To say BJP chose statues over hospitals, universities is travesty of truth

Two things hold utmost importance for the members of the ‘Khan Market Gang’. First, their elite English and, the second, the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru in all living and nonliving forms. For them, Jawaharlal Nehru is an epitome of perfection. An ideal leader begins at Nehru’s feet and ends at his feet, such is the towering personality of Chacha Nehru. And indeed, being the first Prime Minister of India he made some of the greatest speeches in this country. He was not as bad as his current generation of torch holders, but was he as good as it is claimed he was?

The most outrageous facts that are pushed forward in his glory are that he was the man behind the glorious state of India’s current state of higher education. He established the most premiere educational institutes of this country i.e. the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) and Modi Government is hell bent on destroying all these centers of higher education and learning. It is true that the first IIT, IIM and AIIMS were established in India when Jawaharlal Lal Nehru was the Prime Minister. But did Jawaharlal Lal Nehru or upcoming Congress governments care about it for 60 years of their rule?

Decades of apathy

We can understand this by the fact that the first AIIMS was found in 1956 under the All India Institute of Medical Sciences Act, 1956. This one single AIIMS existed in India until 2003 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana which was a scheme aimed at “correcting regional imbalances in the availability of affordable/reliable tertiary healthcare services”. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government planned it to do it through two channels, first, establishing AIIMS like institutions and upgrading existing medical colleges. But the BJP lost in 2004 and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA – I) formed the government at the centre. Though UPA continued this scheme it did not exhibit the required zeal. Six new AIIMS were announced in 2006 and they were declared operational in 2012 in Parliament. However their operational ability was far from truth in 2012. The UPA – 2 announced another AIIMS in Rae-Bareli in 2013. Now, since 1956 to 2003 there existed one AIIMS in country, after that till 2014 seven more AIIMS were been announced. Until 2014 atleast 8 AIIMS like institutions existed in India on paper. But then comes the NDA – 2 government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi which gave the required pace and affirmation to the vision of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Steady Revival

In the first budget session of Modi government immediately after forming the NDA – 2 government, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced four new AIIMS and all of these became operational by 2019. In next budget session, Arun Jatiley announced five more AIIMS and one AIIMS like institute were announced yet again, of these AIIMS Bathinda started operations in 2019. Again in 2017, under the Phase 6 of Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) two more AIIMS were announced, one each in Jharkhand and Gujarat. And AIIMS Deoghar commenced operation in 2019.

Under the next phases, two more AIIMS were announced in upcoming years. One each in Telangana and Haryana.

It took the tally of AIIMS and AIIMS like institutes sanctioned after 2014 to fourteen. Nearly double compared to the number of AIIMS established in India before 2014. Establishing 14 AIIMS like institutions and having half of them operational in a matter of 5 years is truly commendable. It requires immense political will to do something good for the nation which previous governments clearly lacked.

Tradition of Credit theft.

It is a blatant lie that Nehru visualized and established the IITs. Back in 1946 Sir Jogendra Singh as the Member of Viceroy’s Executive Council of India formed a committee to set up institutions for technical education. The committee headed by Nalini Ranjan Sarkar deliberated on several points and recommended that these institutions be set up in four distinct geographical locations and courses be designed on taking into account the presence of industries in the respective region. According to the recommendations, first IIT was founded in Kharagpur in 1950. In 1956 the Parliament passed the IIT (Kharagpur) Act. Till 1961, four more campuses were established as per the suggestions of Sarkar Committee, in four separate geographical locations.Sixth IIT was established in Guwahati after a long 33 year wait; that too after the students’ agitation in Assam.

Neither did Jawaharlal Nehru order the formation of Sarkar committee nor he further extended the visions of this committee, so why is he given the credit and called the visionary who established IITs?

Until 2001, there existed only 6 IITs in India. And we had been encountering a heavy boom in private sector due to liberalization of economy. In 2001, University of Roorkee was converted into IIT Roorkee and in 2003, Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced plans to create more IITs by upgrading existing institutions. For this purpose he established the S.K.Joshi Committee. This committee gave several recommendations, which included establishing IITs outside India. Between 2008 – 2012 eight new IITs were established under the UPA government which were identified and selected under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government based on the guidelines of SK Joshi committee. After Modi government came to power, it announced 7 new IITs during 2015 – 2016.

 A clear lack of vision

When one looks at the Congress led governments, a clear policy paralysis is reflected throughout its roughly 60 year rule in India. A student reaches to higher education only after completing school education. But the apathy that was showed towards schools education halted our growth. Literacy rate grew from 18.33% in 1951 to 74.04% in 2011. This growth has been termed as “sluggish”. Small neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar did far better than us. One of the loud voices against Modi government, Nobel Laureate economist Dr. Amartya Sen says that Nehru’s attitude towards primary education was “lamentable”. Reluctance in strengthening the public education system caused this sluggishness. Year after year, political indifference of the party with “a family” left millions of young Indians helpless and uneducated.

The dichotomy of encomiasts!

Game of narrative is extremely important in politics. The “eco-system” has incessantly tried to establish this narrative that this government prefers statues and temples over universities and hospitals. Simultaneously they tried to project Jawaharlal Nehru as the visionary who “did it all”. Lots of efforts, money and paid articles are required to establish a lie as blatant and outrageous as this. It sure takes an expertise in beguilement to hide the open fact that there existed only one AIIMS in India till 2003. And Modi government alone established 14 AIIMS across the nation in just 5 years. The government has been an all-rounder and has worked for culture and development alike. The National Education Policy – 2020 is a saga in itself that is set to counter the three decade old static education.

(Raju Kumar is currently pursuing graduation at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)