Two major policy decisions spelt out last week impacting the well being of youth went without much notice. One is the acceptance of J.M.Lyngdoh committee report by the Supreme Court on student union election reforms and the other is union government’s proposal to increase the retirement age of central university professors from 62 to 65 years. While the first one is beneficial to the future of youth and the country at large, second policy has extremely negative ramifications on the lives of young people. Whenever the government is in shortage of funds, political crisis and in need of vote bank gimmicks, youth is the main target. For the last fifteen years, retirement age hike is the easy tool of the finance ministry to stop the immediate flight of provident fund (PF). This year ironically the HRD ministry has mooted the age hike idea to manage the overnight expansion plans of central institutions in order to meet the slippery goal of 27 percent reservation for OBC candidates. This also allows the reemployment of faculty up to 70 years. If this myopic vision gets the green signal then the central universities will throw cold water in the dreams of millions of young aspiring would be teachers.
Due to the objections from the ministry of finance (MoF) this youth welfare devastating policy is waiting to enter from the backdoor. It is not that the MoF is broadminded to block the retirement age hike. As the fiscal health of the country is not as bad as 1990 when PF funds are required to keep the ailing economy alive, protest from MoF is purely to the prevent the continuous higher payment to the extended faculty members. For instance a professor may get Rs. 30,000 per month whereas an assistant professor will get only Rs. 18,000. This Rs. 12,000 multiplied by thousands is the calculation MoF has done to object the reemployment and age extension ideas. What a great policy makers India is in possession? With this divide and rule policy, government after government has been able to wreak havoc in the lives of every community – farmers or women or rural poor or youth.
As the argument goes, there is a severe shortage of teaching staff in technical institutions like IITs and professional campuses like AIIMS and IIMs, there is no other option except raising the retirement age of currently teaching faculty. But what about the non-technical central universities where there is over flooding of applications for the faculty positions? For the humanities and arts students, teaching and research are the main career possibilities. They are ones who suffer from the unemployment crisis. Without taking note of the future of millions of arts and humanities students, Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) blankly advocated retirement age hike in the central universities. To solve this critical crisis and career problems of youth, the government should put an immediate full stop to this kind of petty policies. For the last twenty years, welfare of youth has been ignored in the power corridors. Ironically there is no protest from the affected community. The onslaught of consumer economy and carelessness of the state has taken a heavy toll on the welfare of youth. Some people connect this trouble to the increasing involvement of educated unemployed youth in the terrorist and anti-social activities. No wonder Naxalism and homebred terrorism is the major threat to the security and economy of the nation.
Secondly, can this type of piecemeal solutions are sustainable for the future management of higher education? There should be some innovative ideas and schemes to attract faculties to technical and professional institutions. A tie up between academia and industry is very crucial to update both the pillars of development. Currently there is a complete disconnection of syllabi to the social and economical requirements of the country. Often there are complaints pouring in from the industry about this gap. In the last few years, management and technical institutions have been able to address this grievance of the industry. Still there is a passive response from the humanities and social sciences majority institutions. Although knowledge and education has been trumpeted as the basic infrastructure and requirements of the current growth turn around, India has stopped with a mere lip service about the need to pay immediate attention to revamp the educational system.
As long as youth development is ignored there will be a chain reaction indirectly impacting the development of the nation. Apart from concentrating on the macro economical and political issues, government has to bend down to pick the scattered clues for the recent national security troubles. The more delay in doing this exercise and correcting the mistakes immediately will cost the nation very dearly. Youth need to be rescued from the aggravating social crisis triggered by the negative policies of the state. Only the problem creator can solve this compounding crisis. The sooner it is addressed the better for the national development.