Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 9 (IANS) Following a huge backlash from the opposition parties and within the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Front, the proposal in the state Budget presented in the Assembly that batted for privatization in the higher education sector has been put on hold.
On Monday, state Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal while presenting his fourth straight budget said the doors have been opened for private and foreign universities to open their campuses. As the first step towards this, he said four international educational conclaves will be held outside the country.
He said experts hailing from Kerala and those working in the higher education sector abroad will be drafted for taking forward this idea. To fast track this idea, special packages will be introduced in the field of higher education. Balagopal had pointed out that all these changes were being made to ensure to attract foreign students to Kerala besides helping students from here presently going abroad for higher studies.
But no sooner had the budget presentation got over, the Congress-led UDF opposition and the BJP went hammer and tongs on this major shift in the ideology of the Left, who have all along been against any sort of privatisation.
State Higher Education Minister R. Bindhu also was seen expressing her displeasure and the only ones who batted for it was the Chief Minister himself, state CPI(M) party secretary M.V. Govindan and Balagopal.
Meanwhile, according to sources, CM Vijayan, who returned from Delhi on Friday, has been directed by the party general secretary Sitaram Yechury not to take it further in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. As this is a major deviation from the CPI(M) ideology, no further action should be taken, Yechury has said, as per the sources, adding that the Congress and BJP will attack the Left during the election campaign.
All along the CPI(M)-led Left in Kerala had staunchly opposed the entry of the private sector in the education sector. The Left led huge protests when the K. Karunakaran government in the ’90s planned to open up a few professional courses in the medical sector and also when the A.K. Antony-led government in 2001 opened up the professional education sector in the self-financing mode.
Incidentally, the present lot of CPI(M) state Ministers, including Balagopal, P. Rajeeve (Industries) M.B. Rajesh (Local Self Government) Saji Cherian (Fisheries) P.A. Mohammed Riyas (Tourism) and V. Sivankutty (Education) were all in the forefront of protests in the nineties whenever the Congress-led state governments tried to revamp the higher education sector.