After the University Grants Commission (UGC) announced its guidelines to conduct exams of the final year students, the debate surrounding exams took a turn for the worse. Calls for mass promotion intensified, digital smear campaigns, co-ordinated spamming exploded onto the Social Media sites and confusion became the new normal for the students.
Historically our nation has fought against many socio-political divides. Our fighting spirit comes from our legacy of struggle for Independence and social equality. But even after our glorious strides in the past seven decades, some bad elements trying to exploit our nation’s fault-lines do exist a plenty. And I believe creating a faultline between promotee and non-promotees will result in an unbridgeable class-divide. The consequences of which no entity can predict right now.
As the Coronavirus cases refuse to signal its retreat, many student outfits of some political parties are hellbent on receiving mass promotion for students. The student community is left helpless to the political wolves trying to capitalise on student’s peril. NSUI, a student body affiliated to Congress, has been shepherding the effort while student bodies of other political parties play second fiddle. The hysteria surrounding pandemic and with no normalcy in sight, students across India are stricken with fear. The abovementioned student bodies are trying to encash this fear to sub-serve their own political agenda. Mass Promotion aside, they have gone as absurd as demanding 10% bonus marks too. The people demanding Mass Promotion are either unable to comprehend the ripple effect of this or are purposefully sacrificing student’s future to gain political ground.
If we take a look back into the period of 1973-74, The ‘Navnirman Andolan’, a student-led agitation against corruption, was blooming in Gujrat. The exams of year 74 were made voluntary and Mass Promotion was in effect. Those who went in and gave exams received marks accordingly, those who didn’t were promoted. Story of two batchmates from L.E. College in Morvi, which was the epicentre of Navnirman Andolan, tells a telling tale. One whose father was a principal in another college, explained to him about perils of promotion and he gave exams, another didn’t and was promoted. After completing his education, the later applied for a job with Tata Motors in Pune. He was turned down explicitly because he was ‘Mass Promotee’. PSU’s denied Promotee scholars in favour of others and even though foreign education was not as prevalent as today, the aspirants suffered the same fate. In the end, those who took the easy way out literally chose the ‘Way Out’.
The carrot of promotion which is being dangled in front of students to gain political momentum effectively divides students into two classes. Branding one of them as rejects, freeloaders or worse. The realities of the job market are harsh as is, but the inherent disadvantage of walking into it as a promotee makes them even worst. As the example shows, for an employer you who accepted mass promotion cease to exist as a person. Your talents, aspirations, dreams and desires are no more, and you just become another brick in the wall of promotees. A wall on which others step on to climb high while you don’t. No human should go through this but those who are gambling for their own gains might commit large section of students to this future if they succeed in canceling all exams. ‘Promoted due to COVID-19 circumstances’ is already showing up on students marksheets, marking the beginning of a new class divide!
With justifiable fear for health controlling students, is it okay to give into their demand of Promotion? Is it necessary to create a generation of ‘Rejects’ to be passed on and ignored in favor of their contemporaries who by no fault of their own are being made to experience this trauma?
The overpoliticization of the issue also doses not help. The political leadership demanding mass promotion be it Congress-Left or the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra are fearful of being ousted, and instead are trying to court the public instead of leading them out of this crisis. Choosing what’s popular over what’s right seems to be their mantra in order to maintain their already shaky grip on the power. States who have already failed to contain the outbreak in the first place are now capitalizing on the fear and legitimate health concerns of the students. This is an elaborate scheme to sweep their failures under the rug. This deliberate attempt to sabotage education may seem like an easy solution right now, but this feels like a sinister ploy to engineer a new class divide which come election can be harvested as a vote bank. The political parties who have lost their significance post 2019 may see this as an opportunity to disenfranchise this class, create discontent and win next elections. And here we see, the Brits may have left India, but their tactic to divide and rule still prevails at the cost of student’s future.
When all apex bodies of various professions already rejecting mass promotion, the student is now confused, scared, angry and rightly so. But one thing they must remember, two years down the line it is they themselves who will have to fight the stigma of being a ‘Promotee’, It’s their degree which will have to face harsh scrutiny and fight the stigma attached to it, not some politician. And in the end their degree should reflect culmination of their hard work and not some stamp forced on them by petty politicians. It is in our hands to choose whether to be a victor or a victim.
So, with hoping for the better future I appeal to the student community, that we learn from the past, see through the smokescreen of Social Media outrage and make an informed choice. Choose courage over fear, patience over panic and evaluation over promotion.