West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against "centralisation" of the higher education system in the country. Referring to a memorandum issued by the Ministry of Education on January 15, 2021, Mamata said the revised guidelines have put several restrictions in respect of holding online/virtual international conferences/seminars/training even for state-aided universities. She alleged the state governments were not consulted before the issuance of the memorandum.
"Our universities must enjoy the highest possible degree of self-governance and freedom to conduct their education activities in regular interaction with their counterparts abroad. Knowledge is neither created by nor belongs to any single country or community. Reasonable regulations and restrictions are understandable, however, the restrictions imposed vide the office memorandum under reference, further highlights the intention of Government of India towards centralisation of higher education system in our country," the chief minister wrote in her second letter to the prime minister in 24 hours.
"In other words, is it not an attempt of the Central government to introduce thought policing in educational institutions by trying to impose 'One nation, one thought," she asked.
Mamata said that education is in the concurrent list of Indian Constitution and any non-consultation by the Government of India with the state governments, before issuing any such instructions to the educational institutions, will be "against the spirit of the federal structure enshrined in the Indian Constitution".
"Such communication will only be seen as an example of the contempt of constitutional powers of the states. It may be pertinent to mention here that state governments are duly empowered under law to deal with any act committed by any educational institution which violates any law or is contrary to the interest of national security," Banejree said in her letter.
She urged the prime minister to issue directions to the Ministry of Education for withdrawing the said office memorandum with immediate effect and with suitable advice to consult the state governments before issuing any such orders in the future.