The curious case of Azim Premji Foundation and the new NEP 2020: How and why big business takes over education policy during post-Fordism

Azim Premji Foundation (APF) is a major NGO in India that began its operations in the early 2000s in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It was started and funded by the IT giant Mr. Azim Premji who decided it was best to invest in the school education of India if he were to give away his huge wealth for the purpose of charity. APF was registered as a Private Limited company in 2000, and later in 2001 it was registered under the Section 25 of the Indian Companies Act of 1956. The Companies Act, 1956 was amended in 2000 so that trusts which get tax exemption and those which hold shares in a company can now get voting rights instead of the earlier provision where the voting rights of such trusts were stripped off and voting was entrusted with a public trustee appointed by Government of India. While the new provision in The Companies Act, 2013 too does not strip the trust of voting rights, in 2019 the Azim Premji Trust is reported to have not received voting rights following the transfer of Mr. Premji’s share to the corpus of the Trust. Instead the voting rights in Wipro remain with the Premji family, which will ensure that the family will have final say with respect to both Wipro and APF. APF also started Azim Premji University (APU) following the BJP government in Karnataka’s decision to encourage private enterprises to set up universities. In the next half-a-decade the Karnataka government passed 13 private university bills, including that of APU, and none of these bills faced any debates in the legislature, nor were any opposition members present during the passage.  

            The Foundation has been undertaking commendable work in the school education of many state in India and have played a supporting role in the drafting of the National Curriculum Framework of 2005, which was made following the controversial NCF 2000 of the NDA-I. The NCF 2005 has been regarded as a significant achievement in terms of emphasis on child friendly learning methods and attention paid to the locale of the child and the school. It also emphasized a more liberal view of Indian history and made textbooks that valued the development of a civic citizenry in India. The likes of the late Prof. Yash Pal and Prof Krishna Kumar led the NCF 2005, and APF’s contribution is mentioned in the Acknowledgements section of NCF 2005 and this is in light of its contribution in organising seminars in collaboration with various state governments (p. v of NCF 2005). APF is acknowledged before any other organisation and this rank in the order of formal acknowledgement places it among the most important ‘consultant’ outside of the drafting committee.

            The school education field of India witnessed significant changes in the second half of the 2000s and a large number of NGOs with the support of big business and banks began to enter the public school system of India. These corporate NGOs began to change the urban education landscape of India by bringing in principles of New Public Management within the governance of public schools in urban centers like Mumbai, Delhi etc. and began to re-organise policy making in line with corporate thinking. At the same time they changed the perception of ‘social-work’ from a traditional charity work undertaken by committed individuals or groups to that of a professional activity undertaken in strict managerial post-Taylorist framework of the late-capitalist production process. Young graduates compete with each other to secure a position as an overworked and underpaid temporary worker in remote parts of the country or in the slums of the city. The brand value of the corporates backing the NGOs make it possible for the better off among these youth to sell their experience of hardship for a university seat in prestigious universities or a well-paid position in a corporate company. The NGOs in turn sell the quality and social background of these youth to their funders to secure further funding and lobby for coveted positions in government planning.   

            While APF was a brand apart from these other NGOs – in the sense that it was one among the few which did not require to seek funding every financial year – it was deeply embedded in the working of these NGOs through its university – APU – that it began in 2011. The students of APU get internship in these NGOs and they get placed to these NGOs after their course. The alumni of the university of APF holds important positions – both in the administration and in the field level – in these NGOs, and the university in turn sells its brand through the labor of its students and alumni to the government and public. The faculty members of the University form the new fluid post-modern subject who navigate different workplaces – stretching from universities to NGOs to think tanks to co-operatives to government bodies – across space and time and play important role in the overall new educational field of India.

The case of the new NEP 2020 and APF

The first committee to make a new NEP was formed under the former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian and the process began in 2015. The recommendations of this committee was made available for feedback, but due to differences within stakeholders and changes in the leadership of MHRD, the government formulated a new Committee under K Kasturirangan to create the new NEP for India. The 2017 circular of MHRD mentions the members of this committee and an addendum which is now (31st July, 2020) missing from the MHRD website apparently talks about the ‘coopted’ members of the Committee for the draft NEP. When the Draft NEP 2019 was released, the name of Anurag Behar, the CEO of Azim Premji Foundation and VC of its University, finds mentioning. In 2019, interestingly Mr Azim Premji had visited the RSS headquarters in Nagpur to pay tribute to late Golwakar, one of the prominent early chiefs of the organisation. The CEO of Mr. Premji’s Foundation finds mentioning as a Member of the Drafting Committee of the Draft NEP along with Leena Wadia of the Observer Research Foundation, a major NGO think tank that brings together big business, academia and governments across the globe in one platform.

            The formal membership in the Drafting Committee of MHRD is a significant upward mobility for APF which was playing a mere consultant role during 2005, when public universities and academicians who were directly engaged in education played a major role in drafting the NCF 2005. APF has now been literally found to be writing the educational policy of the country that will decide the future course of action of education affecting more than a billion people. And interestingly enough the VC of APU does not have a doctorate degree – a norm that is followed in almost all Universities in the world – and have degrees in engineering and business. While degrees might not reflect the talent or interest of an individual, considering the condition of higher education in India, this becomes important as the VC is one among the four members of the Drafting Committee entrusted to write the new education policy for a billion-plus people. The official summary of Draft NEP introduces APF CEO as a ‘Professor’ (p.37) and asks the billion people to believe in this title when he hasn’t really taught in any college or hasn’t ever engaged directly in any pedagogical activity. His qualification is that he manages the wealth of an IT giant for certain philanthropy. And is the boss of a thousand plus workers who actually labor in real situations in various parts of India. While the Indian Government has the authority to appoint suitable individuals as they deem fit for the purpose of the new NEP, and it is not the aim of this piece to point fingers at an individual, these background checks of the process along with the fact that big business is now really investing in the education field across the world raises some important concerns.

            And nowhere else can one find the manifestation of the inclusion of Big Business and the shifting discourses in higher education than the new NEP 2020 approved by the GoI. What role does big business play in the policy landscape of India is best reflected in how the principles of corporate management and post-Fordist dispersal characteristic of production process in late-capitalism runs throughout the course of the document. While the document as such has steered clear of RSS agenda of saffronising, or the more controversial Hindi imposition, it did pay some respect to certain RSS positions, albeit more as lip service. This lip service is more along the line of culture and fundamental duties while serious swadeshi and anti-privatisation emphasis of organisations like Swadeshi Jagran Manch have been sidelined. This ensures that the policies does not affect big business or privatization and satisfies the Hindutva elements in the party.

            The starting emphasis of NEP 2020 is its categorical emphasis on support systems that facilitate learning. Thus learning outcome becomes the central organising principle of the document and this might be informed from the experience of APF that works in some of the most backward locations in India. Most students cannot read basic texts, and in such a situation what is the point of building institutions that assume that the students have basic foundational literacy and arithmetic skills? That is a logical point. But the emphasis on learning outcome – in terms of measurable accepted skills, where measurement might not imply the traditional standardized form or evaluation for the sake of evaluation – pushes the other questions to secondary level; mainly how will this learning be organised. The clever organisation of NEP 2020 is such that if one agrees with the basic principle – namely that learning is the aim of education – of NEP, one would logically follow that the existing system is in efficient or incapable of delivering this basic principle.  

            The realization that automation is pushing people across the world towards unemployment and heightened uncertainty, and the corollary position that education should equip the students to deal with this exemption from production process is in fact the only logical position any document can propose during post-Fordism. The new workforce will be competing with the rising power of the machines, and to effectively do that, all of the human capabilities compartmentalized during the era of industrial production under the Planner state model has to be brought together. Labor has become truly functionally simplified and any skill that the worker possess can easily be taken over by the machines. There is no need of specialization as specialized work can be done by a machine. What is needed is a workforce which is obedient to the command of neo-liberal capital and in whose disposal all the sensuous and creative capacity of the human kind is provided with as a capsule in the form of multi-discplinary education. Thus more than learning itself – learning to become citizens or learning to become skilled workers or learning to resist etc. – the idea that learning to learn become central. Because the students cannot stay alive in post-Fordism with mere information, because information has become democratic and are deposited in the virtual world, an education policy in 2020 can only do what is obvious; pretending to help the students through the apparent destruction of old forms of institutions and creation of new forms.

But this destruction of the institutions of the Planner state model has already happened. The policy is just catching up. In fact the tragedy is that while post-Fordist dispersal has truly freed workers from specialsations,  the old forms of organisation of production persists. Thus while it makes no sense to have specialized centers like IITs or JNUs because the necessary labor that humans contribute in modern production has been displaced, they are remodeled so that they exist, along with new private and philanthropic institutions, to continuously provide the socio-technical division of labor through which the state itself recomposes itself. Thus the new institutions that the NEP propose – new in terms of completely new or modified old institutions – are all aimed at cross-disciplinarily. Precisely because the post-modern subject of late capitalism – like the employees of APF and APU – are expected to perform a range of new tasks. The teachers of APU for example should teach, should publish, should do field work, should conduct advertisement campaigns, should act as personal mentors to young people and should find happiness in what they do; all while following a non-disclosure of salary statement. They will be evaluated by the ‘invisible hand’ of the market personified in the form of APF and the managers. Thus while they are competing against their colleagues so that they will not be fired during the next appraisal, they should also be multi-disciplinary so that when the company fires them they are equipped to find a new job not yet taken over by machines. This principle of APF and APU and all the corporate run institutions and companies is reflected from page one to the last page of NEP 2020.  

Only this flexibility – and nothing else – matters for Big Business and the new NEP 2020. All that appears in other forms of Sanskrit imposition or making India a global power or liberal choice option for students or emphasis on early literacy or push towards universal enrollment or 50% enrollment in higher education is just farce. One can leave after first, second, third or fourth year of college and in the production of contemporary it is indeed the case. Qualifications does not say anything anymore because it doesn’t matter in the corporate workplace of Wipro if an engineer is good in mathematics. What matters is if the worker – designated with a name ‘engineer’, that needs to qualified with so many other variables like class, caste, gender and other social hierarchies – can communicate with other worker so that the machine runs uninterrupted. If the student leaves in year one or two or three or four doesn’t matter. Because the skill of the worker that he is supposed to have learned from higher education is displaced anyway. Higher education has long been devoid of content. Not just higher education, but the general life itself has been devoid of content following the dispersal of the factory into society. And companies are benefitting from this. The billionaires of the world has been seeing their wealth multiply manifold. Big businessmen are now pre-occupied with charity and helping the poor. Why is it so? Because everyday life – mere existence – has become the site of direct accumulation. Even in our free time we work for Facebook or Google or Amazon. The biologisation of human body has made it a further rich ground of accumulation in the form of big pharma and big-tech companies. The pension funds and salaries and welfare funds lubricates the shares of big banks and corporations.

For modern production in its current variant the only thing that matters is that we merely live. And all other forms of its benevolence or democratic spirit has been gone. It is gone precisely because it is no longer needed for capitalist accumulation. The NEP 2020 made sure that it talks about the well wishes of the ‘true philanthropic private’ entities and how it is important to include them in the educational field of India.

Just imagine the case in which the ‘democracy’ is in. A billionaire starts a trust in which he has complete control. He then enters the policy domain as a supporter. Then he appoints his secretary who is not technically qualified by the norms of the same educational system to write the policy of a nation consisting of more than a billion people where he makes the state write that activities like his should be encouraged. While this piece only talks about one big corporation, it is implied that corporations have truly integrated themselves with governments now whose role is merely to govern – without asking questions and forever thankful of the benevolence of billionaires.      

The last point was made not to push public universities to be the drafters of the NEP or that government now should be made answerable to questions. Rather it is precisely to say that we are in a condition of existence where we are seeing governments and big business as one. We can no longer separate our boss and our minister. They are becoming quite literally ONE.

The only option is to choose between continuing this treatment meted out to us as those who do not matter qualitatively but only matter quantitatively in terms of how much profit our living can give the billionaires against our death, or to take matters into our hands and destroy the representative mechanism which sell us in the façade of representing us. This destruction cannot be imagined in terms of entrusting ourselves in new managers of the state or companies; rather it should be imagined as something that we do in our own terms, in terms of the proletariat that we have not yet become. Not to capture state power or vote an apparent democratic party. Rather to see through mechanisms of representations and question oppressive regimes through which our continual exploitation is ensured by Big Business.

A call for Communists against the State in the midst of the pandemic in India

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?

                                                                                                      – Psalms 11:3

The response to COVID-19 in India has been appalling. At the same time we see diverse kinds of responses to the virus across India. There is a Center which did what everyone expected it will do. There are states which responded with varying degree of preparation and alarm. There is Delhi from where migrants are walking back to their villages by foot. There is UP and Bihar which are refusing to take their people who are walking from Delhi. There is Kerala which is lauded as the best state in India which fights against COVID-19, and this piece is focussed on Kerala government’s effort to fight the virus. It is indeed far batter in terms of management of crisis in India. It has a better health infrastructure, a better local self-government and on top of that it has a Communist Party – CPI(M) – led government which organises the massive campaign and surveillance against the virus and the human-carriers-of the virus. The migrant laborers are treated better in Kerala and have been provided all the basic necessities to sustain their life. They are even addressed as guest-workers, either in a paternalistic mode to deny them equal political rights or in an inclusionary mode to ensure that they are well treated in their local milieu and public imagination, at least discursively hoping that it will permeate in their everyday experience of exclusion. Yes they will live, most likely the only state where this would happen. The media is with the government, the people are with the government and it is already considered as a model for other state to follow. The opposition to the Kerala model seems to come only from vested interest who wish to tarnish the government for their own ulterior motive. There could be other levels of critique to the statist response to the virus in terms of its specific science or in terms of how some politicians might be using it as a PR exercise or the long terms impact of the lock down on economy which seems to be the concern of some economists and states. But what this piece is concerned about is something else.

It is about whether the Kerala response is a Communist response to the pandemic and if it is not, what can a Communist response look like.

Or being in and against Capital, how can we, the communists, materialise and imagine a concrete communist utopia through the specificity of this crisis. .

“Should we be concerned about communism or capitalism in the midst of a pandemic? Sure the pandemic could have originated due to the destruction of eco-systems for capitalist expansion. But is it the time to talk about it now? Is it important to talk about what ideology the state is following in the midst of a crisis, one which is unprecedented and where the co-operation of the whole of society is necessary to fight the virus? Isn’t it aimed at dividing people which can result in a divided response to this virus?”

“Shouldn’t we stop talking about this and start listening and obeying what is told to us? Or what we know what we should in the middle of the pandemic if we do not want to ‘obey’ anyone? After all no one could have foreseen this nor any health system could have ever been prepared for such a pandemic. The state is doing everything it can in its very limited capacity, in the midst of the apathy by the Center, to help the people who are within its administrative territory whether they are Malayalis or non-Malayalis, across regional, religious and classist divisions. The CM, the ministers, the bureaucracy, the people and everyone is fighting day and night against this virus. Compare them with the Center and other states, even other country like the US or Italy. And you are now assessing their actions in an arm-chair within the comforts of your room? This is another level of hypocrisy”

If you thought these sentences in your mind, I am asking you to rethink politics in the midst of this pandemic. Because, even if one agrees or not, this situation is indeed like or is a Mass Strike. Not like the hartal that we are used to in Kerala where it has lost its revolutionary meaning of stopping production and instead became a fetish, one that has the appearance but has no organic relation to the concrete class question. It is a Mass Strike not in terms of labor, so far, but it is a Mass Strike from above. But it can be converted to a Mass Strike, in terms of Us, the Commons. Because capitalist re-composition following this crisis is not yet. So it can be seized by Us.

For Capital, the abstract universal, it doesn’t matter if a state is managed by the Communist Party or the Sangh Parivar or Pinarayi Vijayan or Amit Shah. All that matters is how can it successfully productivise the social co-operation of human subjects, as individuated and alienated beings, without this social co-operation becoming something that turns it back and challenging capitalist social relations, how can the principle of exchange that lubricates social mediation persist in the midst and after the crisis and how can social hierarchies exist or recompose so that value mediates their relation with each other and place each category in quantitative hierarchical relation with others.

If we are indeed in the midst of a Mass Strike, we should remember that ‘Communists like Us’ believe in the dialectical relation between objective social conditions and subjective forces present in a Mass Strike. It is the militant subjects who carry out the Mass Strike in a particular historical conjuncture whose terms are dictated by the specificity of the local situation. The objective social condition now demands us to co-operate, to stop everything that we as individuated laboring subjects have been doing so far; but not a full-stop lest production stops completely. This co-operation that is now demanding of us can be along two terms. Either in terms of the status-quo, which appears as the State, where we act within a state of emergency thrusted upon us from above and we co-operate in silence and in obedience as the perfect constitutional subject of this farcical democracy just so that we overcome this situation so that after this situation we can go-back to how things were into higher levels of barbarism where our very being, in terms of even sheer biological existence, will be under surveillance and mercy of the capital-state nexus. Or we can take charge of the situation, as social individuals, through the crisis that is opened up before us and refuse the terms of capital and state and refuse to be part of a regime of accumulation which has revealed no concern for humanity or nature and offers only apocalyptic future in the midst of a pandemic. We can refuse to take part in further regimentation and higher levels of barbarism that Capital and State can take us. We can refuse as Communists.

“But how can that happen in the midst of a pandemic? Should we think of political strategies now or should we collectively help the state to fight the pandemic and then do politics? Also the expertise to fight the pandemic, the science and the machinery and the medical laborers, are with the state. The state decides whom to treat, who should be helped and who should be saved. And we have no choice other than to obey the state. We don’t know what to do when state, through the police and the lumpen elements or the concerned civic-citizens, enforces lock down that forces millions into a deep and a bottomless situation. At the same time what else can the state also do in this situation? It is helpless too. We don’t know what to do when the workplaces that we work in have suddenly become unstable and are looming towards deep crisis. We don’t know if after the crisis, if there will ever be an after, what will happen to our jobs, our disrupted school and college year, our destroyed crops, our status as immigrant workers across the globe and our status as human beings. We will need the state after the crisis too. To help re-build the world. The state in turn needs our support to re-build.”

“This is a standstill. Standstill of not just our earlier mode of existence or production, but a standstill of time and of politics. Let it pass, let people survive with their lives and then we can do polemics or politics.”

“But what are you in this blog suggesting anyway?”

” And if you are suggesting an alternative, ‘what is to be done?’ And why do you call it communists against even the CPI(M)? Shouldn’t the communists of the world unite to uphold Party’s response not just here but in countries like Cuba who are our comrades in the fight against neo-liberal assault on the public? After all it is a matter of how different forms of state are prepared to fight in conditions of deep crisis. And we are seeing that Left governments and societies where socialist thinking and doing have been present are faring better. It is a matter of which kind of state and not state as such”

“It could also be the case that CPI(M) is not exactly following the communist path, if there is any. Pinarayi Vijayan might be acting like Mukesh Ambani, or even better in terms of New Public Management principles. But so what? The situation demands it. We all are seeing what is happening in Italy, Spain and now in US. Do you want Kerala to be like them? We are a poor state and we don’t have the resources to fight like developed countries. So preparation is the only way to survive and CPI(M) is doing good. We hope Pinarayi was our PM. Don’t bring an assessment of their degree of closeness to communism here. Please.”

“And shouldn’t the response be a call for greater statist responsibility, an accelerated effort from the part of the state, like in a war, to proactively take charge of the situation, nationalise health care, support labor rights, ensure an acutally-existed-socialist model where state took care of everything? What is this Communism that you are talking about?”

This piece is to propose that it is not the form of the state that matters but state as social relation which is revealed that needs to be challenged if we are to think of a Communist response to the virus. After all it has become evident across the world that the state decides whom to treat and what response it should take in times of pandemic; whom to evacuate and whom to let die. State evacuated hundreds from foreign countries in flights but let millions walk and die within. The case of Kerala is considered here because it appears to be different and is seen as the best response to the epidemic. But is this the best that humanity can offer against the virus? Is there is nothing more that we can do except to expect the state to instrumentalise the collective action of the Kudumasree women, prisoners, fishermen, college students and the common (wo)men during times of crises and once the crisis is passed, everyone goes back to their own hierarchised and oppressive social location through the instrumentalisation of which capital and state re-organises? Crisis shows us the power of the Commons. Common not in the sense of the traditional community. We have seen, in Kerala, during the floods and during Nippah and even now that it is not the community in the traditional sense, static and identitarian, that fought hand in hand with us. Traditional community marked along neighborhood or identity failed to help us. It was the Common that fought for us. It was we who fought for us. But if we fought for us, what did we do to this Common after those crises? And if we did not do anything, what did Capital and the state do to this Common after the crisis?

“Wasn’t it the government machinery which helped us survive those outbreaks? The State through its arms collected resources from around the world and collated them for our survival. Wasn’t it so?”

Was it? Wasn’t it the collective Common, which did not have a prior given form, that emerged in and through the crisis that took us through the biggest floods that Kerala witnessed then? Wasn’t it the anonymous and the socialised bodies that came about in the concrete situation that saved us? Wasn’t it the medical community across the globe and the underpaid hospital nurses and anganwadi workers that helped us get through the Nippah crisis? Did they require a manager in their work? Maybe they did. The situation may have demanded it. But why is it that their managers remain their managers even after the demand of the situation and they continue to work in inhuman and underpaid settings? In the midst of the Common action, there were no cameras; and Common action did not wait for the state to come in and tell us what we should do. No state could have created a sense of brotherhood that we shared in the moment of crisis. But the state came in, and so did many levels of mediation. In those moments of break, we experienced communism. In the moments of horror we witnessed hope. When we were neck deep in flood water, we understood the barbarism of our everyday lives. But why did the charge of the situation went from the Common to the state?

We indeed have experienced the glimpse of a communist response to crisis. It was not under the banner of any party or trade union though it was productivised by all political shades and the state itself later. While this collective action, spread across the globe, was fetishised and the mediation of money and value kicked in soon, we ought to remember that it was not market logic that helped us. It was the collective human action, like the feeling of a unified body that we experience when we fight against injustice in the streets, that saved us.

But the state also saw our collective action. And its only job then, if we remember, was to appeal and direct this Common action like a bureaucrat directing production. There were moments of break within the state. We saw in the people who managed the state – the ministers and the Party – a glimpse of their utter helplessness in front of a crisis. And the state learned from this. The state realised that this collective action can indeed be commanded, controlled and regimented. The state could become the bureaucrat precisely because we did not let this collective action to reach its logical culmination. Its logical culmination was to challenge the social hierarchies and social relations of production that made the social factory. If we were true to our instinct during the time of crisis, we would have challenged the exploitative and oppressive social systems that rendered this Common an impossibility to realise during normal time. Who would have thought that the impoverished fishermen would be taking charge of the rich and NRI neighborhoods of Chengannur? But we let the state to take charge. We let capital to take charge. Then what happened? This Common was instrumentalised so that the labor of the human subjects that constituted this Common was brought into exchange relations. State managed the crisis by not abolishing social hierarchies but by using social hierarchies.

And this was brought in through the static and hierarchical division of labor among social categories. There are specialists and the specialists are with the state. There are hospitals but the hospitals are with the state. And if it is not with the state, it is with the rich and the powerful. Even in the absence of the state we reproduce state in our social relationship with others. But this moment of capitalist regime of accumulation has offered us a possibility to exist beyond the reach of the expertise of the state. We can take charge of our health. Why is it that specialised doctors and multi-national pharma and equipment companies control how we live? Weren’t these medicines and machines produced by the Common knowledge, which cannot be patented to a company or a person? Isn’t all production social? Isn’t the knowledge that we have of the virus itself the result of social co-operation which is now registered only along the lines of value relations but can indeed be truly communal? Why is it that we cannot think of taking charge of our lives when knowledge has truly become global and is indeed a click away, and why is it that who has access to this knowledge is pre-determined and completely out of collective ownership? Why is it that strict and hierarchised division of labor exists and we let the state command the workers what they should do? Even in the midst of an apparent complete lock down, we know that laborers are working across sectors, in the line of possible infection and death, to keep our lights on, to keep our phones ringing, to keep our neighborhoods clean and to keep us alive if we get infected. Why is it that the officers command and the technicians do the job? Can’t the technician, if the division of labor is democratic and functional, take charge of himself or herself? And why is it that one individual because (s)he belongs to a socio-historical category condemned to do the manual work? What use is the university if its role is to only select who will clean the road and who will direct this cleaning? What use is our communism if we instrumentalise Common for the purpose of the state?

And how are we communists if we side with the state to appropriate collective human action so that capitalist recomposition is unhindered? How are we communists if we allow the law making and law preserving violence to take charge of the situation? True that the workers will revolt. We are already revolting, but in what terms will we revolt? Wasn’t our existence before the pandemic violently precarious and uncertain? And isn’t it so that the pandemic has indeed given a fresh breath of air to the establishment to continue their appropriation and exploitation? Wasn’t the world witnessing mass strikes and protests throughout the previous decade?

If we allow capital to take charge now, as history suggests, we might control the virus but not in our terms, and we will be living in a permanent state of emergency, without any facade of order, and our lives will be altered for ever and we will be living through naked monstrosity. We cannot fight capital by capturing state power; it is precisely in the evacuation of power through the force of collective doing that our hope lies. And we know how to do it, we have been doing it. Just that we did not realise it when we were doing it and once the moment of doing passed, it got subsumed into the totality of capitalist abstraction precisely because we failed to be committed to the persistence of the negativity in the concrete situation.

This moment can become a real state of emergency, in our terms, against capital. But it can also be a state of emergency imposed on us from above if forgo the militant commitment to the Commons.

DU Ad-Hoc teacher fights NRC

DU Ad-Hoc teacher: I oppose NRC. I stand for your rights.

An infiltrator: Thanks Professor. I am humbled.

T: I oppose NRC not just for you but for the sake of democracy. I oppose this anti-people government too. Also I am not yet a Professor. I am Assistant Professor, ad-hoc.

I: I thought you were opposing for me. And what is this ad-hoc?

T: It is for you, of course! But your struggle represent the struggle for the future India. India that the constitutional fathers dreamt of. This government is destroying it. And ad-hoc means I am like a contract teacher. But not as bad as those Guest Lecturers. I get salary of an Assistant Professor, but I am neither permanent nor receive any full time benefits. But all that is going to go. They are going to make us also Guest Lecturers. Neo-liberalism.

I: Hmm. Seems like we have something in common. Everyone who supports me in NRC only tell me what they think of NRC. For a change I want to know what is the status of teachers in this country. I need to inform my fellow infiltrators in Bangladesh if it is worth taking the risk to come to India. I haven’t been to school still I am curious.

T: Talking about teachers whole over the country is difficult. I will talk about my case. I studied in DU, did my UG, PG and spend a considerable amount of money to clear NET exam. When doing my PG I licked all the right boots to get a PhD seat in my department and did all the manual work of one favourable faculty. I also performed well as an obedient and harmless person to the powerful people in the college and this faculty helped me get into an ad hoc position in the college. He had friends in that college and pulled some strings to get me the position. In return I helped this faculty organise seminars, co-write articles and books. He got APA with my work and became a Professor now. He sends me to his friends to offer my services to them and they do it among their servile juniors. I was in charge of Yoga club and had to go everyday in the morning to open the sports room to take out yoga mat. Then I did all his student evaluations. But he is nice; I sit in his room and he gives us tea and we are like friends. But last year there was a person from ruling party who was appointed as ad-hoc. I had to be Guest. But this year I am back as Ad-hoc; luckily no one from my community ticks all the right columns like me. But now due to neo-liberalism and senseless Central government, ad-hoc positions are going to get over. Everyone is going to be Guest and they are going to recruit new people as full time Assistant Professors. Doing this ad-hoc work already exhausted 5 years of my PhD and I am nowhere near completion. But that faculty will publish my article in his book and pass my viva. But if I don’t have PhD I won’t be able to apply as Assistant Professor.

I: Oh. That is sad. What do you intend to do now?

T: We are on protest. We won’t correct papers nor will supervise exams. We want this rule to go and we want ad-hocs to be absorbed into service. Don’t bring new people. They will take away our jobs. Change the rules, and why is PhD a requirement to teach anyway? I like teaching, and like Prof Avijit Pathak said a good teacher need not be a good researcher or should have qualifications for the sake of it. And once these positions are open all the low quality teachers, most of them cadre of the present ruling party, from godforsaken villages will occupy these positions. All of them would have done PhD from some universities that no one would have heard and published in fake journals.

I: Emmm. You oppose NRC on what grounds?

T: It is discriminatory. How can a poor provide written records? This is a measure that targets the poor, the minorities and it is a divisive measure. The government wants to divide people and reap the benefit out of this division. It aims to find the Outsider and make a discourse out of this Outsider.

I: Hmm. Can you tell me once more what is your argument against new appointments in DU?

T: We have been teaching in this place for years. We are the rightful owners of new posts. There should be new guidelines which will automatically absorb us as full time or should protect our tenure. We are the insiders, and before outsiders are given posts we should be protected. Outsiders will be political appointments by the ruling regime and they will destroy this great university. They don’t have any quality and have no experience.

I: Dude. This is the same argument that the North Indian worker tells me when I ask them why they are supporting NRC. He is scared that I will take his position – as a worker and as a recognisable human being in these times. You and he, you both have same arguments. Yet you say you oppose NRC.

T: You are missing the point. And how can you compare me with a Bhakt? I am fighting for my right as a citizen of this country. And he is trying to throw you out of India. I am protecting you. I am fighting against the government which is not listening to my demand to throw out the outsiders who are going to snatch a permanent job from me.

I: You said it.

T: What did I say?

I: You oppose NRC to secure your position as a worker in the university. You want to scare the government, and using the popular anti-NRC sentiment you want to push your agenda to stop outsiders in your workplace occupying your job. I don’t need the support of you. You don’t have integrity. You support me to label another person as an infiltrator and then preserve your precarious livelihood. What is your politics? I don’t think you have any politics. You cannot fight NRC by proclaiming that you are a citizen and you have rights. I am an infiltrator precisely because of this discourse. You create belongingness at various levels and hierarchies and then call out the Bhakt as blind. You are blind. Look at what your politics is at your concrete level of operation. It is NRC in action.

Saving the university?

Student worker1: University is under attack!

Hostel canteen worker: From what?

S: From the government; from the capitalists.

H:  As in?

S: You should understand. It is part of the larger plan of new corporate governmentality. We should fight.

H: Meaning?

S: It means this is a symptom of the withdrawal of the state from public service.

H: As in?

S: It means education, which people ought to get for free, has to be subsidised, so that people can study without constraints. Now fee is increasing; university is asked to find its own money to teach. This is dilution of the promise of the state. This is commercialisation of education. This is making the university into a factory.

H: But I have never studied. My children go to a school, where through Teach for India, nice young people teach English to my kids.

S: We should oppose Teach for India too. It is part of the larger commercialisation of education. This is part of the same plan which is making our subsidised universities collapse.

H: But then what should we do?

S: You should organise. Collectively demand improvement of government schools. Demand increase in your wages. We are with you.

H: But if we strike we will be fired.

S: If you do not strike, your labor power will be exploited to the maximum.

H: That is true. So as part of the strike we will close down hostel canteen, and strike.

S. Emm. Not close down hostel canteen. Then how will the student comrades eat, and have energy to fight against the authoritarian state? You do your work in the canteen, and then join us after your work. Or we will do something. We will time the protest so that it sinks with your free time.

H: But doesn’t strike imply strike against work? What is the point of undertaking strike during our free time?

S: Yes. But, it is not against work. It is for work. It is a demand to work. Work with dignity and just pay.

H: But I don’t want to work like this. I want to be a university teacher. Like your teacher. With car, good clothes and nice cigarettes.

S: See our strike is not for a revolution of existing order of things. It is precisely a strike against the capitalist onslaught of destroying the sanctity and specialty of sites of intellectual work. Government wants to pull us down to the level of the car factory worker in Manesar. We give solidarity to all struggles of the working class.

H: Then shouldn’t you support our strike to shut down canteen?

S: See, the university is not a factory. It cannot be. What you are doing is service to the cause. It is not strictly work in the conventional sense. The work of the university is to produce knowledge. If you do not support us, your child’s education and future will be doomed.

H: My child cannot read even 1st standard book. He is in 5th standard.

S: See it is because government withdrew from public schooling. Their focus was only numbers. Terms dictated by the World Bank. We should resist and fight for quality education for all.

H: Hmmm. Ok. So how do you think I should protest?

S: Do your cooking. Then tell us what your problem is. Come sit with us during protest and after protest you can go back to the kitchen.

H: So the strike is to maintain the university as it used to function?

S: Yes. So that this place becomes a bastion of free thought and a hope for democracy.

H: But I could never speak here. And why is it that your professor and you can stay in the campus and I have to leave after my work? I am also working, you and your professors are also working.

S: We will demand housing for you. But now the issue is protecting this holy place. And come on! Your work is not like our work. There is a qualitative difference.

H: Why should you demand. You are acting like my manager.

S: You are mistaken. We are your comrades. We are all oppressed by capitalism. Our fight is symbolic of the larger fight by people in Chile, Iran, Iraq, Bolivia and all over the world.

H: But you seem to be better off than me.

S: That is just relative. I am better off because of the demands of my social reproduction as an intellectual laborer. I have to wear fab India so that I survive. Just like how your reproduction as a mess worker here demands certain symbols from you.

H: Ok. So the strike is actually to make the university a space for the professors and the students. So that you are not measured by the changing standards set by abstract labor time.

S: Exactly! You got the point.

H: But that would mean I will still be a mess worker. And my children in government schools will still be taught by stupid and precarious English speaking youth recruited by NGOs, who will sell my child’s poverty for a university seat in the West.

S: We will fight to increase your wages. You ought to be permanent. The government schools should be saved from structural adjustment programs. And you have a point there. This university, if allowed to be dictated by neo-liberal order, will be like Western Universities where we have to work under intense pressure, and we will perish if we don’t publish. The university will no longer cater to the underprivileged. This university represents the diversity of India. It needs to be saved for the poor.

H: Hmm. I think you have a point.

S: You got it. Finally!

H: I think it is not the new management of the university, but the university itself that need to be destroyed. If capitalists become my boss, or you become my boss, the law of the place persists. I will be a manual worker and you will be a mental worker. You will recruit ranks from my community into the mental fold. But there will be manual which constantly measures against the mental, and hence exploited. What you are saying is to support your strike so that we remain manual workers. I don’t think that is a solution. I think I should go on a mess strike and screw you, your professor and the university.

S: WTF! Already our degrees have no value. In the face of rising machines, we are mere replaceable workers. And everybody is getting degrees from internet. No one values liberal education and free thought. We are the future of this country. We will have to save the democracy and the people from capitalism.

H: Shut up. All your rhetoric! To protect yourself and your class from capital! At the cost of my labor. I want the university to be destroyed. Or else make a university where no one has hierarchy. I will be professor tomorrow and you will cook. Ok?

S: You are acting as a casteist and a sexist. My comrades come to the university fighting caste oppression which commanded them to be cooks; patriarchy which delegated them to the private world of the kitchen. And you are asking them to go back?

H: I am not asking them. I am asking you.

S: In the future if such a situation comes, I will be happy to do it. But now we have to protect the university.

H: No. We have to destroy the university and the process of making new boss. It doesn’t matter for me if the VC of this university is an adivasi. I will still be a mess worker. I want to be a professor.

S: You have become cynical. You are acting like a mad dog who aims to destroy all the gains that the working class has made with respect to securing free education for the masses.

H: I am realising that you and your professors are my class enemies. Not my comrades.

S: You are misquoting Marx. His fight was against capitalism. So is my party’s. Because we did not see enough revolutionary potential in the parent party, we broke off and formed a new party inspired by Mao, Che, Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar…..and whoever becomes symbol of progressive politics. We broke off for you. For the working class.

H: Fuck off! The workers need no managers. We already have computers to manage our work. Now managers to tell us how we should strike? Our fight is against all managers. You or the machines.

S: This is ideological trap. Maybe Althusser was right. See we can see how Gramsci’s thought operates here. See how internal divisions are created to destroy the class unity.

H: Son. Unity is capital’s doing. Unity of individuated workers. You fly from one situation to another. From one party to another. From one space to another. You pose unity against capital? You are a fool. Capital disintegrates, then unites. Through state, through party. You, my son, is neo-liberalism in its concreteness. If you want to fight capital, fight against you as well. As Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

S: You believe in God?

H: Revolution is not a revolution if in the end you go back to your own home. Goodbye.