Published: 22nd March 2021
Kerala will be the first state to implement the Rohith Vemula Act if Congress gets elected to power
The Congress-led United Democratic Front had released its Kerala election manifesto 2021 on Saturday. The election will be held on April 6
If the Congress-led United Democratic Front comes to power in Kerala, the state will be the first in the country to implement the Rohith Vemula Act, to help Dalit and Adivasi students to fight discrimination. This was stated in the UDF's 2021 Kerala Election Manifesto, which was released on Saturday.
"We will enact the Rohith Vemula Act to end caste-based discrimination, ragging and bias against students in our schools, colleges and universities," the manifesto says. Following the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit scholar in the University of Hyderabad in 2016, allegedly due to discrimination, there was an outcry among students and academics across the country, asking the central government to implement the act. The inclusion of this particular promise in the UDF's manifesto is owed to an effort by the NSUI activists, who are students of the Central University of Kerala, Pondicherry University and Vemula's alma mater, University of Hyderabad.
"It is almost impossible to expect the Centre to implement the act. The current government is anti-Dalit and anti-minority and those responsible for Rohith's suicide still hold high ranks in the cabinet," says Amal Jose, an MA Political Science student in UoH and an NSUI activist. "Since education is a state subject, we thought that we must influence at least the state governments to work towards implementing this. So, we approached MPs Shashi Tharoor, Benny Behanan and other Congress leaders in Kerala. They were quite cooperative," he says. Tharoor and Ramesh Chennithala, the current leader of opposition in Kerala had also spoken about how the act is important for the students from backward classes in the state.
"Most of the students do not know that their colleges and universities have an SC/ST cell and an Internal Complaints Committee. We want to make these accessible and make our universities more accessible," says Amal. The promise is however present only in the Congress' Kerala manifesto and isn't there in the manifestos released for the other states that are facing the polls this year. When asked, Amal says, "The presidents of the NSUI units in all these three universities — PU, UoH and CUK, are Keralites. Hence, Congress leaders from Kerala were more accessible for us. However, we will make it a point to fight to implement the Rohith Act in the universities in the states ruled by the Congress party," says Amal. The students also sounded confident, considering Kerala's political trend, that favours the left and the Congress in every alternative term. The election will be held on April 6.
The UDF has also promised to increase the stipend for PhD scholars in the state and an allowance to PhD and MPhil holders until they get employed.