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Last Updated Wednesday August 23 2017 07:20 PM IST

Beyond the law, an academic rot is scarring our education sector

Prem Udayabhanu
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Strike at Law Academy SFI activists on strike at the Law Academy, Thiruvananthapuram.

As students take to the streets and the conscience of a nation reverberates with voices of anger and anguish, there is little space to doubt that something is rotten with the education system in Kerala.

The ongoing stir in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, against the alleged nepotism by the Law Academy management and harassment by its principal is no exception.

Read also: After volte-face on Lekshmi Nair, SFI on damage-control mode

There are umpteen issues to be addressed here with the student stir being only one vital part of a broader malaise.

That many self-financing colleges were making a mockery of the norms and furthering their financial interests is not a fact that Keralites are now coming to know.

We, our political masters and administrative honchos have known these for years. Only that these rampant manipulations of law and flagrant violation of norms have been left unquestioned all these years due to reasons best left unsaid.

Left unsaid, because an overwhelming majority of our political masters, influential class and opinion builders were either direct or indirect beneficiaries of this rot.

So, it was only natural that the grievances of a majority got silenced by the brute arrogance of the power-wielding class.

Not any more. We now have certain platforms that cannot be directly controlled.

These platforms air grievances, fair as well as unfair, without scrutiny. And without discrimination.

And when there is overwhelming pent-up anger against a systemic rot, certain instances need a trigger.

The immediate trigger that unleashed chaos in Kerala's chaotic academic scenario and campuses was perhaps the suicide of a first-year engineering student of Nehru College of Engineering, Pampady.

That triggered a wave of protest and many student organizations, including the Students Federation of India (SFI), an offshoot of the ruling CPM joined in.

But as protests knocked at the Law Academy in the state capital, the SFI as well as the ruling CPM seems to have lost the plot.

First, the attempt was to portray it as just a students' issue. No one can be faulted if that was construed as an attempt to sweep the broader issues of irregularities in the form of land transfer and real estate deals under the carpet.

Now, the CPM's main political opponents also are not above blame in the issue. Successive governments that ruled the state in 60 years have turned a blind eye toward the blatant disregard for the rule of the law for obvious reasons.

But the focal point now is the CPM, because it is the lead partner in a ruling coalition of the so-called progressive forces.

In no progressive society should a student protest be left unattended. Without going into the merits of the allegations raised in the Law Academy stir, which has been on for quite some time now, the popular perception is that the ruling party is somehow not able to take a firm stance.

In other words, it is vacillating between a firm protest and a 'settlement' formula.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan is on record that self-financing colleges have been chasing fortunes alone and shunning educational goals.

So then it is unclear why no comprehensive thought process has gone in to stem the rot that is inflicting deep scars on our education sector and thereby endangering the future of thousands of students.

These questions need concrete answers, but unfortunately the discourse is now all about whether this is a student unrest confined to a campus alone or a broader issue that needs to addressed.

This can only strengthen the axis of evil – political spectrum, administrative machinery and opinion makers – that seems to have scant regard for the rule of law while furthering vested business interests.

Law suits can go on for years. But the rot in our education system needs to be addressed immediately.

The Left Democratic Front and the chief minister should think beyond the Law Academy issue and roll out bold reforms without fail.

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