31 August 2010

On the Right to Education

The Government of India finally granted all Indians the right to be educated early this year. How charming! After sixty or so years of being so, the Indian people can finally demand to be educated: how perfectly charming!

What the heck are they going to do with it though?

Get educated, of course! Move on, move up in life; improve themselves by partaking of the fruit of knowledge and thus be part of India, India shining. Realise finally through learning, through the accumulated wisdom of ages institutionalised and discipline and hard work upheld the great middle class dream: roti-kapra-makaan finally in their jholi.

Or add on to the teeming ranks of the unemployed and underemployed educated.

What else? Employment opportunities have steadily increased in India, but not at such a rate as would keep pace with our population growth. If more of the people who’re born every day get greater access to education and manage to inch up towards matriculation and graduation do not at the same time get access to employment, leave alone fruitful employment, then one of the primary purposes of creating those opportunities would be defeated. Without employment that’d fulfil aspirations and enable those in whom these are generated to live the lifestyle which is held before them, education will only, as it continually has, become a contributor to social dissatisfaction and unrest, the first stepping stone to discontent with the way things are presently.

Of course, not to say that efforts are not being made to increase these, opportunities for employment i.e.: they are, and the expansion of industry in particularly the tertiary sector embodies this as nothing else; in the primary and secondary sector too industry is daily expanding and making more employment available. Yet, while the former caters largely to the urban and urbanising middle class and can offer on a scale of any size employment mostly in low to middle level jobs with few chances of promotion and fulfilment to all, the latter is, owing to increased mechanisation, actually taking away employment from hordes of the unskilled while creating a few jobs for the technically trained. With population growth showing no signs of stabilising and technological innovations changing the way we take to our environment and harness the resources therein, employment opportunities, at least in India, will not be able to keep pace with the demand for the same by the increasing numbers of low to medium level educated job seekers.

Education – education of any sort – in this case will not be able to ameliorate the situation. We train men and women to join the workforce; we train them professionally most of all, as experts in this field or that and expect them to add on to the economy’s growth as producers, processors or planners. We also train men and women as trainers, trainers not just of expertise but, more importantly, as educators, as trainers of the basics which would go on to necessitate training, professional or otherwise. Finally, educating people and then not having suitable jobs to employ them in incapacitates them for employment which they would’ve found otherwise: the great dream is to move up, move out from the hinterland to glittering urbanscapes and the chances of a farmer or farm hand’s college educated child voluntarily coming back to the family trade are rare.

The only way out in that case seems to be to not educate the masses. If we don’t want a social revolution of sorts add on to our miseries, then the best way to keep the status quo would be to do just that: not bring education to all.

Of course, there is another way: we, the so-called, supposed people, could all make a collective effort and channel development and economic growth more towards happiness and joy, towards containment rather than the attainment of particular GDP growth rates. We could innovate and create models of growth specific to our own socio-cultural environment and milieu, development which would not hanker for industry and technology just for their own sake; development which would recognise in entirety communality, the rights of people over resources not solely as private property but also as a common whole; development which would at least try to address the consumeristic market and defuse the inflation in demand brought about by it. We could do all this and much more, and so could we make work positively towards checking population growth and industrial development and affect a balance between these and with providing fulfilling employment in other sectors.

We could. Would we?

Much easier, I think, to promise the people education, to dangle before them shiny dreams and lull them on. Easier, I think, to give them some training, some learning, some knowledge: a hotchpotch, create a work force neither here nor there, leave it thus and then punish its deviance as betrayal.

Fulfilment is a birth right, something which cannot be dictated on by a State; education, certainly not higher, technical training, is not necessarily a prerequisite to it – even if it were to be couched so, then, again, it is a birth right, something whose bestowal by a State reeks only of a callous indifference which treats the interests of the State and of the people, the so-called masses at large, as separate and parallel. If we are to consider education as a right towards fulfilment, then we need to look beyond the myth of study as improvement and press for a holistic approach towards making it so.

The right will we quite wrong otherwise.

23 August 2010


There was something wrong with his eyes. Well, of course there was; for all he did he couldn’t see, couldn’t open them more than the tiniest bit that was necessary to prevent him veering too close to the road and bumping into an oncoming bus or truck. Even then, it wasn’t exactly vision: some mysterious glands somewhere had suddenly become hyperactive and so all he saw was through the moist veneer of salt.

Thank goodness for the glasses, though. They were a relief, those goggles, shading him from the glare of the sun and allowing him to open up, even if that much. Still, it was irritating beyond compare, this sudden flood from his eyes. Nothing that had happened previously or that morning explained it, and so he carried on, shuffling, careful, eyes forced down by the heavy weight of tears…

He managed to get a bus. It was an ordeal getting in; it usually was at that time of the morning when duty summons labour from the outskirts. But it was better there, better even as it was worse: crowded, full of the sights, smells and sounds of the far-flung, neglected underbelly of Delhi, yet as shelter a relief to his tortured, exposed eyes. As they rattled on and he lost all sense of being amidst the pushing, elbowing and stomping, normalcy was restored and he could finally bear separation from the messianic shades. A relapse occurred, though, and he was instantly pushed back into the grey during the short interval he shuffled from the bus stop to the platform of the station, but then in the train everything was alright again.

But what stays? Out of the metro and till the faculty it was the same, the same torturous downfall that made the world a blur and everything dark and dank. Things cleared up once inside the long, uninspiring hall, but so it was, a mystery: why this should happen, why his eyes suddenly water incessantly outdoors when nothing could presage the onset of an infection was as much a mystery as an irritant.

Yet, so it remained all through that day. He met her after all was done and they took the usual route back. All was well as they chugged along the potholed road and past the ill starred Park till he got out.

Got out, as it was, to blinding hell. That place had never been too much of a stop and in that sticky, hot and humid afternoon it was a blaze of light and sweat.

And people.

People, yes, for there was something wrong here as well. Minute gave way to minute and the crowd kept on increasing; there had been no bus the past hour or so and the prospects looked dim. His condition worsened till the tears shut out the world and reduced him to near-complete blindness. Then, desperate times calling for desperate measures, then did he finally do what he’d never done before.

He took an auto back home.

And there it was, in the auto, speeding across the maze of traffic on the great road that he finally met his destiny. Finally, the cause of all his trouble, the end to all his misery; there, at long last, the fruition of all his pain, let go in all at once, in a mighty, tremendous…