The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Bill: Bhupesh Gupta
The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) was the idea of M.C. Changla during his tenure as education minister. He wanted to set up a university of international standards which would deal with cutting-edge areas of science and technology including agricultural technology. After he placed the bill introducing the idea and initial concept of the university in Rajya Sabha on 1 September 1965, Bhupesh Gupta spoke on the motion. He thought that the idea as articulated by education minister was good but ‘pedestrian’. He wanted the new university to be different from traditional universities granting degrees annually. When JNU finally came in to existence, it reflected more of Bhupesh Gupta’s vision than that of M.C. Changla.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Bill
By Bhupesh Gupta
Mr. Chairman, Sir, we have heard some speeches, especially from the Congress benches. I do not think it is necessary to talk about this university in order to settle the name of a personality in history. We are told that the name of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru would be immortalized by this particular university as though that is how we are going to immortalize him; otherwise according to them- it seems to me he would not be immortal. I think this is an entirely wrong approach. It is understandable if honorable members take the opportunity of expressing certain good and nobel sentiments for their leader and for, undoubtedly, a very great man. But we are here discussing the specific proposal for a university, and let us not try to waste much time on the name itself, although points were made about him, or the biographical sketch of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was drawn. What we should do here is to look at the problem and examine the question that is before us on merits. We are having another university in Delhi as indeed we should have got one much earlier. Delhi’s requirements of higher education are not squarely met and Delhi certainly deserves to be given a university by the Central Government and arrangements for providing higher education by the Central Government should have been made. That was done naturally, people have suffered and our education has suffered here. Mr. Chairman, therefore I am happy that Delhi will perhaps have a large scope for higher education in humanities, in science and in technology. But it is a pedestrian way in which the Bill has been conceived of by our esteemed friend, Mr. Changla. One should have thought that when you are giving this name to this university and are being guided by certain sentiments which would be cherished, undoubtedly, honestly you would have also introduced some new ground in the matter of approach. But what we have is just a common-place legislation which more or less repeats the picture of the universities that we have in our country. There is nothing particularly new in it, nothing particularly exciting in it. That is what I wish to say.
The very first thing that comes to my mind in this connection is: for whom we are arranging this education. Yes, technological education, scientific education and other educational facilities should be extended. We agree, but preference should be given especially when income disparities continue in the country in a very serious manner, when we find that the young boys and girls coming from the poorer classes do not have opportunity or wherewithal to enter the portals of our university, naturally the question arises whether this university is going to be open for them, those who do not have enough money or whose families do not have enough money or whether it is going to be just another one which will be accessible only to the sons and daughters of the rich. This question is very important and has to be answered and settled from the standpoint of those who need the care of the country most. Still, we talk about Oxford University and so on. I do not know how long it will take- perhaps another five centuries we will require at this rate- in order to forget the Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
Mr. Chairman, let us not go into all these things. These are very pedantic, high-sounding and perhaps very, very attractive to those people who have, in the corner of their hearts, still a lingering admiration for everything that is Anglo-Saxon. I am not one of those people. Certainly, there are a lot of things to be got from every country and England is not excluded from them. But why cannot the problems of our universities be considered from the standpoint of the requirements of our country in the light of the experience about education in the contemporary world? And I think the contemporary world points to one thing and it is this that the type of educational system that we have in Oxford and Cambridge in modern times, with very high-flown expenses and with a different set-up of values and functions of our people or any people for that matters, does not meet the requirements of the situation. That is what I wish to say. Therefore, let us not go into it. Here, Mr. Changla should consider for whom the university is intended. Why should we like more money to be given to this without any assurance given by the Government that this university will particularly cater to the needs of the poorer classes and poorer people?
Mr. Chairman, let us not have Cambridge and Oxford and Princetons and Harvards here; let us create universities and colleges that our people need, that our development needs, for the remaking of our material and cultural being. That is what I say and therefore the first thing is to ensure that the sons of the working people, the worker, the peasants and the middle classes do have the doors of the universities thrown wide open to them. That is the first thing and for that you have to provide not only money but also a different outlook. Money must come; we must have subsidized education; it must be highly subsidized because the investment that you will be making in imparting higher scientific and technical education to the poorer sections of the community will have been repaid in course of time in creative and even constructive labour which would go to the benefit of the entire society. That is now I view this matter. But Mr. Chairman, if the cost of education becomes expensive- from Rs. 125 to Rs. 200- I should like to know how many even of the great officers of the Government would be in a position to send their sons and daughters to these universities. That is what I would like to know. We know of those days when tuition fee in the colleges was Rs. 10. Now, go to the college, one requires to spend Rs. 30. That is the position. Then, we pay the tuition fees and spend on books and other things. Therefore, if Mr. Changla feels and honorable members who expressed good sentiments about Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru feel that he had some socialist ideas and a socialist way of looking at things, let the emphasis be shifted from the upper classes to the classes that are economically at bottom layers of the society. This is the first suggestion.
Secondly, the university should be run on broad basis. I would not like the bureaucratic set-up to come in. The autonomy should be completely guaranteed. I think we can give autonomy in a larger measure to a university of this kind. Since Jawaharlal Nehru’s name is associated with it I feel there should be faculty which educates the students in the spirit of world power. Now, we have got all faculties…we want, therefore, in a university of this kind a special faculty to be created that would impart learning and education in the spirit of the worldwide struggle for peace because nothing today is so noble and great as that one which teaches our younger generation… the struggle that humanities is waging for peace. Therefore, this thing should be there. Let there be a new faculty. Show some originality… There are new faculties to be created. That is matter for the Select Committee to consider. Maybe it is not possible to include everything in a bill. But an indication should be there. That is what I say.
Then Mr. Chairman, I should also like this university to educate students in various matters connected with development of democratic institutions and democracy in the country. This should be a special subject. It should be there in other universities also. Sir, many names are taken here. We find special faculties in a given situation are brought into existence in order to educate the people in special branches of learning so that students may become useful, enlightened citizens when they are educated in world affairs and the affairs of the state. Therefore, I say such suggestions should also be considered.
Some honorable members talked about student indiscipline. Sir, we are elder people. Therefore, we can talk about student indiscipline. But, Mr. Chairman, let us look at the ruling class and at the elders in a particular state from which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru came. I see the greatest indiscipline going on among those teaching about discipline to the students. Take the example of UP. What is happening there? Among the leaders, as you know, they talk glibly about student indiscipline. Sir, by and large, I do maintain that our student communities in other countries also and we should have no hesitation in extending to the student community as a whole our best feelings and deep appreciation of the manner in which they conduct themselves. There will be some bad people. And where there are not bad people, I should like to know. If you take percentages, you will find much higher percentage of bad people in the Treasury Benches than any college or university in the country. Therefore, let us not talk about this business. Sir, students should have ideals before them. Sir, students should have ideals before them. I should like this university to have a clear faculty, I maintain, for the studies of scientific socialism. And why should it not be there? Everybody talks about socialism. Mr. S.K. Patil talks about socialism. Mr. G.D. Birla talks about socialism. Mr. J.R.D. Tata talks about socialism. Mr. Hridas Mundhra talks about socialism when he gives money to a particular election fund. Everybody these days talks about socialism. But one does not know what it is… So, there should be a faculty for the study of scientific Socialism.
…I know, in the postgraduate courses Marxism is taught but books are always from the united states of America which display no knowledge of Marxism at all. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I should like a faculty to be created to impart proper education of this kind.
As far as other things are concerned, I do not wish to say anything because we will have another chance I believe when the thing comes back from the select committee. But I think the poor should be kept in view. Noble ideas should be kept in mind. And certainly when Parliament has declared for the establishment of, what they call, socialist state, socialism should be studied as a special subject, as it prevails in this country, in this particular university.
The Penguin Book of Modern Indian Speeches: 1877 to the Present, 2007
Edited by Rakesh Batabyal