In 2017, IIT Bombay took a loan of Rs 580 crore from the Higher Education Financing Agency. This was an entity that the Indian government established that year, to fund infrastructure development in publicly funded educational institutions across the country.
HEFA has given similar loans of hundreds of crores to several other institutions, including IIT Delhi, Banaras Hindu University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The government argued that the new agency would give institutions access to capital when they needed it – whereas earlier they had to rely on government grants.
But students at these universities have pushed back fiercely. They note that all these institutions have implemented fee hikes in recent years, in some cases as high as 400%. Students argue that these hikes are a result of the immense pressure institutions are facing to repay their HEFA loans, and that they can put education out of the reach of large numbers of students, particularly those from marginalised communities.
In Common Ground, Johanna Deeksha reports on the student community’s battle against HEFA, which they believe will warp the very nature of higher education in the country. “Through researching this story I was able to understand how gradually access to education in the country was growing difficult,” Deeksha said. “Issues related to education may not be of too much interest to the general public. But it is important to take note when fee protests happen. When new funding concepts are introduced, they will eventually affect all citizens.”