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Occupy UGC: The semantics of students on streets


By Swarnima Bhattacharya

An eyewash though it may be, Union Education Minister Smriti Irani announced on Thursday, that students will be given adequate representation in the “review committee” deliberating on the issue of the non-NET scholarships. Shehla Rashid, the JNUSU Vice President who has been at the vanguard of the #OccupyUGC movement, has welcomed not only the announcement, but also the fact that Smriti Irani was forced to come out and make a conciliatory statement, in the face of protestors marching up to the very doors of the MHRD.

While students pouring out on the streets in protest is a heartening sign of their participation in active opinion-making, what it indicates about State arbitration in matters of education, is something equally disquieting.

Less than a month into the Occupy UGC stir, the issues at hand have already found resonance in student campuses across Delhi, mobilising large groups of students from Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Ambedkar and Jamia Milia Islamia. Students from Kolkata, Allahabad, Pune and Varanasi are also carrying out spirited protest in unison with their agitating counterparts in Delhi.

The M.Phil and Ph.D students, the chief beneficiaries of these grants, were only in the middle of demanding a raise on the existing fellowships, when, by cruel irony, the mysterious “review committee” decided to do away with the system altogether. The government had already made the unpopular decision of slashing the education budget for Central universities by 25% and State universities by 48%. This only opens up a variety of questions on the seriousness, or the lack thereof, attached with academic research. It also intensifies the debate around education poised to becoming a “service”, should India finalise its “offer” of opening up higher education to international trade, in the Doha round of WTO-GATS negotiations in December 2015.

It is noteworthy how the Occupy UGC stir follows closely on the heels of the FTII student’s strike, which raged on for a staggering 139 days. There, the students of the renowned film school were fighting for their right to be headed by an individual of sound credentials, and not just a mediocre figurehead, an effective henchman of the State. The protest spilled over from Pune and reached the streets of Delhi, with students clamouring for the removal of Gajendar Chauhan as the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Institute.

Last year, the streets of university campuses, as well as social media platforms rang with the slogan of “Hok Kolorob”. Let there be noise, they said. The agitation started in Jadavpur University, Kolkata, when their Vice Chancellor failed to respond adequately, and appropriately, to a woman student’s complaint of sexual harassment on campus. The war cry, and I say this without a whit of exaggeration, proliferated  the internet, prime time television, the road outside Jantar Mantar and newspaper headlines, culminating in the arrest of two men accused of molesting the woman.

What the “kolorob” in Jadavpur unravelled was the deafening silence on the issue of women’s bodies (not) being treated right, within University campuses- an issue that is now been discussed piecemeal by the #PinjraTod campaign in Delhi. Women in Delhi University are organising Jan Sunwais (public hearings) on the issue of ridiculous regulations for girls’ hostels and PGs that resort to desperate, and often ludicrous, measures to keep women’s bodies under check.

I have carefully avoided reproaching THE government or A government, or any government for all that’s wrong with our higher education “system”. If the widespread geography and plethora of issues raised by all these protests proves anything, it is that the “system” as a whole is unsatisfactory. The “system” implicates not only the myopic policies of the government, but also the indolent heads of many of the aggrieved institutions and parents finding solace in caging their daughters in dreary college dorms.

As you watch various issues being raised and several battles being fought in the Delhi University campus, among other campuses, you see the assortment of campaign slogans snowballing into one. There are posters of different colours, some questioning the silence of Arvind Kejriwal, Narendra Modi and Smriti Irani, others demanding the ouster of an effective VC, yet others proclaiming “I know why the caged bird sings”, and even more saying that students must be handed their basic rights. Well, that is at the core of all agitations taking the University streets by storm for the past year or so. The right to complain and be heard, right to access libraries after 6:00 pm instead of being locked up in dormitory rooms, right to pursue higher research, right to be taught and governed by people with the right credentials— basically, the right to be educated with dignity.



  1. Some days I still can’t believe the government’s decision to reduce education budgets. And the government’s handling of the whole FTII issue, among many others was mind-numbingly stupid. The author has made a very valid connect to last year’s “Hok Kolorob”. With the recent mobilization of youth, artists and intelligentsia across the country, are we talking about a revolution? I sure hope so..


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Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune to Screen Films Made by its Alumni from August 5

Authorities believe that renowned artists like Naseeruddin Shah, Rajkumar Hirani, and Subhash Ghai were FTII students once and it will be interesting to watch what they did when they were stepping in the world of cinema

FTII is the latest entrant to adopt the practice of outdoor screening. Wikimedia
  • Films previously made by students of FTII to be screened for the larger public in  a short-film festival
  • FTII has nearly 500 diploma films in its archives that are now in the process of restoration
  • Padaarpan is scheduled to begin from August 5

Pune, July 29, 2017: In the year 1976, a direction student at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, Saeed Mirza made a documentary titled ‘An Actor Prepares’, in which he interviewed acting students at FTII on what they felt about their prospects in Bollywood as part of his final year project. One of the persons interviewed in the film was his batch-mate Om Puri, who was pessimistic in his outlook. During his student life at FTII, Om Puri acted in five diploma films namely Amrita, An Elusive Dream,  Khukari, Navjatak, and Duniya Chalti Hai. However, none of us heard or watched those films, only until now.

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune has now decided to conduct public viewing of a series of diploma films by its alumni over the years. The public screening of these films, which will be free of any cost is to commence on August 5.

Since its inception in 1960, students have made diploma films as part of the academic curriculum at FTII. However, these films were never accessible to the larger public. “The diploma films made by the students as part of their final year project work generally do not see the light of the day. So, we have decided to screen them for the public at our premises once in a week”, said FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola, calling these diploma films “goldmines”, as reported by PTI.

Bhupendra Kinthola is the current director of FTII.
FTII Pune director Bhupendra Kainthola in conversation with students. Wikimedia

FTII is one of the finest institutes for films in the country. Over the years, it has produced a fine list of noted actors, filmmakers, cinematographers, editors and technical staff for the Hindi, Tamil and Kannada film industry alike, that include names like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Girish Kasaravalli, Rajkumar Hirani and Resul Pookutty. Actors like Raj Kumar Yadav, Naseeruddin Shah, and Shabana Azmi also make the list of prominent FTII alumni.

The scheduled film screenings, which will be no less than a short film festival, will be called ‘Padaarpan’ meaning baby steps, and will be held starting Aug 5 at the institute’s main theatre which has a capacity of 200 seats. Advertisements will be given out in newspapers about the screenings of these movies, entry to which will be free of any cost and on first come-first serve basis.

According to the PTI report, the inaugural event will be attended by veteran actor and FTII alumnus Shatrughan Sinha, who as a student had acted in a diploma film titled “Angry Young Man”. Sinha’s diploma film would also be screened on the occasion, said Kainthola.

Sinha was a student at FTII
Veteran actor and FTII alumni Shatrughan Sinha. Wikimedia

FTII continues to be a landmark institution with its students winning most national awards and short film competition in the student film category. More recently, a short film Afternoon Clouds, made by Payal Kapadia, a student at FTII was also screened under the Cinefondation category at the 70th Cannes Film Festival in May this year. The film was among the 14 works of fiction and two animation films nominated in the short film competition category, which was open to film schools across the world and received over 2,600 submissions.

However, such masterpieces by FTII students have remained unknown to the wider audiences.

In the past, FTII new and old film projects have been aired on DD Bharati in 2007, before the practice was discontinued for reasons unknown. In 2008, Lok Sabha TV had screened 15 students’ film under a section titled ‘First Cut’.  The practice was restarted in 2013 with DD Bharati showcasing some of the films but the period was short lived.

Today, FTII has nearly 500 diploma films in its archives that are now in the process of restoration.

The decision of conducting public viewing of past diploma films again will not only help students’ work get greater exposure but also create an opportunity for the larger population to witness quality work of film students and be a part of a short-film festival.

Officials at FTII are already in the process of finalizing the films to be screened. “They have been selected either based on their selection for national and international awards or if any famous personality was part of it”, Kainthola told PTI.

Gajendra Chauhan, former FTII chairman also believes that this will be a good initiative as people will get to view the works of their favorite artists when they were students.

ALSO READ:10 Small Budget Indian Films that prove you Don’t need Superstars or High Budgets to sell it!

In 2016, the possibility of Prasar Bharti to start a new channel to screen diploma and documentary films produced at various national film institutes was considered. A proposal to screen the films at Doordarshan was also submitted to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry which is still pending.

– by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

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HRD Ministry to Ban word ‘SEX’ from Sex Education at School level to avoid offending People

The HRD Ministry has asked to avoid the use of the words 'sex' and 'sexual' in the document for the Sex Education Programme

Sex Education, Wikimedia

October 26, 2016: The Narendra Modi Government has decided to discard the usage of the word ‘sex’ from the sex education programme at the school level and HRD (Human Resource Development) Ministry has forced a panel of experts to condense it into one sentence. They said, that words like ‘sex’ or ‘sexual’ could not be allowed and the section had to be condensed into just one sentence.”

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HRD has also asked to abandon the use of words such as ‘sex’ and ‘sexual’ in the document for framing the policy on sex education for the students and said that the mention of the word ‘sex’ in the document might offend people, mentioned report.

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According to the Telegraph, when Smriti Irani had headed the HRD Ministry, the original draft which was given out in May used the word ‘sex’ twice.

Later it was reported that the expert panel has been asked to reduce the recommendations on adolescent education and asked not to use phrases like “sexual health needs,” as the word ‘sex’ is a taboo in India and instead of taking a step ahead and working forward to eradicate this, to the surprise, the government says, the mention of this word in the document might not be liked by people and offend them.

On the other side, experts have requested and urged upon a more explicit form of education where sex is talked about freely which will help solve the existing issues in this part of our lives.

According to the reports, the half a page in the draft earlier mainly advocated more thorough and explained lessons against unprotected sex but the Ministry raised objections on this as well during the last round of discussions.

– prepared by Chesta Ahuja, NewsGram.  Twitter: @ahuja_chesta


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Anticipated implementation of ‘three-language formula’ to open gates for Sanskrit learners

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Chennai: The Ministry of Human Resource Development, around three months ago, constituted a 13-member expert committee, with former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami as its head. The core agenda of committee was to suggest measures to integrate the study of Sanskrit with subjects such as Mathematics, Science and Law.

The committee suggested setting up of an independent Sanskrit cell in country’s premier institutions while making a ‘three-language formula’ mandatory for all schools.

Tabled by the committee on 4 February, the report according to Gopalaswami contains suggestions which if implemented, would open up avenues for students, who want to pursue Sanskrit.

The final decision on implementing the suggestions is expected to be taken by HRD Minister Smriti Irani shortly.

Clarifying contrary reports which announced the committee’s decision to make Sanskrit a mandatory subject, Gopalaswami clarified in an interaction with reporters that it is not true since nobody is forcing them to opt for the ancient language.

“All we have said is that there should be an option made available for students so that those wishing to learn Sanskrit can opt for it,” he asserted.

Under the two-language policy, Gopalaswami feels students who desire to learn Sanskrit are faced with the dilemma of choice. He said, “This is because they are forced to learn English and the native language (mother tongue), meaning even if they want to learn Sanskrit, they are not able to.”

Gopalaswami told about the flexibility of the three-language policy under which students can choose among a plethora of languages. He said, “In the report, we have made it clear that the option must be made available for eight scheduled languages and the students can, in turn, decide the three languages they wish to opt for.”

He stated about the abundance of information pertaining to medicine, architecture, science and technology available in Sanskrit, which could only be understood if the language is learnt first.

If you close your eyes, it doesn’t mean that light is non-existent. All the knowledge in Sanskrit texts has been existing for ages and there is a dire need to comprehend them and use them for the collective welfare of the nation,” he said, reiterating, “The suggestions are only for those with an inclination to learn Sanskrit and there is no compulsion on anyone to opt for the language against one’s choice.”

Since a huge amount of informational material is available in Sanskrit, Gopalaswami believes that implementation of the report will bring a positive impact in the educational system, beneficial for the common welfare of the people.

“Otherwise, somebody else will do it and you will start running behind,” he added.

Stating the report’s purpose, Gopalaswami further said that establishing a Sanskrit cell in premier institutions of the country, including the IITs and IIMs, is a significant step in opening up a platform for those willing to research in the ancient language. (Inputs from