The University Grants Commission (UGC), through a notification issued on 2 May 2018, dropped more than 4,000 magazines from its list of approved journals. Among them there are many unknown and little-known journals, which were found to be publishing suspect research papers in return for undue favours. However, on this pretext, many prestigious magazines that have maintained a high standard and are known for resisting the dominant intellectual discourse have also been dropped.
The magazines that have been ousted from the list include Forward Press, the online edition of Economic and Political Weekly, Samyantar, Hans, Vagarth, Jan Media and Gandhi Marg.
At Forward Press, we are publishing a series of reports to apprise our readers with the seriousness of the issue and its repercussions. Here is the third report by Kamal Chandravanshi on the issue – Managing Editor
The academic fraternity is aware of the goings-on
- Kamal Chandravanshi
What is the issue with the internal functioning of the UGC? This question has been bothering the academic fraternity of India and it wants a reply. Former CSIR scientist, Professor Bapuji M. says that the government has ruined the functioning of the UGC.
Professor Bapuji served in the CSIR from 1973 and 2002. He is now a visiting faculty at several noted institutions. He says, “The entire academic fraternity is aware of the goings-on. Many of them have not spoken on it, but they are well aware. There is lack of funds for serious exploration and research. How will the Indian scientists compete with the world in the field of research? The few who are doing good work are being asked keep their mouths shut. Why the government has to take steps like blacklisting publications? The UGC has delisted several important publications. I would like to draw the attention of scholars, scientists and the students of my generation and the next to this matter. As a response to the UGC’s actions, we should publicize these publications and subscribe to them.”
Higher Education System Has Been Ruined: Professor Bapuji Maringanti
In an interview with Forward Press, Professor Bapuji Maringanti says, “The government is doing itself a great disservice by such actions. What will the next generation says about the government? Is it not interested in hearing the voices of the backward communities, the adivasis and the Dalits? What sort of intolerance is this? I appreciate Mr Modi for several things. But the people around him, his friends – they are giving a bad name to him. As a result, even his well-meaning efforts are being viewed with distrust. What does the government stand to gain from this? It is true that the governments must be seen to be doing something, but in the field of education there must not be any room for politics. But they are spreading communalism here too. Are they not?”
He adds, “The government feels that they are doing something new in the field of education. But how does changing the name of UGC help achieve that objective? The core issue is that the system and functioning of the UGC is flawed. That needs to be fixed. Will changing the name fix the problem? If the name of our country is changed from ‘India’ to ‘Bharat’ will that change the fabric of our society or our natural landscape? We cannot cover up for our mistakes by altering names. We have to examine the problem from close quarters. All our reputed institutes, including the IITs, are beset with problems. Nothing is working properly. Why has the funding for research been reduced over the past four years? You must have seen the figures. How would we compete with other nations?”
He also says that, “This is all a game of money and influence. Not from today, this has been happening since the time of the Congress government. Instead of solving the problem, you become a part of it. This needs to be checked. Recruitment to several educational institutions like the IITs is on the hold. Many posts are vacant. How do you educate the youth? Where are the qualified teachers? Higher education institutions are cropping up but where are the teachers? Will they teach digitally? The government is creating an environment hostile to publications and research journals. This all is meaningless!”
Find a way to implement policies: Faraz Ahmad
Professor Faraz Ahmad of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) says, “The fact of the matter is that the UGC does not know how to implement the policies and take decisions on various academic matters. They have delisted many publications saying they were fake and predatory, but at the same time, they have also delisted widely-read publications like Forward Press and Studies in People’s
Also read: UGC out to destroy intellectual democracy
He continues, “The functioning of the UGC as well as its decisions are a serious threat to academic autonomy. How can the UGC take a call on who reads what and who is published where? There can be no doubt that this decision is prompted by political interests and is biased against a certain ideology. This is a direct attempt at curbing academic freedom. I register my protest against this action.”
Anirban Bandopadhyay: More will follow
Anirban Bandopadhyay, a junior research officer at the Multimedia Research Centre of the St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, says, “It can be argued that the reasons were not clear and that some magazines were delisted solely on the basis of complaints filed against them and they may include important publications. The UGC will have to consider how to deal with the controversy and the furore kicked up by the decision. I can sense that a bigger row will follow this episode.”
There is negativity against working-class Bahujans: Professor Sudhir Katiyar
Well-known social worker, the founder of Prayas and a faculty at the Institute of Rural Management (IRMA), Professor Sudhir Katiyar says, “Forward Press is playing the important role of focussing academic research on the problems of the majority of people. Historically, the social, financial as well as political arenas have been dominated by the upper castes only. The educational and intellectual circles were even more so as education was prohibited for lower castes. It is unfortunate that even in modern times this situation has not seen much change. The issues and concerns of the working class are completely missing from the mainstream discourse. The Indian society is so fragmented that the conclusions arrived at by the intellectuals in the mainstream are prejudiced and completely disconnected from the ground realities. The Indian universities are overflowing with many such useless research projects. It is the findings of such academicians of the country that led renowned human rights worker K. Balchandar to wonder which society they are speaking of.”
Sudhir adds, “In such a scenario, Forward Press is trying to fill in the gaps by encouraging Bahujan thinkers to address the socio-cultural-economic issues of the Bahujans. It is evident that this endeavour is bringing the ground realities to the fore. I condemn the UGC for delisting publications like Forward Press. I see this as a foul attempt at retaining Brahmanical supremacy in the academic and intellectual circles.”
Sudhir also says, “There is a huge gap in the understanding of the economic, social and cultural circumstances of the Bahujan community. In such a situation, the role of Forward Press in highlighting the issues related to the Bahujans through Bahujan scholars is credible and helpful. It is of great assistance in getting an in-depth understanding of the ground realities.
It should be noted that Sudhir Katiyar, through Praytas, has been supporter of the struggle of migrant labourers. He has been backing the labourers working in the brick kilns of Rajasthan and Gujarat, and in the cotton mills in their fight against injustice. He is as vocal on intellectual issues too.
Translation: Susmita Mukherjee Copy-editing: Amrish Herdenia
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