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As a NET Aspirant, Why Must I Accept UGC’s Notion of Development?

Do only CEOs of exploitative enterprises such as the Pepsi Co qualify to be our feminist idols?

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Do only CEOs of exploitative enterprises such as the Pepsi Co qualify to be our feminist idols? (Photo: iStock)
As a NET Aspirant, Why Must I Accept UGC’s Notion of Development?

“Arre, you need to relax, you have to write the exam like you don’t want this”

“You have stop thinking like a Women Studies scholar”

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Trust me, I have tried both but I didn’t get ‘lucky’. So after many failed attempts, here I am again, appearing for NET for the nth time.

Usually one waits for the exam to rant, but after being subjected to this torture for many years now, I am not required to wait.

The Nature of NET Questions

There is no syllabus or a book to prepare from, understandably so, since anything and everything remotely related to women could be asked. So one can start with stalking government sites for women-related schemes and programs, like Ujjwala the anti-trafficking scheme and Ujjwala, the gas cylinder scheme.

NET questions however are not bound by nationality; perhaps the exam has not come under the scanner of the current government. It is absolutely necessary therefore, to know what the World Bank and UN organisations propose to do, or what they expect from third world countries. It will prepare you to answer questions such as these:

• What is Millennium Development Goal No 5?
• What is Article no 189?
• The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has ----- members?
• ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ has been officially launched in how many districts?
• Sustainable Development Goals have?
1. 16 goals and 159 targets
2. 12 goals and 167 targets
3. 19 goals and 169 targets
4. 17 goals and 169 targets

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The Women Studies’ Curriculum

The irony here is that after critically engaging with concepts like empowerment, and development, this is all what the NET exam sells.

Why should GEM and HDI be our benchmarks of progress and ‘empowerment’?

I must clarify here though, that there is no standard curriculum of Women Studies, in fact there is much debate on what Women Studies, as a discipline should focus on. While some programs critically engage with feminist theory, there are also programs that train students to enter the development sector.

In fact, the setting up of Women Studies centres in the 1980s was state-driven, and these centres were envisioned as an intervention in the field of development. However, we have come a long way since then, we have countered women’s invisibility in the economy, and have also questioned the hypervisibility of women.

So it is not as though development is an alien subject for NET aspirants, the problem is how UGC Net conceptualises development. How is ‘Microfinance equals empowerment’ the right answer when we know the horror stories of indebtedness it has caused in Andhra Pradesh? Is it not an erasure of HerStories? Why are we bearing the burden of the State’s vision of development?

I absolutely understand the need to be strategic to clear the exam but this a larger question on the nature of the exam. The problem lies not only in the linear framework of development but also in what they call ‘GK’ questions.

Every six months, I am told by the UGC that Indra Nooyi is an empowered woman. Do only CEOs of exploitative enterprises such as the Pepsi Co, qualify to be our feminist idols? Should one have to know how many women make it to the Forbes magazine? How many students in fact read or even know about this magazine? Is the exam then dictating who our feminist idols should be, or is it just an exam? Why do ‘ordinary’ women like Baby Halder never find space in these MCQs?
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I am not writing here to propose a solution, but it is absolutely important at this juncture to question the UGC, when the State is aggressively cutting its funds on the one hand and pushing for ‘merit’ on the other.

In fact, the decision to withdraw the Non-NET fellowship for MPhil and PhD scholars inspired the ‘Occupy UGC Movement’ which gathered students in huge numbers. Although the decision is still pending, I want to ask why do we, as scholars of Women Studies, have to bear the burden of ‘development’? What goes into the making of ‘merit’ and where do the ‘unmeritorious’ scholars go?

(The writer is pursuing PhD in gender studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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