The strike led by the students of Pune's prestigious Film And Television Institute Of India (FTII) against questionable appointments to the institute's governing council entered its 25th day on Monday. This follows an hour-long meeting between a 10-member FTII delegation and Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley that was held on Friday, where, according to The Indian Express, Jaitley hinted that the famed institute could be shut down or privatised.
The meeting was widely hoped to have led to a breakthrough in the impasse between students and the government, triggered largely by the controversial appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of the FTII governing council, who students say lacks the credentials to occupy such a position. A press note issued after this meeting by the FTII students’ association claims that Jaitley hinted that if students did not “cooperate” with the ministry, it could lead to the government washing their hands off the institute or privatising it.
Here's the exact excerpt from the press note, as reported by The Indian Express.
“When brought to the minister’s notice that an institution embodies a vision which the present society was not in a position to provide, he indicated that if students persisted in their demand for reconstitution of the society they might have to face the bleak prospect of shutdown and eventual privatisation,” the press note said.
This idea of privatisation refers to the Geetha Krishnan Report (Expenditure Reforms Commission Report), which had recommended in the late '90s that both the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata and FTII be handed over to the film industry. However, according to D Narain, director of FTII, the student association's version of events is incorrect. "The minister did not talk about privatisation or a shutdown of the institute at all. FSA [the students' association] totally misunderstood what the minister said in reference to the report of Geeta Krishnan (sic) committee in the late 90's recommending privatisation of institutions including FTII which the I&B ministry did not accept. On the contrary the ministry pumped more funds to boost the FTII," he reportedly told PTI.
However, The Economic Times has reported that the I&B Ministry is preparing a case file with arguments as to why the government should stop backing the institute, which was established in 1960. The reasons they have cited as a justification for doing so are as follows:
- A tendency of student strikes, which has resulted in 39 strikes in 55 years of the institute's existence.
- The cost of subsidised education that is funded by the government, which amounts to more than Rs 10 lakh per student. According to the report, the entire infrastructure expenditure of FTII within the five-year plan is Rs 80 crore with an annual non-plan expenditure of Rs 20 crore.
- Low recovery of costs through hostel fees, which are lower than market rates and have slipped from 25% in 2006-07 to 11% in 2010-11.
- The tendency of students to stay in the campus for an average of four to five years, even though the postgraduate diploma is supposed to take three years to complete.
As the strike continues, the future of India's oldest and most prestigious institute hangs in the balance.