Private investment in higher education: CPM reads writings on the wall

K A Johny

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Kunhaman, K Venu, KT Rammohan. Photo: Mathrubhumi Archives

Ernakulam: CPM is getting ready to move in accordance with the changing times. The vision document on a 'NEW Kerala' presented by CM Pinarayi Vijayan at the CPM state meet on Tuesday clearly reflects the party's ambitions and aspirations that place more thrust on pragmatism. One of the key points in the vision document is opening the higher education sector in the state to private investment. Right now it is only a guideline policy. It will become the official party policy once the state meet and the upcoming party congress to be held in Kannur next month, give the consent. But as Sitaram Yechuri, the party General Secretary himself indicated, CPM, these days, means the Kerala unit of the party. And for the Kerala unit, there is only one leader- Pinarayi Vijayan. So in all likelihood, the vision document presented by Pinarayi will be accepted both by the party-state meet and the party congress.

At the same time, prominent academicians and social scientists of the state welcome this move by Pinarayi Vijayan.'' It looks like CPM is reading the writings on the wall, '' responded Prof M Kunhaman, the leading social scientist in Kerala. '' This should be seen as a private investment rather than private capital. Such a step is inevitable if we want to attract centres of academic excellence including foreign universities.''

There are a number of private universities in India, which have been lauded for their excellence in the higher education sector. Universities like Ashoka, Asim Premji and Jindal are some of these.'' It is like flowers and butterflies. Good universities don't go out and out to attract students. Students are attracted towards these academic centres like butterflies to flowers,'' points out Prof Kunhaman.
'' Today, communist parties across the world are not against private investment. They have realised the meaninglessness in opposing it. Nehru was one of the most prominent leaders, who recognised the significance of higher education in India. IIM Ahmedabad, instituted by the Nehru Govt, is one of the best in the world. In fact, there is nothing like foreign or indigenous in today's world. Nehru was spot on when he remarked that there is no east or west in a world which is round. It seems that CPM is embracing the Nehruvian approach now. But the party may not state it openly in the public.''

Kunhaman points out that the new step taken by the CM need not be seen as an exercise in correction. '' CPM had opposed mechanisation and computerisation earlier. That was the right approach then. Because the fear of losing jobs was real. But today, computers have become part and parcel of our life. We simply can't survive without computers. If CPM is ready to change according to the times, that must be welcomed. It is well-known fact that the knowledge sector requires more and more investments.''

Prof Kunhaman says that Marx had clearly stated that humanity can only progress and it can never regress. Because human knowledge is renewed and enriched with every passing day. But he also makes it clear that the upper-middle-class bias of CPM in the developmental perspective needs to be questioned.'' The middle class is not a Marxian but a sociological concept. CPM is speaking of mass instead of class these days. They are repeatedly saying that the party's mass base should be expanded. This is a strategy that aims at electoral victories.''

K Venu, one of the prominent social-political observers in the state also welcomes the new move by Pinarayi Vijayan. '' There is nothing wrong in attracting private investment into the higher education sector. There are many excellent universities in the private sector. There is no point in keeping ourselves within closed doors. Let us open the windows so that there will be more air and light.'' He also pointed out that these days CPM has the same policy as far as other sectors are concerned. Projects like K Rail prove this.''

Prof K T Ram Mohan, the former dean of the School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University responds that the new move by the Pinarayi Govt need not be rejected. '' At the same time, the delivery of social justice has to be ensured. CPM also should have an introspection as to how the higher education sector in the state reached this stage and the party's role in this. CPM can't simply wash its hands off this sorry state of affairs created by its deliberate act of placing only party loyalists in the key positions in the higher education sector. It's a mafia of syndicate, trade unions and party dons, that has been controlling matters here.''

KT Rammohan says that if the new move will change this scenario it should be welcomed.'' But if unbridled growth of private universities is allowed it will result in the denial of social justice. Rejection of reservation and denying the poor access to higher education can't be accepted. It is astonishing that the party is not saying anything about these burning issues. The Govt and the party must implement this initiative only by ensuring the delivery of social justice.''

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