidarity with our struggle before they leave for Nairobi. Further, please note that the concept of the programme and its title can be further developed over the period before the third circular is posted on 3rd October.
Delegation to Nairobi: We will also try to send a delegation with our own banner to Nairobi. More importantly, we shall mobilize our contacts with anti-neoliberal struggles in Africa, Asia, Europe and North & Latin America to express solidarity with our cause at the Nairobi meet. We shall take help from our comrades abroad for this.
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