There is little doubt that India is on the move. We are now confronting problems that looked unsurmountable and acting upon them, and lo and behold! The hell is not breaking loose when we do so, as our intelligentsia had been making us fear.
So, it is time to up the ante and look for other holy cows that our elites have made untouchable and the one that I would like to pick is where most of our fear-mongers reside.
Indian universities are one of the first problems that needs fixing if we want to build a brave new India that capitalises on the power of knowledge to become a first world nation.
World over, universities lays the foundation of knowledge upon which a nation builds its prosperity.
Take out the contribution of the likes of MIT, Harvard and Stanford from USA and there is not an iota of possibility that it would have built a 20 trillion dollar economy. Take out the likes of Oxford and Cambridge and Great Britain would not have ruled the world.
It is the universities that decides the fate and state of a nation.
The fact that all the developed nations are prosperous and enjoy better civil society is a clear reflection of what the universities of those nation did.
If we go by that logic and look at what we have achieved in our seventy years long tryst with sovereignty as a reflection of what our universities did, the only sector where we have excelled is politics.
It is difficult to ignore the writing on the wall.
Indian universities are treated as political laboratories, and we are scared of fixing them.
Our elites seem to think that nurturing politics is the raison d’être of Indian universities, as they have always doubted that India can remain a democratic nation without being constantly agitated, so we have not been able to bring any change in our university system since ages.
This has made student politics a sacrosanct objective that is installed in the scared alter of every university, around which all other functions of a university must revolve. For decades we have been made to believe that student politics in a university is the foundation of our democracy and it must be protected at any cost, including that of the knowledge.
We must admit that student politics has gifted us with most of our current political leaders and, a generation back, they were the ones that stood up and fought when democracy-destroying idea of emergency was imposed upon our nation; but at this point, we have simply gone overboard to such an extent that every university is nothing but a hopeless hostage to student politics and pursuit of knowledge is now a secondary objective.
There is one more problem with decades of our love affair with student politics that is not recognised but is now manifesting in full force, and that is the quality of top academic office-bearers in many universities.
As our universities have operated with constant political interference, today we have a generation of academicians at the helm that have entered through the political channels and have survived by being subservient or politically and ideologically aligned to political bosses.
So, the people who should have been driving the vision of India as a leader in cutting age research are instead a cynical lot who have seen the worse and hence have no real faith in a different India.
Though we must accept the role of student politics in keeping the democracy vibrant, now is a time to do cost-benefit analysis of what the constant politicisation of our universities has done to the growth story of the nation.
It is clear that we have nurtured politics at the cost of knowledge and meritocracy. While politics may have thrived, academics has taken a huge beating in universities across India.
We need to ask a serious question for the sake of the nation now.
Is it worth sacrificing learning and education for the sake of using a university for experimenting with politics?
As someone who feels that democracy is The Most Precious asset for the nation, I am ready to accept the importance of nurturing politics, but I feel that times they are a changing now.
Universities are no longer the only forums where people can come together. We now have a thriving party-based democracy where it is possible for every Indian to engage as a citizen with political views.
Even bigger change that we must recognise is the rise of a thriving social media in India. So, there are many other avenues that can help in building a healthy political system where voices can rise and be heard.
So, if the nation can rise above the elitist paranoia, start purging politics from the universities and reinstate the objective of education as the purpose of a university, it is unlikely that it will destroy the foundation of democracy as we are made to believe.
We have had decades of having placed Rajneeti-Lalla in the sanctum sanctorum of every university, about time we place the idol Gyana-Lalla instead!
We have more than enough supply of politics and politicians now, so slowing down the manufacturing of more may not really hurt our nation and her democracy. But knowledge we surely have in short supply, so manufacturing it should be our top priority now.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.