Five million signatures collected by the Students' Federation of India (SFI) from across the country demanding the protection of public education were submitted to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on January 22, 2007.
A delegation of SFI leaders meeting with the Prime Minister urged the government to address a number of pressing issues facing students. Included in the students’ petition are demands that the Indian government keep the country’s education services out of the GATS.
“Universities have the responsibility of creating knowledge for the entire society,” reads the petition. “They are the dwelling places of ideas and idealism. If our university system is opened to foreign and private players, it will be to the detriment of our intellectual self-reliance. The experience of private universities in our country is already very bitter.”
The government of India recently released a consultation paper on “Higher Education in India and GATS” that proposes to liberalize the trade of education services.
The students said the paper is a “grim reminder of colonial education policies.” Following their meeting with the prime minister, SFI leaders said it was clear that the government is still pushing ahead with plans to open up the Indian education sector.
“SFI strongly opposes this move and will undertake broader struggles to prevent it”, they stated. The students announced that countrywide demonstrations are being planned for February 22.