Cost of education vs cost of wisdom

Recent JNU fee hike in India, has stirred the country into two camps. We shall unpack on why.

Aditya Aserkar
9 min readJan 12, 2020


The uproar of Indian masses started from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) protest. As of publishing, students have been beaten by rods inside of the University with their skull cracked open all while police watched. Police has allegedly switched off the street lights so that the terrorists cannot be identified or spotted.

Not unprecedented. JNU has been the hotbed for political stances since perhaps its inception. This time, the issue is of the fee hike. The revised norms are as shown in the following image.

This is a time when the sources are questioned more than the content, hence feel free to browse through other sources, I have picked the one that shows the annual implications, while most talk about monthly increase.


There is this deep-rooted sense about the feehike at JNU that everyone seem to have a feud with. Most people who are educated too, want the fees hiked. Top common arguments tend to be on the line of,

Line of arguments

1] ‘Why cannot JNU students pay 300 rupees?’ — is the central question.

2] Then it is further linked to how ‘JNU is antinational’ since they shout antinational slogans.

3] ‘Students should behave as students, not politicians.’

4] Some debatable people say that ‘if people go for abroad for studies, they work while studying and why cant JNU students do that.’

5] Lastly, ‘the students haven't contributed anything and are just using resources until the age of 40.’

There are multi fold assumptions and fallacies and basic disagreements with the world view in these aspects to unpack here.


This is will always be under the umbrella that any amount of violence can never be justified. Any amount of the law being taken in own hands cannot be justified, by the left or the right. (This is however, coming from a Gandhian perspective. If the perspective itself is a Godse leaning one, no amount of reading further can help.)

Extended Disclaimer

While there is no defending those who harm public property, left or the right, holding public property more important than lives of human beings is a non pardonable stand.

Olive Branch

Firstly, Let me extend an olive branch here. Say if I as a man, say that ‘child birth is a piece of cake’, I will immediately be disregarded as a fool tending towards a chauvinistic pig, etc. That is because I will never know. So, in no right mind, can a man say something like that. I could of course however say that ‘childbirth is difficult, gruesome, painful and I can never understand what all it takes’. This establishes that I can only have one opinion which happens to be on the side of the one who is affected.

Corollary, if there are people who say that they cannot afford the said education, you cannot have an opinion that ‘how can you not afford?’, or ‘of course you should be able to afford’. That is a moot argument. Its very shocking that so many women even do not realize this basic fallacy. This olive branch can even be extrapolated to the ongoing NRC+CAA effects. If Muslims say that they are feeling fearful, it is ironic to tell them otherwise. You cannot have that opinion. If someone says this, you simply have to agree. In fact, even if you too are a Muslim, and one Muslim says that, you still have to agree. This entire fallacy establishes that you are privileged, which is fine, but you are not just seeing with your privilege, but you are pasting that lens on the people who are clearly stating something that you have no way to know about. So the only action that you ideally should have is to agree with them; or you automatically join team oppressor. Retracing it back up, ‘You have to agree when a woman says that childbirth is scary/painful’ or whatever adjective she chooses.

Having established that discourse, ideally the debate should stop. But I shall still try to illustrate the above pointers.


1] ‘Why cannot JNU students pay 300?’

The sentence structure itself trivializes the fact and is aimed at humiliation. Referring to the olive branch again, if someone says that they cannot afford ₹X, it is derogatory to counter them. You can suggest ways for them to be able to reach to ₹X (will get to that in point 4), but ideally its your responsibility to decrease the said ₹X. To add to that such posts are then linked to the character assassination mostly of women, because that’s the easiest — with pictures of condoms, ganja, ipads, etc. ‘If they can pay for that/do that, then they should pay for this too.’ It is easy to see through that argument.

While it is true that fees have not been hiked for decades, but that argument takes us away from the fundamental difference of world views. In a country such as India where we have the plus point of having the largest young population in the world, we also have the largest poor population. It can thus very quickly become the ginormous bane of having the largest young uneducated poor population in the world. The fundamental point is that education should always tend towards being free for all. Education cannot be viewed as a privilege, or a luxury, or a business, or even a mortgage. It is a fundamental right. It is the absolute only tool that the human species has for its overall upliftment.

The point question should never be, why can they not pay ₹300, but should be that every university, which is run by the govt., why should it not tend towards being free of cost.

Of course nothing is free and there is a mammoth cost attached to it, and that’s where the expenditure on education comes on. Personally, for I have paid lakhs of rupees as taxes to govt. of India, I would prefer if all that money goes into education and healthcare, and some to infrastructure with public consultation, rather than anything else. No statues, no publicity events, pointless expenditure on identifying real citizens, no nothing. In fact, we are decreasing our spending even further.

Then the humiliation of 300 rupees, the figures are factually incorrect. The detail can be found in the link of the first image. JNU to become the most expensive govt. university after the hike.

Then the alleged leftist or ‘commie’ role in all of this. Remember, the right wing ABVP too was protesting against the fee hike. It is a student problem, do no dissipate it into a right vs left.

2] JNU is antinational.

I would prefer to not argue with this point, certainly not because it is correct. But because of the dogma of the people voicing it. No amount of facts will ever turn this hysteria around. The Zee news editors who showed the video where people were shouting antinational slogans have resigned from their posts being shameful that the spread false propaganda. Linking it here and here, in the off chance that some right wingers still think that they are right.

Regarding the other slogan about Afzal Guru, it is possible to be anti capital punishment while also wanting imprisonment of terrorists. But that is too farfetched a thought for the people who have already made up their minds to wrap around. How much ever India tries to distinguish itself from Islamic countries, we share this commonality of having capital punishment. While most of the western world has it abolished.

3] ‘Students should behave as students, not politicians.’

The capital punishment point brings us here. Student should behave like students. Study and go. Not care about the world and its happenings. This is, in my opinion, the hangover from the disciplinarian and authoritarian British regime. Perhaps reminiscing the industrial revolution too. India historically, has been the land of seekers. One who asks questions. The role of students in Hinduism has always been profound. There is this sense that students are devoid of the outside world, unaffected by it. While in fact, they are the future who are the most affected by it. In my perspective, politicians should not be 70-year-old mostly racist, castist, misogynistic, men. They will be dead in a few years. If most of the population is young, the people making laws for them should also be young so that they are empathetic to the wants of the masses.

Ironically enough, a few politicians in the ruling party itself come from this University. And almost all, came from student politics. (If they ever had any education in the first place.)

The word politics, comes from Polis, or Politikos, meaning people. Or cities. Students are people first, citizens first, and students afterwords.

4] ‘If people go for abroad for studies, they work while studying and why cant JNU students do that.’

This is at least a point to argue. But it brings again towards the answer to point 1. Education should not be a sentence to mortgage. If you speak French or understand Latin, mort means death and gage means pledge. So you can guess the etymology of it.

Most of people with this argument overrule the basic premise of point 1, but they also overrule the fact that people who work in foreign countries while studying, do not work to pay off their student debts. They work to be able to afford housing and daily expenses. When I say foreign countries, I say Europe. Because American education structure isn’t lauded over the world and student debt is the worst there. Learn from the proven best. The European countries try to tend their education costs to a minimum. In fact, India should leverage the fact that accommodation and daily expenses are as low so that students can focus more. Working while studying is a very weird idea. I have seen students who work after class and reach back late in the night, eat some garbage food, sleep and go to class next morning. By the end of it all, they are demotivated and apathetic human beings. Why do you want to idealize that life? Should we not be proud that India has a family structure where parents facilitate their children to whatever extent, and where basic expenses are less?

To add to that, the type of students in question here who do get affected by ₹300, are already the ones who work to earn while studying anyway. Why burden them more? Have you really ever spoken to a flower seller on the street or a rat killer out at night or a child who sells India’s national pride — the Indian Tricolor, on the street. Is that what they really want to do? Does 300 not affect them?

I was privileged enough to be able to make my decision to not go for any American University for my Masters and was able to pay off my loan in a year or two. But I have seen people who have not been able to. Due to whatever the reason. And I am talking about middle class student families. I can surely say that my career path would be different if I did not have the burden of paying off the said loan.

5] ‘The students haven’t contributed anything and are just using resources until the age of 40.’

I could empathize with all other points and write down rebuttals. But this I cannot wrap my head around. How exactly is it a problem that a 40 year old wishes to pursue some education? Most of the people I know who have done their PhD later in life happen to be 40. What is the harm in that?

Regarding the students of JNU, they have churned out nobel laureats as well as politicians. The university consistently ranks as the top govt. university in the country. So just because there might be people who are not in the public domain, or have made their contributions public or are in the limelight, doesn’t mean that the students have not contributed to the country. Even if they are not in the country anymore, they facilitate the upliftment of their family and society in so many ways that are beyond comprehension.

You could say that the country’s finance minister was from JNU and is not doing her job, maybe there we agree.

Having stated these points, if you still think JNU is antinational or perhaps be shut down for two years, or perhaps have its name changed, then I cannot help. However, do remember, while you dissociate your child with the JNU students, all students are the voice of tomorrow and if you wish a better tomorrow, the only path is to empower them and facilitate their voice. The resignation of Indira Gandhi after the emergency that right wingers hate so much, was initialised by JNU. If you don’t wish to acknowledge that, let me jog your memory to a recent event. The nirbhaya case protests that we so proudly stood united, was started by JNU. You keep demeaning them, but they will still stand for you.



Aditya Aserkar

Procrastinator by profession, facetious by talk. Traveller, wanderer. Musician, writer. Engineer, Designer. Not in that order.