– Article contributed by student activist Astha Savyasachi
It’s not that the Delhi University (DU) administration has seen a protest for the first time, but it is definitely for the first time that the administration and its representatives have seen a huge students’ upsurge in this scale against the fraudulent examination and evaluation system of the university. The administration, which may have heard of ‘Students’ Unity’ in just slogans, actually witnessed how the unity of students from various backgrounds of the society and studying in different departments of the university feels like. DU, which proclaims to be one of the eminent universities of the country, apparently only ‘manages’ to pass just 20-30% of its postgraduate Science and Mathematics students. There is a massive dropout rate after the first year resulting in the majority never clearing the course within the two year time period. Those who pass are given average marks like 40-45% which makes them completely ineligible for NET, MPhil and PhD.
These atrocities, which would often be claimed by the DU Administration as ‘customs’, were challenged for the first time when students of the Mathematics Department refused to accept and were determined to uproot these unpardonable ‘customs’. This year, in the Mathematics Department, 34 students were failed out of 39 in ‘Computational Fluid Dynamics’ paper, 130 were failed out of 300 in ‘Measure Integration’ paper and 150 were failed out of 300 in ‘Field Theory’ paper. The 2017-18 batch which comprised of 385 students in the first year, is now left with just 192. Unfortunately, the ordeal is shared by other departments as well. Hence, it has given rise to a much wider movement which has been continuing since February 14, 2018. Many departments of DU– English, Physics, Economics, Chemistry, Non-Collegiate Women’s Education Board (NCWEB) etc fall under the umbrella of this movement. This year, 57 out of 60 students have been failed in two papers of M.Sc. Mathematics in NCWEB and 96% students have been failed in the first year of MSc Physics. This has not happened for the first time in DU but has been going on for many years. This has led to mental depression and suicidal tendencies among postgraduate students. The students, whom the university considers ‘unfit’ and ‘not capable enough to pass’, are the ones who have cleared their undergraduate courses successfully and also the Delhi University’s M.sc entrance test, which is extremely difficult to crack due to the limited nature of its seats; many have even cleared IITJAM, NET-JRF, GATE and other competitive exams.
What make the problem worse are the DU’s discriminatory behavior towards the students belonging to the underprivileged sections of society and its structural failure in empowering them. Most students from SC/ ST/ OBC category have been failed and are harassed on a daily basis. The environment is equally suffocating for female students; some of the professors pass lewd and patriarchal comments on them. The situation is so grave that many girls have been pushed to a terrible mental state which has forced them to drop out of college.
There is another angle to this problem which is equally grave and is tantamount to a scam. The university charges students a sum of Rs 1000 for revaluation of a single copy and Rs 750 for showing of their own answer scripts. An RTI query regarding this unveils that the university earned Rs 2,89,12,310 for revaluation alone between 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 and an extra sum of Rs 6,49,500 for providing the copies of answer scripts which were evaluated. It is clearly a systematic and structured way of the neo-liberal state to push students from poor and deprived backgrounds out of the education system and to eventually drag the system towards privatization.
Students from various departments and associated with various progressive student organizations such as Democratic Students’ Union (DSU), Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (BSCEM), Law Students’ Initiative (LSI), KYS, SFI, AISA, PDSU, AISF, PinjraTod and others decided to fight against the administration They formed a joint forum, ‘Movement Against Mass Failures in DU’, to resist against the administration, which is determined to ruin their careers. Students rose in rage against a system which is inconsiderate, discriminatory and fraudulent. As they occupied the Maths department for around a month, the administration, which once took students for granted and behaved as a plaster saint, showed its true colors. It first threatened the students of serious repercussions and then tried to get the Dharna site “cleaned” by “wiping out” the students. The Dean of the Mathematics Department even tried to bribe students to call the protest off.
When the carrot and stick approach of the administration failed, it came down to brutality. The protestors and hunger-strikers were manhandled, dragged and even detained by the police on 13th March. The women were physically harassed and beaten up badly by the male police. The police hurled abuses at the women protesters branding them as having ‘loose character’. The police tore the clothes of protestors, dragged them with hair, slapped, punched and kicked them. Ravindra, a student who was on indefinite hunger strike for six days, was dragged out of the dharna site and brutally forced to break his hunger strike.
In spite of the inhuman and brutish behavior of the police, the administration could not deter the students and the protest was restarted. This time the students were ‘gifted’ with show-cause notices. The level to which the university administration can stoop low can be gauged from the fact that it engaged personnel to follow and spy on some protesting students, as if it was a matter of ‘national security’.
The students are fighting for the following very genuine demands –
❖ Introduction of transparent evaluation system.
❖ Revision of revaluation charges to less than Rs 100, instead of the present Rs 1000.
❖ Conducting supplementary exams within 2 months for final year students.
❖ Showing internal marks of NCWEB & inclusion of NCWEB in the Placement Cell.
❖ Revocation of showcause notices on 9 students.
❖ Elected Students Faculty Representative Committee in every department and elected, autonomous GSCASH (Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment)
The movement has been continuing in varied forms: there was occupation of the Mathematics Department, boycott of classes, protests outside the VC-Registrar-Dean of Exam-Proctor office, hunger strikes by the sufferers and public burning of show cause notices. The students also protested in the annual flower show of Delhi University appealing to other students, teachers and karmcharis to support them. The Movement Against Mass Failure not only raises a serious question on the examination system of Delhi University but also shows a mirror to the education system prevailing in the country.