Universities got upset when the government pushed them to promote their schemes

MUMBAI: Can publishing the language of a state or enrolling workers in a government pension plan be a year-round activity for an IIT or an autonomous university? The main educational institutions that receive subsidies from the Center are affected by a peculiar problem: the Ministry of Human Resources Development has established a rigorous program of non-academic activities that must be carried out almost throughout the year, ranging from the promotion of Emblematic missions such as Swachh Bharat to cultural activities such as language lessons and classical performances.

In a recent workshop in Delhi, social media coordinators from major institutions such as IIT, IIM and IISER, among others, were not only asked to make extensive use of their Twitter identifiers to promote their own work, but also also support ministry activities by retweeting your Tweets regularly. An official from one of the IITs said they were asked to tweet several times a day to gain popularity on social media. While this is still feasible, we are expected to perform a series of activities at all times and it is difficult to find students who can take time out of his busy schedule. Many directives arrive at the eleventh hour, which makes it difficult for us to organize events and even if we succeed, we cannot show a solid participation in the photographs, ”said the IIT official.

A former IIT director said that the premier institutes find it difficult to organise cultural events. “Our students will have to be trained for those cultural events, but we do not have trainers for classical singing and dancing. Not many are willing to do these activities. The idea of holding such events could be gradually brought into the IIT system and it cannot happen overnight,” said the director.

Under the government’s campaign of (EBSB), the ministry wants students to at least learn alphabets, 100 sentences, five songs and 20 proverbs in the language of a partner state. Maharashtra was paired with Odisha for this campaign, and students were expected to learn Odia through online mobile applications. They are also expected to take various pledges, including for the campaign, national unity and single-use plastic in Odia. Students from Rajasthan are paired with Assam, Haryana with , and with Kerala, and so on.

“Another plan under the EBSB was to hold a cultural exchange programme between paired colleges from Maharashtra and Odisha. A teacher and 50 students from each college were to visit Odisha for a week. But no one had a clue how to go about it. Mails to the programme officers in Delhi went unanswered. Much to our relief, the exchange plan was shelved but other programmes will still continue,” said a nodal officer from one of the Mumbai colleges.

In another bizarre activity, students from colleges funded under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Abhiyan (RUSA) were asked to promote the Central government’s pension scheme in the unorganised sector. A RUSA official from Maharashtra said students can approach their domestic help, drivers, gardeners or watchmen to promote the scheme. While most activities are being asked of RUSA-funded colleges, many others are common for all higher education institutions.

A director said that universities are expected to designate a nodal officer for all those campaigns, submit a regular report and upload photos and videos on the designated websites. “In January, the MHRD sent a circular asking all universities to observe Swachhata Pakhwada. They asked us to do about 20 activities in a period of two weeks. The mail arrived only two days before January 16, when the campaign was supposed to start. From plogging (the concept of collecting garbage while jogging) to planting trees, to the development of innovative technologies for waste recycling, awareness campaigns, etc., everything was listed for specific days and universities were expected to give daily reports It was practically impossible, but we still did it for a few days, ”said the director.

“While the concept for carrying out these government campaigns is good, they cannot have prolonged activities. Events that can be completed in one day extend to a week or a month. The compulsion to send daily reports and upload photos will soon make fun of the entire process. People will soon manufacture information to demonstrate compliance, ”said a director.

However, a senior MHRD official said: “The IIT and other institutions of higher education are part of the government and these are national programs aimed at building the nation. These are national constitutional and political values, which every government must insist and that all citizens must follow. There is no doubt that it is not academic. For example, for Swachhata Pakhwada, can you say that cleaning is not my business? Look at it positively. It is the idea of ​​the nation that is now emerging as government schemes and policies. We should all support it. The official added that reporting events is essential to monitor activities.