Sunday, March 6, 2016

Should students (be permitted to) involve in politics : 2

Examining the arguments against students involving in politics

1. Politics will spoil students - it will destroy them, make them corrupt
The basic assumption behind the statement that politics will spoil students, is that politics per se is bad. This is an assumption that is on extremely weak grounds. There are certainly bad, corrupt, scheming politicians around. But well, there are bad, corrupt and scheming corporations around too. There are those which plunder national wealth (recall the acute drinking water problem that Cocacola cause in Plachimada, those that cause irreparable damage to the environment (recall Union Carbide, HUL's dumping of mercury in Kodaikanal), bad corporations which sell products that cause harm to people (there are several examples to recall) , bad corporations which evade taxes ( again several examples to recall) , bad banks that mis-sell products to unwitting customers (recall that the regulator has recently intervened in this regard) bad banks that are involved in routing black money out of the country etc (recall the inquiries initiated on some of the foreign and public sector banks). Would we tell students not to work in and for Corporations ? Or are we going to send students to become sadhus in the Himalayas, so that they may remain pure, un-spoilt and un-corrupt.

I don't think the issue is with politics. It is about how students have been brought up as individuals. If they had been brought up as responsible individuals, who would seek and understand issues before forming opinions on them, if they are brought up as individuals who can introspect deeply and argue using facts instead of loud voice and violence and if they can disagree - yet live in peace, if they are brought up with a value system with integrity - nothing will affect them or spoil them. Else, it does not require a stint in politics to ruin them.

2. We subsidize the education with our taxes - not their politics. So they better behave.
The typical 'I have thrown you bones. Wag your tail and don't bark' argument.  Expecting students to be restrained and sticking on the four walls, buried into books, unquestioning and compliant, just because their education is subsidized, comes from a feudal mindset. Repulsive. Students are not slaves. They don't sell their souls to us for funding their education.  Also, what and for how long a student wants to study is his choice. The strata of the society she/ he chooses to serve and how she / he chooses to do so is entirely her / his choice.

And it not that we are pouring money into education. The total budgetary allocation for the entire education sector is about Rs 72 thousand Crores, of the total budgetary expenses of Rs 19.48 lakh crores and that is less than 1% of the GDP. A very poor allocation compared to global standards. Pittance. Compare this with the amount of direct and indirect subsidies that the government gives for corporations by way of incentives, concessions and by way of massive write offs of loans given to corporations - all these attempts to privatize profits and socialize losses. In fact, since these numbers are larger, why don't we look at chopping off the large value items first, before we look at these low value items.

And the tone of such posits is interesting. 'Our tax', 'My tax' they said. Well, if I had a right to decide where my taxes are to be spent, I would want not a penny to be spent on all the subsidies and incentives to corporations. Their contribution by way of employment generation or development is incidental to their process of increasing wealth to their shareholders. After all, organizations should survive and flourish on merit - not on subsidies and incentives. Only then will they be sustainable.

Also, I would also not want monies spent on 182 feet tall statues of iron or 200 feet tall flag masts - for, I think reality is more important than symbolism. (The national flag certainly does not lose its splendor if it is flown in on a shorter mast). I don't have that right to decide on any of these, so do people who now comment on spending on education.

On education, my view is this. Public education and healthcare are investments that the society makes on its citizens and ideally they should be offered free all through. There is a compelling economic rationale for this.We could do well to pick lessons from some of the European and Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark in this regard. This is however besides the point. 

3. They are in colleges to study - not to participate in politics. If they want let them quit studying and involve in politics. 
Students are in colleges to learn - not just to study. Learning is a wholesome process. And society and polity are very much a part of the environment that students should learn about and deliberate. We live in a country where someone aged 18 can vote. And when we have given her / him this right, on what basis can we say that he should not participate in politics ? And how do we assume that a student who is active in politics is not studying and is not doing well in his academics as well ? 

And this advise to students, asking them to quit studying and involving in politics. Absolutely brilliant. I don't know if the folks who go about making such statements know that there are over 32 lakh students enrolled as members in ABVP. Try telling them this.

I cannot resist quoting the Hon'ble Union Minister for Urban development Mr Venkaiah Naidu who recently advised that 'Kanhaiya Kumar should focus on studies and not get involved in politics'. If only Mr Naidu and his ilk like Mr Arun Jaitley or Mr Gadkari, had followed what they preach now, we would have been saved of their presence in the Government. Mr Naidu conveniently forgot that he started his political career as a leader of the ABVP in 1973-74, after being elected as President of the Students Union of Andhra University Colleges. Mr Jaitley was an ABVP leader who then became the President of the Student's Union of Delhi University in 1974 and later the All India Secretary of the ABVP. Mr Gadkari worked for the ABVP as a student.

If Mr Naidu and his parivar are really serious about students focusing on their studies and not wasting time in politics, they should have disbanded the right wing aligned , largest students union , the ABVP by now and called for other associations to be disbanded. They wouldn't do that.

The real issue hence not about students joining politics - it is about joining 'Left' politics. If it is ABVP, there would have been no issue at all.

4. If they involve in politics, they ruin the hopes that their parents and society have on them
Oh what a genuine sounding concern ! But look deep, you will see that it is not the welfare of students that is the concern here.

Look at the courses offered by most of the Universities - and you will find most of them labelled 'Job oriented' courses. From institutions where ideas are born, nourished, debated and refined, Universities are increasingly becoming training yards for mercenaries for corporate warfare, where students are expected to focus on careers instead of learning and thinking. And the call to privatize education is just for the same reason.

We will need to remember that there is more to life than just earning a living.


  1. 1. While there are living examples of politicians who started their political career as students, why do we still have the question at the first place?
    2. If students should not get into politics, why do we have streams like political science in Science colleges?
    I feel it could be two ways.. Stereotype of the political system and the great rat race to attain fame and money making politics a less preferred choice.

    Moreover, politics, the mere word itself is a chosen idiom for manipulation and influence across the globe..

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