The University Grants Commission has asked universities to encourage their students and faculty members to listen to a speech by Narendra Modi on Monday, a week after directing all varsities to set up selfie points with pictures of the Prime Minister.
Modi will speak via videoconferencing at the “Viksit Bharat@2047: Voice of Youth” consultation programme. The universities have been asked to make arrangements for viewing the event from their campuses.
Some academics and MPs criticised the higher education regulator’s move as the promotion of government propaganda on campuses.
“You are requested to make the necessary arrangements to view the live webcast of the programme in your esteemed institution,” a letter to all the country’s universities from UGC secretary Manish Joshi says.
“You are also requested to share the webcast link with all students and faculty members and encourage them to watch the live webcast of this momentous occasion. Your active participation and engagement are vital to the success of this event.”
The letter mentions the link — pmindiawebcast.nic.in — to the planned webcast.
DMK parliamentarian P. Wilson said the UGC directives to universities to set up selfie points and ask students to watch the Prime Minister’s speech amounted to pushing government propaganda.
“The UGC’s function, under the UGC Act, is to ensure the standards of higher education, for which it disburses grants. It has no authority to ask institutions to do anything outside this area,” Wilson said.
“At present, the standards of education are not being taken care of. Instead, the UGC fights with state universities to include its nominees in the search committees to select their vice-chancellors, which is beyond its mandate. The UGC needs to worry about the standards of education instead of pushing government propaganda on campuses.”
A former vice-chancellor of a central university said that forcing students to listen to the Prime Minister’s speech without an opportunity to discuss it critically went against the “academic spirit”.
“Listening to the Prime Minister is not wrong. However, if this becomes a mode for the surreptitious entry of political propaganda into campuses, that is wrong. The universities are autonomous. They can resist such efforts,” he said.
He alleged that most of the vice-chancellors appointed to central universities in recent years appeared ready to implement the government’s agenda.
“Now, the entire system is geared to select for VC posts people who are loyal to the government. They don’t have the moral strength to analyse the merit of any directive,” he said.
“Rather, they disallow any dissent on the campus against government directives. A university is a place to challenge any viewpoint, not to crush any viewpoint.”
Address to teachers
A release issued by the government’s publicity wing, the Press Information Bureau, says Modi will address the heads of all state-level educational institutions – including vice-chancellors of state universities --- and their faculty members in workshops organised at Raj Bhavans across the country.
The workshops will be “a key step towards initiating the process of engaging the youth to share their ideas and suggestions for Viksit Bharat @2047”, is all that the release says.
It’s not clear when the workshops will be held, nor who will conduct them. Apart from being screened at the workshops, Modi’s speech to state-level academics can be watched on private electronic devices.