Men sitting on the pinnacle of the palace
“So, I went one day to Linlithgow and said, concerning the expense of education, “If you will not get angry, I want to ask a question. I am equal to fifty [high school] graduates, am I not?” He had to agree to that. Then I asked, “What is the reason?” He said, “I don’t know the reason.” I said, “My learning is so great that I could sit on the pinnacle of the palace. I want such men. Because– from the top, one can survey everything. If our people are to be protected, then such sharp-eyed, able men should be created. What can a mere clerk do?” Immediately my words convinced Linlithgow, and that year sixteen students were sent to England for higher education. If those sixteen, some came out raw and some mature, just as some water jugs are half-baked and some are finished… leave aside the consequences. Later Rajagopalacarya cancelled this plan for higher education.” ~ Babasaheb Dr. BR Ambedkar
From: Prabuddh Bharat, 27 October 1956, pp. 5-12, 18. Translated from the Marathi by Rekha Damle and Eleanor Zelliot, August-September 1964.
Babasaheb was educated at Columbia University and London School of Economics as he was fortunate enough to have access to scholarship provided by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaikwad of Baroda. He was an erudite scholar, jurist, economist, anthropologist and the greatest organic intellectual in British India. He knew very well the importance of education and thus his slogan ‘Educate, Agitate, Organise’ which he gave to the people of India. Since he was educated in the West, he was aware that to harness the potential of our youth it is important to have access to Western Modern Education and break the shackles of Caste. With this objective in mind, he sent with the help of Viceroy Lord Linlithgow, many SC ST students to England for higher education. Sadly, anti-untouchable Congress and the Govt. of India discontinued this Scholarship.
Nehru’s disoriented socialism which didn’t focus on primary education and health of Bahujans and invested in IITs led to a monopoly of brahmins and the allied castes in higher education. As the primary education was in shambles Bahujans, who were largely without adequate resources, were unable to enter into education at even primary level. This was pure neglect of the Bahujan masses. Reservation Policy had just begun and its fruits were yet to be seen substantially. At such a time, it was important that Bahujan youths be sent abroad for higher education on Govt. funding. But Congress never was a party for the Bahujans and so did it prove itself to be: a gang of brahmins and baniyas monopolising every paisa of surplus labour extracted from the Bahujans.
Later, after the successful mobilisation of Bahujans under Manyawar Kanshiram and Behen Mayawati, there was a new rise of conscious Bahujans who acted as a pressure group to sustain Bahujan interests in Brahmin Baniya dominated Indian State. Thus, under pressure from Bahujan Politics, which was built on the dividend obtained from the govt. employees who have benefitted from SC ST reservation for three decades, Mandal commission was passed and OBC reservation introduced. That was the victory of affirmative action policy of reservation. Representation which was ensured from reservation made it possible for a conscious mass of bahujans to emerge and agitate for their rights and negotiate with the State.
To amplify the struggles of Bahujans across India, we need to again reinvigorate Babasaheb’s vision of sending our youths abroad for higher education. Although there is currently no overseas scholarship for OBC candidates, a continuous demand should be made to institute such scholarships. Now as there is a special Sub Plan mandated for SC and ST under the Union Budget, we should force the government to spend the funds meant for SCs and STs on policies meant specifically for them and one such policy is the National Overseas Scholarship for SCs and STs which currently sends hundred SC an ST youths abroad for higher education. Ex- UGC Chairman and renowned academician SukhadeoThorat Committee has recommended that out of the total number of Indian students going abroad annually, 22.5 percentage should be SC and ST students to be sent abroad on govt. funding.
As per the data available with Ministry of External Affairs, around five lakh Indian students went abroad for higher education in the year 2019-20. That is to say at least 22.5 percent of five lakhs i.e., around one lakh SC and ST students should be sent abroad for higher education on govt funding. As it is a matter of representation of SC and ST communities, it should be taken seriously by the govt. of India.
Now, many critics or should I say cynics might question: where will the fund for such a large number of students come from. Please wait as I proceed and retain patience. In the year 2019-20 under NOS, twenty crore rupees were allocated to send hundred SC ST youths abroad. As per the Annual Report 2019-20 of NCDHR:
Rs 83,257 crores was allocated under SC Sub Plan
Rs 53,653 crores was allocated under ST Sub Plan
However, the actual proportion of allocation for schemes targeted at SC/STS is only Rs. 16,174 crores for SCs and Rs.19,428 Crores for STs. This shows that funds meant for policies targeted for SCs and STs were diverted for general schemes and this is discriminatory to the SCs and STs. So, now the argument that the govt. has limited funds doesn’t stand.
Now as can be inferred from the above data a total of Rs. 1,01,308 crores were diverted from the budgetary allocations meant for SCs and STs in just one year, 2019-20. To send hundred students abroad it cost the govt twenty crores in 2019-20. This implies that to send one lakh students abroad a sum of Rs. 20,000 crores will be required and as one can see, more than Rs. 1,00,000 crores available with the govt for spending on SC/STs was diverted in 2019-20 alone. The funds diverted in 2020-21 (and in the coming years) would be much more. Why can’t a fifth (20,000 crores) of these diverted funds be utilised for SC/ST students to send them abroad?
So, the Govt of India should send One lakh SC ST students abroad for higher education every year.
Anshul Kumar is currently pursuing MA in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, JNU.