The demand for reverting education to the State list from the Concurrent list has echoed strongly in the manifestos of many parties this Assembly election.
This comes against the backdrop of Tamil Nadu’s vociferous demand to exempt the State from NEET for medical admissions and its opposition to the BJP-led Central government’s National Education Policy (NEP 2020). Parties have argued that the NEP will further deprive the State of its rights on education.
“The NEP has brought to the fore the demand for bringing education to the State list. It was the Tamil Nadu government that established the Anna University, created infrastructure, provided salary for teachers and staff and continuously funded its development. But Tamil Nadu will not have any say in the appointment of the vice-chancellor [as per the NEP]. It is not acceptable,” argued A. Ramasamy, ex-vice chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education, explaining the need to bring education to the State list.
CPI(M) MP Su. Venkatesan, who has been speaking against the NEP, said in a vast country like India, every State had a different view and tradition on education, taking into consideration the socio-economic situation. Hence, it could not afford to have a national policy.
“Education was in the State list and was shifted to the Concurrent list during the emergency. Now the BJP government is seeking to bring it under its [complete] control. This is totally unacceptable. It will collapse the education system in the country,” he said.
Professor Ramasamy, who was a member of the DMK’s manifesto drafting committee, said when the DMK was in power, it had introduced the Tamil medium in engineering education, but this would be impossible now. “It says that the State government has nothing to do with education. There is a specific article in the policy that says the State can only fund universities,” he said.
He also said the Centre had introduced NEET because education was in the Concurrent list. “Reverting education to the State list will give Tamil Nadu full control over medical education,” he said.
The DMK has been fighting to bring back education to the State list, even before the NEP was introduced.
“When I was the School Education Minister, I made a demand [on reversion] in the CABE committee meetings. We have been consistent in our demand. That is why we have said in our manifesto that we will create a State education policy,” said DMK leader Thangam Thennarasu.
The DMK is also promising that it will get exemption from NEET for medical admissions in the State. Asked whether it is possible to exempt a State, Mr. Thennarasu says when the State is able to get permission for jallikattu, that can be done in the case of NEET. “We will adopt a resolution and send it for Presidential assent,” he said.
Mr. Venkatesan said if a government had political will it could certainly persuade the Centre to get exemption from NEET. “You should keep in mind that the first amendment in the Constitution for reservation was made because of the pressure exerted by the Tamil Nadu government,” he said.
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