ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Portents for Higher Education

WTO's Nairobi Ministerial

At the 10th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to be held at Nairobi, Kenya, from 15–18 December, the discourse on higher education being public/merit/private good and the covert/overt preparation of the government over the past two decades to withdraw from higher education will finally come to an end. The conclusion of the current Doha round of negotiations, which started in 2001 but could not be completed because of the concerted resistance of the least developed and developing countries, has been planned for this meeting. A special meeting of the ­General Council of WTO was held in November 2014 at Geneva, which decided upon the process of suppression of resistance and finalised the “work programme” to conclude the negotiations in Nairobi. Once completed, it will have ruinous consequences for people in poor countries as variety of goods and services would suddenly be pushed beyond their reach.

For India, the consequences are not going to be any less severe. Its offer of market access in higher education made in August 2005 at Hong Kong will become an irrevocable commitment once the Doha round is concluded. While this offer was made by the ­Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, the current Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance will pride on its consummation—again exposing the essentially anti-people character of these parties. The implications of this imminent disaster have yet not dawned on people commensurately despite a countrywide agitation under the aegis of the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE)—a federated body of hundreds of organisations and activists in the country, floated in 2009 to demand free and equitable education to all from kindergarten to post-graduation.

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