Many of you must have barely read or heard about the latest shenanigans stalking Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) – the Mecca, Medina, Vatican and Chaardham of Left wing civil service aspirants mas¬querading as activists and wannabe academicians. One student even earned his 15 minutes of fame by threat¬ening to jump to his death. Many student leaders have been rusticated for disrupting the sale of prospectuses for the academic year 2009-10. They, and their sup¬porters, have declared war on the JNU administration. Why? Three ostensible reasons. First, JNU wanted to 'commercialise' the campus. Second, it wanted to install electricity meters in hostel rooms. Third, it increased the cost of the prospectus by a 'staggering' Rs.80 to Rs.200 each. This hike comes after 10 years. When student leaders launched an agitation, JNU announced that there will be no electricity meters and no 'commerciali¬sation'. It also announced a free prospectus for a candidate below poverty line. But the student leaders were adamant. They insisted that 'poor' students cannot afford Rs.200. The stalemate continues.
This brouhaha reveals two deeply disturbing things about India – the farce that is higher education in India and the shameless manner in which middle class Indians crave for freebies. Of course, the political class happily exploits both to suit its ends; ensuring that 'quality' higher education becomes a slave of 'patronage' and the real poor of India get lemons; while the middle class and the rich walk away with all the freebies (subsidies). Take JNU as the clas¬sic example of these symptoms. Are the student leaders serious when they say that aspiring students cannot afford to pay Rs.80 more for a prospectus? Out of curiosity, I went to the JNU website and checked out the fee structure. Hold your breath; even you can't believe this happens in India!
If you are a B.A (Hons), M.A, M.Sc or M.C.A student in JNU, the total annual fee that you pay is about Rs.330 – inclusive of fees for sports and cultural activities, I-card, Library use, et al. That works out to less than Rs.30 a month. If you are an M.Phil, M.Tech or Ph.D student in JNU, the total an¬nual fee is a princely Rs.355 or so; still less than Rs.30 a month. This island of 'academic excellence' and bastion of socialism also has many fine hostels where the admission fee is a mind boggling Rs.5. The annual fee, including electricity, water and other facilities for a student opting for a single room is about Rs.700. That works out to less than Rs.60 per month. So you have a JNU student pursue higher studies at less than Rs.100 per month – including a stay in the hostel use of library, newspapers, electricity and what not.
Sure, many poor students come to JNU for a degree. But then, JNU offers them an array of fee exemptions and scholarships. What about the thousands of middle class Indians who come to JNU? Are you telling me that they can¬not afford to spend more than Rs.100 a month on higher education? That's akin to middle class Indians saying they can't afford to pay Rs.150 more per month for an LPG cylinder. Is this the 'freebie' demanding middle class that will Lead India? You must be joking.