Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A movement unheard of….

Now that the dust has settled and Jantar Mantar finally gets a breather; well no one talks about the monument that has to be decked up for an annual tamasha, many questions come forth automatically. And no it’s not just about, the means and consequences, comparisons and future course; ever wondered why Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev emerge as the only icons of an anti-corruption movement? One can ignore for a while but not negate completely the fact that their all-India movements rest on a mass base that they cultivated when perhaps each was inhabiting a rather small territory, Ralegan for one and Haridwar for the other.

But this blog post is not dedicated to the twins of the civil society who take the very institutions of democracy for granted. They’ve not set a right example for sure. No wonder then that sepoy, K. Mutthu decides to perch himself atop a platform, 100 feet high just next to a telecom tower. The 35-year old thinks that perhaps the solution to his alleged harassment lies in taking a position which attracts ‘attention’.

Very few of you might have heard about the ‘Arya Dal’. As one treaded towards Jantar Mantar the site of revolution that swept the Netizens, preferably the middle class off their feet, there was someone else there too who away from the glare of janta and media wallas was trying hard to make a point.

They were just five of them squatted on a blue tarpaulin sheet that is more conveniently used by roadside stalls to shield against sun and rain. In a mad frenzy when every footstep was directed towards the venue where pseudo nationalism overtook merit of logical thought, no one cared, forget pause for even a second to understand what this group of five middle aged men was up to. ‘Arya Dal’ read the poster behind them, above that was the famous slogan pioneered by Lal Bahadur Shastri, ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’. Were they also a party to the Anna Lila voicing their concern against red tape? –N-O- came the instant answer, we are a separate movement!

What? Are you kidding me? You see on a serious note, something like a ‘movement’ can either be associated with our pre-independence days else it’s the copyright work of Anna & Ramdev Inc.

Five doesn’t make an impressive number when compared to thousands. Right. Hang on; the paper stuck on the lower bottom side of the same poster says that these men have travelled to Delhi from Etawah (U.P.) on a cycle. Some other supporters were also expected soon who were of course yet to cover a distance of 320 kilometer on a cycle. Eagerness to decode this mystery soon leads to their pamphlet which states the year of establishment as 1992. Since then this Etawah based group has been fighting for a variety of causes such as affordable higher education to village boys and girls, adequate compensation to farmers, corruption also being one of the many causes of their struggle.

Unfortunately they were not backed by an illustrious organization like IAC (India Against Corruption) which can infuse a populist notion in their Andolan. Devoid of a support mechanism in the form of social networking portals, funky badges, swaying tricolor, perhaps this unheard of group was paying the price of technology-related illiteracy. The very assembly point next to Jantar Mantar spoke volumes about their desperate efforts to make their presence felt.

But the riffraff and that also a disillusioned one would disqualify the efforts of an ‘Arya Dal’ within minutes. Stuff like this comprises of wonderful case studies; Goldspot failed when PepsiCo roped in bollywood celebs for promotion. And the absence of a marketable face shatters the very aspirations of the Arya Dal. This was just one such not-so-happening and media deprived movement which I came across there might be thousands others which die due to paucity of resources.

If only clones of Anna could be distributed across and each group might have utilized the associated clout in his chosen manner. 

Hmm, I could pitch in the idea of a food court at my work place! 

Paradigms of thought do not change with a movement, what needs to be changed is perhaps the growing moroseness throughout a complex whole called Indian society.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Where Indira Gandhi is India’s President!!!

(A special thanks to Sri Mukund Kant Mishra, aka Munshi ji who helped me to have a face-off with REALITY!!)

Among a ton of things that have its bearing from school life, a classic memory is that of the eternal essay – ‘Myself’. A chock-a-block composition, of rhetorical stuff comprising, personal details and famously ending on one’s ambition in life. Mine for that matter being – to become a doctor and serve humanity; focused and a rather crisp one! Those dreams however kept changing depending on what circumstances brewed at a given point of time.

I didn’t know what it is to be an individual without dreams till I visited this school….

Baraut is a qasba approximately 60 km away from the city of Allahabad. An assignment on RTE (Right to Education) required me to visit a few Prathmik Vidyalaya (Primary School) in the outskirts of Allahabad. The experience revealed the harrowing gap that exists between a government policy and its implementation.

Prathmik Vidyalaya, Beejapur (classes from 1-5) despite being into existence since 1963 got its building only in 1995. Thinking that there would be at least five classrooms if not anything else I was led into the premises that comprised of just one class, for if there were other rooms like the kitchen it was locked then. The only piece of furniture in that room was a table and 2 chairs for the shiksha-mitra (teachers appointed on a temporary basis across the state of Uttar Pradesh). Pupils sat on the floor the rug underneath defining the length and breadth of this temple of learning.

It was not a day marked with 100% attendance as the school had just opened. So there I was interacting with 10-15 students, boys and girls, trying to make out on my part what it is they want to do in their life. Mind you when one is talking about villages like Beejapur of Handia tehsil even aspirations come in small 250 gm packets called ‘means of subsistence’!

So while 8-year old Sunita was able to recite the whole poem ‘naya savera’ ask her what she wants to become in future and uneasiness is followed by a blank stare. Only when the masterni ji eggs on she nods her head saying that she would become like Madam ji. A cheerful Akansha unfortunately had no clue “aap bade hokar kya banoge?” while some of her classmates looked at me as if this was a question straight from Mars! No one had ever bothered them with this and here I was trying to wring a dry towel!

Sample this even on the strict parameters of prescribed norms this school didn’t fare any better:

¡  No boundary wall or fencing as per the RTE norms
¡  Only one functional toilet used by teachers, children usually go outside into the fields (separate toilets have to be ensured for boys & girls as per the Act). This was quite contradictory to the claim of 7 toilets
¡  No drinking water facility due to defunct hand-pump.
¡  Thin strength, students mostly sit on floors, no furniture other than chair and table for the teacher, No light or fan
¡  Shiksha Mitra (Kiran Mishra) confessed of shortage of teachers and no action being taken by BRC (Block Resourcement Center)

¡  Aanganbadi workers, Chanda Devi & Hansa Devi shared the abysmal state of affairs, how students take their share of panjiri and run away to their homes

It’s more on the walls than in reality and this school exemplified it like anything. 

Hoping to see a better picture I headed towards a private school in the area just a few kilometers away from this Prathmik Vidyalaya.

‘Tulsi Sansthan’ caught my attention due to the sheer infrastructure which was far better than the previous site of visit. 

At least students had benches to sit, keep their books and write. There were specific classrooms for each standard, well-lit ones and the school was in the process of installing a generator soon. There were dreams for sure as class 7th students mumbled out words like IAS, Doctor and so on. Yes there were shortcomings too especially on the front of awareness. No longer than Sunil (class 7th) said that Indira Gandhi is India’s President, my shock was overtaken by the haplessness of the teacher who just a short while ago was boasting about the quiz conducted on a regular basis solely intended to keep the students UPDATED!

Archived info and that too flawed one was an eye opener once again bringing forth several questions about the education system in India.

Fact sheet is as given below:

¡  No order has been received regarding 25% reservation under the RTE for students belonging to economically weaker section
¡  Annual exam is preceded by regular test
¡  Extra-curricular activities in the form of games and several Pratiyogita on special days such as 15th August & 26th January
¡  Pracharya Maniram Upadhyay and faculty member Ramkrishna Mishra – boast about 100% attendance; reservation to disadvantaged group as per the norms
¡  Class 7th student Sachin Mishra wants to become an IAS while Meenakshi wants to become a doctor; dreams fortunately thrive in this private institute of learning

By the way do check out the official site http://www.upefa.com/upefa/detail.php?chk=menu&vlmid=104 where the govt. boasts of several of its accomplishments. If only these facts and figures could match with the harsh realities of ground zero. Even better, why not devise a new gauge-meter that could categorize primary schools on the basis of their ability to churn out building blocks making up the much-hyped Demographic Dividend. Till then let’s accept that Indira Gandhi is indeed India’s President and all those kids hailing from the heartland want to become like Madam ji.