SCALING a new height for the Students Federation of India (SFI), its 12th all-India,conference at Comrade P Sundarayya Nagar, Hyderabad, was indeed historic in more than one way.It was for the first time that an SFI conference was held in Hyderabad and second time an all-India conference was organised in Andhra Pradesh after the 6th SFI conference held in Vijayawada in 1986, a good 20 years back. The entire organisational machinery of the SFI?s Andhra Pradesh state committee had taken it as a challenge to ensure the conference a success. The reception committee, with C Ramaiah as chairman,had divided itself into 17 sub-committees to ensure that the conference sessions ran smoothly, without any hassles. More than 300 volunteers worked day in and day out toexecute the reception committee?s planning. Above all, it was perhaps for the first time in the SFI history that its cadres collected the entire sum incurred for the conduct of the conference.
RALLY THAT STANDS OUT
Moving away from these minor details, what stands out was the historic rally that was organised on the first day of the conference. Around one lakh students from all parts of Andhra Pradesh gathered in Hyderabad, braving the unusually chilly conditions then prevailing in the state. They came travelling for more than 12 hours in tightly packed unreserved compartments, some getting just enough space to sit while most of them travelled standing. Students from the districts adjoining Hyderabad came in lorries and mini vans. Most of them were from humble backgrounds and from government schools,colleges and hostels. They fought with the police and railway authorities who tried to block their journey and stop them from reaching Hyderabad. The simple reason that made them brave these hardships and participate in the rally was their immense faith and confidence in SFI.
The massive students procession was led by members of the SFI central secretariat,followed by 12 girl students in uniform carrying 12 flags to signify the 12th conference.Then followed tribal students carrying bows and arrows to show their resolve to continue the struggle against commercialisation and communalisation of education. Immediately after them came students beating drums and dancing to the rhythm of the music, followed by delegates and then by a huge mass of students from Andhra Pradesh. Banners proclaiming various demands of the movement and SFI flags made the rally extremely colourful. It took more than an hour for the entire mass of the students to reach the venue of the public meeting. The tail of the procession was still at the starting point when the head had already reached the public meeting ground, covering a distance of nearly 2 km.
The rally was addressed by West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, former SFI president Sitaram Yechuri, former Andhra SFI president B V Raghavulu, SFI general secretary Kallol Roy, SFI central secretariat member Albeena Shakil, Andhra SFI secretary Hari Kishore and Arun Kumar. SFI president K K Ragesh presided.Inaugurating the rally, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya spoke at length on the reasons behind the problems the country is facing today. He compared the growth rates of China and India and blamed the policies pursued by the successive governments at the centre for the persisting poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. He criticised the BJP for infusing communal poison into the education system, by using its access to the state power when it was in office for six ignominious years. He called upon the student community to remain ever vigilant to thwar t the attempts of the RSS-BJP led communal forces to subvert the secular fabric of our country.
He briefly explained the alternative policies pursued by the Left Front government in West Bengal in spite of various limitations and constraints under which it is functioning.He explained the growth achieved by West Bengal in agriculture and said that this serves as the base for achieving industrial growth and thus solving the problems of unemployed youth in the state. He also criticised the central government for pursuing a pro-US foreign policy and said that the recent joint military exercise in West Bengal was an example of this tilt. He warned the centre that if it did not change its pro-imperialist stance, it would have to face the wrath of the people.
Sitaram Yechuri spoke about the changed political scenario and the need for Indian students to unite and fight for their rights. He said the increased strength of the Left in parliament ensured it a major role in the formation of the government and enables it to press the government towards pro-people policies, with the rural employment guarantee act being an example of the Left intervention. He, however, said that only through popular struggles could the government be forced to extend this act to the whole of the country, covering both the rural and urban areas. He urged the students, who constitute more than 50 per cent of the country?s population, to be sensitive to the needs of our society and build popular struggles for the people?s welfare.
B V Raghavulu spoke about the students? plight under the Congress regime. He warned the government that if it did not detest from pursuing the World Bank policies, it would spell doom for the government. He reminded the state government of the promises it made before the assembly elections and demanded it to implement the same immediately. He urged the student community to build a powerful movement to ensure that social justice is ensured in all educational institutions. Kallol Roy address spoke about the SFI?s growth in this period and said that this was possible only because of the consistent struggles waged by it against the anti-student policies in various states and at the national level. He lauded the struggles launched by students in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states against the commercialisation of education. He highlighted the various struggles waged by SFI for social control on unaided private professional institutions. He demanded that the centralduct of the conference.government honour its promise of enacting a central legislation to ensure that reservations are adhered to in the private unaided institutions, along with a control on the admission policy and fee structure. The rally concluded with lots of hope and enthusiasm generated by the speakers.The massive student turnout, which enthused the delegates from all over the country,was a reflection of the SFI?s growing strength in Andhra Pradesh.
Planning Commission member and former Mumbai University VC Prof B L Mungekar inaugurating the conference