Government Schools for All – a Dream !!

I am so glad and thankful to the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court for it’s recent order regarding the conditions of Govt. Schools in Uttar Pradesh. Finally the judiciary has intervened, when the executive (administration) and legislative (‘netas’) have failed in taking serious and necessary steps for our future !!!!!

school

I fully agree with the observations of the High Court that the conditions of Govt. Schools are really shabby – just one teacher for the entire school (to teach 5 classes at a time and also to do other activities like monitoring mid-day meals, counting census, poll-duties, vaccination programs, etc. !!), no building or an unsafe building, no seating arrangement, pending salary for months altogether and sometimes at a very low salary (contractual, block-grant teachers etc.), recruitment scams (VYAPAM is a live-example) and even over-crowded class rooms !!!!

Hope good sense prevails, and further litigation counts are not raised by bogus contestants of this order in the Supreme Court ! Though I am quite convinced that our Apex Court will uphold this order (if contested), but the delay in our judiciary process /system may dilute the intention. The delay could be because of backlogs, vacancies in position of respective Judges, long procedures or lack of infrastructure.

And I completely agree with the view of lakhs of fellow citizens that a Bill must be passed mandating the same in every part of India – be it in metros or remote villages, and till High School level !! If Right to Education (RTE) is a fundamental right, then it should be uniform across every strata of our society.

Only then, we can expect our present education system to change for the better – like it was even few years ago…where children later excelled in every sphere of life, despite living in remote villages; sometimes, t-o-g-e-t-h-e-r granted just one Government school !

Moreover, after paying various types of taxes and then education cess tax, why do parents nowadays have to send children to mushrooming private schools ???? Schools, where even the basic infrastructure is not there – no playground and no place for any outdoor activity !! Isn’t this sort of a financial loot (I think the term cannot be merely expensive) ?!?

Wish a similar order is passed that all ‘netas’ & their families will have to avail treatment at a ‘sarkari’ hospital only, and that they will not simply fly abroad for any medical treatment – small or big – whether at their own expenses or at the taxpayer’s expenses !! Hopefully then,  the conditions of Govt. Hospitals can be improved…….

Aamjunta – what do you say ?

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Open Letter On Our Primary Education System On The Eve Of Teachers’ Day

Though I am not into professional teaching or an educational analyst or anything of that sort, since some time, I have these concerns regarding a section of latest schooling systems in India.

Just consider schooling during our generation and a little beyond. Whether cities /towns /villages, we went to “ordinary” schools… and those “ordinary” schools had almost everything required for a child to get adequately schooled :

– Safety and Security
– Discipline
– good Teachers
– responsible Support Staff
– thorough Courses
– Labs
– timely Examination schedules and proper Evaluations
– a Playground
– First-Aid facilities and a phone-call-away Doctor
– a Garden
– a School Bus with watchful Attendants
– a Store-room of books, notebooks, pencils and other accessories
– a Library
– Hostels
– an outdoor Stage
– a well-ventilated, well-lighted and sufficiently-equipped Hall where competitions /performances /extra-curricular activities were conducted on a regular basis
– various academic /motivational Presentations by external bodies (govt. or private)
– Office and Notice Boards /Circulations
– Musical Instruments
– observations for 15 Aug. /26th Jan.
– uniform celebrations of all Festivals
– a thorough conduct of Morning Assembly
– periodic teacher-parent Meetings
– easy Interactions with any teacher /principal on any working day
– due Counselling sessions
– due Recognitions /Prizes /Scholarships
– proper maintenance of all Records /Registers
– due Vaccination schedules
– Excursions /Picnics
– active participation in Social Services

Well, I agree some of these facilities like a big infrastructure or an equipped hall or musical instruments were not present in village schools but nevertheless, they were highly accomplished institutions even if one merely counts the minimum factors of good schooling. Haven’t students from these less-equipped schools following “trusted” models of curriculum, excelled later in life – whether at the national or international levels ?!? Or haven’t they excelled in any other sphere but just academics ?… Further, haven’t they been highly sought as teachers by countries where the school education models are so different or talk about some brand ?

Today in India, new type of schools focus so much on “projects” and “activities”. As far as I have observed, these are either wholly done by parents /elders or downloaded from the internet; then it is gathered as print-outs or copy-pasted onto a file (hard-copy /soft-copy) and ‘submitted’ in a day or two. So all these, mostly because of lack of time or in a bid to quickly finish the home-work and move on to the next engagement, whatever be it.

And the next engagement usually is to watch an IPL match or accompany ‘Mom’ to the mall /beauty parlour or go with ‘Dad’ to the nearest KFC outlet or get engrossed in some crap video games !! So ever wondered, how these “projects” and “activities” are really helpful for the child ?

Moreover, nowadays only a few schools (even branded ones) sport a playground – how is that justified when on the other hand, these schools are trying to focus on “projects” and “activities” for better advancement of the child ?? Yes, you got great infrastructure and wash-room facilities but playground – that’s also an inseparable part of a good school !

I find at least in some instances, today’s kids lagging in spheres that they should ideally be leading through. For example – well, its great to be wonderful at singing or swimming but first of all, with one’s usual textual lessons satisfactorily done !! Isn’t that the basic purpose (if not sole) of schooling ?

Though there are few good exceptions, I am afraid many children are moving away from even the basic grasp of subjects. “Projects” and “activities” are supposed to form a mere part of the curriculum and constructively aid in an holistic growth ! These should NOT end up consuming maximum time-energy of young minds, and then leaving them with a tired space, a yawning gape at the end of the day to imbibe the actual academic content or even to play or do physical exercises !!!!

Stress is further enhanced as nowadays our career choices and modern lifestyles have confined us (the youngest generation of parents) in already choked urban areas; and even kids have to start the day at 6 AM or earlier (i.e. board the school bus) and are able to reach back home around 5 PM or later (because of traffic or/and tuitions).

Irrespective of any rule, some schools don’t even conduct at least the basic tests /exams. That makes both the child and parents completely indifferent to academics ! Whether or not they understand the tasks – they are only focussed on finishing the “projects” and “activities” at any cost, by any means and timely ‘submitting’ it at school. That’s what the design of some new type curriculum dictates in many such schools.

Where is the space and time needed to r-e-a-l-l-y grow ? In the hustle-bustle, its also so difficult for parents /guardians /teachers to find a niche to quietly unwind, deeply assess children’s progress and properly interact amongst themselves. I am not hinting at the mechanical routine meetings or discussions but at the r-e-a-l assessment !

And regarding all sorts of fees –  it is needless to mention their inexplicabilities and almost exponential hike-curves ! And on top of that, we also pay a considerable Education Tax !! Why ?

In my opinion, it would do us genuine good if we could go back and stick to the “trusted” version of our schooling that concentrated MOSTLY on the essential features of “academics”, and then wisely balanced the REMAINING portion with extra-curricular “activities” or “projects”. Let’s revive and maintain that old proportion or healthy balance !!!

Of course, I agree – perhaps with the inclusion of some modifications that would best suit India’s budding future (as recommended by educated and experienced Academicians, Social Scientists and Child Psychologists).

But unfortunately, the new models have paced up so drastically that now many of us perhaps don’t have options. Every school in the neighbourhood to the one 15 kms away appears the same. Still, if possible, let’s give a thought and try to revive the “trusted” version of our education system (albeit with approved modifications), starting right with primary-level schools.

While framing policies and making rules per se India, let us keep certain aspects in mind. Here below, I have briefly listed three major ones :

1. Let us ensure a measured degree of uniformity in the country’s education system. Let NOT there be any sort of discrepancy which may cast even the faintest shadows of division across the rungs of our society !! Why thrust the burden of non-uniformities on children and ask them to cope with it ? Let’s be sensible and responsible in the most sincere terms.

2.  Secondly, let NOT educational reforms be mere short-term ones or based on vote-bank politics ! For example, presently the RTE facilitates free education for children up to 14 years and the Government-directed reservations in this category stand at 25 % in each school. But have you ever thought – what is going to happen to these children after 14 years of such schooling ? Ideally, that sums up just the 8th standard. Are there any reservations /provisions for owning up an “extended” support for their “complete” development or is their fate going to confront a full-stop, thereafter ? Then what is the ultimate purpose of such a facility ? A drop-out at that level, particularly from a brand school, is definitely going to struggle more !!… Moreover, it may make matters worse if we suddenly let go their tender hands; a young age as 14 years is too vulnerable to get trapped amidst anti-social elements and get lost into some dangerous anonymity !!!

3. Thirdly, can we possibly weigh options to NATIONALIZE various schools just as we nationalized banks ? It will not only maintain a definite standard (courses, fees, exams, activities, etc.) and uniformity but also build better check-posts of transparency and accountability in every department !

Let’s mind more about exploring the inner sheen than just meeting the expectations of a glamorous exterior !

‘Blind Men and An Elephant’ vis-a-vis Current Indian Education System

About ten days ago, we had been to the school where our Domestic Help’s daughter sought admission for the very first time. Located in a by-lane, it is not only devoid of a playground, it is also very cramped even for little ones. For most part of the school time, children are seeing playing on the adjacent lanes and no one bothers, probably because that’s how space is managed and/or the administration is indifferent. Some children aged 10-14 years do not follow the classroom decorum !… And a few are admitted into lower classes, long past their suitable ages though they are not that ‘dumb’; reason- apparently commercial, that is, the school intends to make profits from the extra (unnecessary) years a ‘dumb’ student is made to go through !!… Notwithstanding, most parents put their children on the rolls in such schools because it is convenient to drop-and-pick them on their way to work and these schools also happen to be on a reasonable price-list according to their ‘limited’ affordability.

This by-lane school, without a playground and basic necessities, charges 6200 INR for an L.K.G. kid. More than the knowledge likely to be gained in such an environment, parents should be apprehensive of the hygiene, discipline and basic attitudinal orientations a child is going to learn here to imbibe or desert !! But unfortunately there are many such mushrooming schools in cities, towns and villages, and there seems to be no one to advise these parents who are honest and hard-working but owing to various reasons, not educated (not of formal degrees) to make out certain key differences regarding formal upbringing of children !

The family struggles and aspires- the parents are diligent, eagerly bear all financial hardships and dream to one day, see their children well-placed in the society; and the children spending their days in such schools, unknowingly waste most of their formative years that are never to be recovered. This is one of the most vital factors for a society to be good or bad, for children ultimately form the long future of a nation !!!

Our Cook’s eldest son, aged about 15 years, had to change two schools over the last two years; each admission costing 65000 INR on an average; then there are other expenses too ! But however hard his parents and teachers-at-new-schools now try to discipline him, the required changes are just not coming through !! Probably, his very basic formative years were lost in the unknown by-lanes when he ought to have been sitting under the light of knowledge and beside his Guide (Teacher).

It is indeed very difficult to lead or help a budding youth emerge from such troubled waters. To make matters worse, their parents start fearing a fading dream and non-refundable or non- reimbursable schooling expenses met from hard-earned savings !

We also gathered information regarding management and curriculum of ‘established’ schools of our nephew (city-1), our niece (village) and our friends’ kids (town-1 and town-2); we spoke to a few other parents and guardians too; and additionally, we took a brief look at various initiatives by some NGOs, Government schemes, etc.

Considering the entire Education System to be a giant elephant, my husband is right in analysing its overall present scenario in India-


Someone gets hold of the ear of the elephant and says ‘education is like a big jute dust-pan’; someone hangs by the tail and says ‘its like a small, smooth rope’; someone leans on the legs and says ‘its like a tall pillar’; someone grazes at the belly and says ‘its like a huge wall’; someone sits atop the back and says ‘where’s the pain, its an easy ride’; etc.

But usually, no one looks at the elephant or tries to even realize its presence, let alone providing any substantial financial or logistical assistance !!

So the consequence is that everyone, especially children and youth, continue to suffer because we do not take a HOLISTIC approach to address the issues in the entire system; we try to resolve merely by fits and starts, and a bit here and a bit there… Sometimes, for mere sake of promotions, sometimes for only political gains and sometimes, even without understanding an iota of it !!!

Some parents and guardians send their kids to schools without verifying necessary facts or keep changing schools without really monitoring their children’s progress and reasons for their inadequate performances. In most of these cases, parents and guardians remain all occupied at work during the week and therefore, prefer to simply unwind over the weekend along with family; they just admit their children on school rolls because they do not want to miss out on this ‘prime duty’ towards their children. But after that, the required follow-up usually does not happen !

However, a very few people and organizations still continue to render their noble services borne by a zeal, a thorough understanding and truly dedicated efforts towards uplift of the Education System ! We need ample of such folks and teams…


Well, we spend thousands of crores of INR in election campaigns, day-to-day advertisements and mere social events; then why don’t we do it for completely redefining the Education System in the country ? Isn’t that the best gift we can give to our children, to our nation and to the world at large ?

Wonder when shall modern India rebuild or transform itself to once again become the marvellous hub of Education that it was in the ancient days…… Let’s not forget that there was a great time when the whole world was eager and humble to visit the unparalleled chambers of wisdom at Nalanda, Taxila (now in Pakistan), Vikramsila, Varanasi, Udaygiri, Ratnagiri, Pusphagiri, Kanchipuram, Manyakheta, etc.

Name the Subject and Seek the Master- ancient India had it all to its glory !

Elephant

Indian Space Station – Connect, Engage And Ignite The Space Explorers

A guest post by the team Indian Space Station (ISS), a noble initiative for popularizing space science.

ISS

www.indianspacestation.com

Vision

To create a forum of knowledge, discussion and for the dissemination of news and information for the out worldly science of Space.

Mission

The mission of Indian Space Station (ISS) is to provide budding space enthusiasts every possible kind of information and assistance towards furthering their dreams of travel into the stars. At ISS, we strive to strike a balance between the presentation of theoretical and practical aspects of space technologies, between news and opportunities for students and amateurs and between informative and entertaining aspects of space literature.

What we do at ISS?

Some of the important activities of ISS are as follows:

  • To interact with the researcher scholars from across the world to understand their research problems and the proposed solutions at the abstract level. We believe that the space domain is the only field which is truly multidisciplinary which could use solutions from every field to make its technology to advance. These interviews also provide an opportunity to the student/research community to get acquainted with the current state of the art research going on across the world. You could visit here to know the type of research problems that have been captured so far.

  • To interact with the eminent space experts from the industry and the academia around the world and to get their opinion on future of space science, space technology and exploration, etc. In addition, these interviews also serve as a guidance for the student/research community as most of the questions are relevant to them. You could visit here to know the eminent people who have been interviewed on ISS.

  • To keep a track of every major achievement from the student/research community. We bring those people on the ISS platform to talk about their achievements through various articles. These articles serve as a motivation for other people to take up the similar initiatives. Please visit here to know more about it.

  • To conduct workshops/competitions at regular intervals with focus on involving more people in this space revolution rather for a profit. Some of the workshops are CanSat leadership training program, High altitude ballooning competition/training, telescope making, etc. Please visit here to know our current work in this direction.

  • To ignite and inspire the school students as well by conducting events like space related drawing competition, space essay competition, cartoon explaining the various space concepts etc. Please visit here to know our current initiative on this.

  • To provide an opportunity for the students through the intern-ship program. In these intern-ship, they contribute to science education improvement by identifying local talent or issues. In addition, their work is being published in the form of white papers summarizing various information related to space field. Please visit here to know more about it.

  • To provide stipend to the talented and bright for a limited period of time. This is another way to keep them motivated to do better work and research.

  • To review some of the important books related to space domain. The idea here is to let the audience know these great books written by the eminent space experts. You could visit here to know more about it.

  • One of the best medium to see the future technologies is through movies. We do review science movies on a regular basis to identify the technologies shown in them and feasibility of its realization in the coming days. We also talk about the current developments so far related to those technologies. Please visit here to know more.

  • To provide information on the various institutes in India which provides different programs to pursue a career in space domain. You could visit ISS to know more about this.

  • To provide information on available scholarships program across the world for the students to support their education in basic science and space domain. You could visit here to know more about this initiative.

  • To write about the important science and space related workshops happening across the world. In addition, we do provide articles related to career guidance. We also guide the students who contact us through ISS platform. Please visit here to know more about it.

Achievements

  • After working close to 6 years on this initiative, Indian Space Station name is quite familiar among the student community and even with some of the best space experts and scientists from around the world.

  • Indian Space Station name is also quite familiar with the publisher due to their honest review of various science related books.

  • First of a kind BalloonSat competition is being held for the undergraduate and graduate students in India in close collaboration with Antariksha Labs.

  • Successfully conducted an essay competition for the school student to ignite their creativity and imagination.

  • On-going drawing competition for the school students in tribute to Mangalyaan, India’s first Mars mission. The competition is well received by the students and there is a huge response in every month.

  • A new kind of workshop is in progress to give a hands-on experience in designing and launching a model satellite to every student in India.

  • Developed an expertise in high altitude ballooning missions in close collaboration with Antariksha Labs. This service will be offered to interested people.

  • Unique opportunity is being provided to the students to get better exposure to space field through our intern-ship, stipend programs and student ambassador programs.

  • Regular career guidance from ISS team to the students who contact us to know about various opportunities and avenues related to space field.

What next from ISS?

In the next few years, we have plans-

  • To conduct the space workshops in every college in India to motivate and ignite them to work on space related projects which is both exciting and equally challenging. We believe that the student skill set could improve significantly by working in these multi-disciplinary space projects.

  • To develop in-house products related related to small and large scale, small scale propulsion systems, products targeted at the farmers/rural area to make effective use of satellite technology etc. Our ultimate goal is revolutionize the private space industry in India. We have collaborated with Antariksha Labs (www.antarikshalabs.in) to realize this goal.

  • To create a venture capitalist division which will fund the research work privately to the deserving students, faculties and experts. These research will be time-bounded and there will be an accountability. The idea is to generate a pool of patents by utilizing the vast talent available in India.

  • and many more ambitious proposals in pipeline.

Aamjunta – your contribution to this noble initiative will be the game changer in India’s education system and future of young India.

 

Set Up the Curve of Lips, Early on

Today morning, while chit-chatting with my husband over our morning cup of tea, a thought re-emerged which held out to us a single sharp contrast in two type of writings. And the next twenty minutes saw us discussing further on it which I now desire to express, though the theme can be found oft-repeated in several columns.

Here, we begin…

A major difference between documentary and creative writing is that you can always keep editing, appending the former but you can compose the latter only once !

Also, you need to have references for a documentary work. But a creative one has to flow straight from your heart or imaginations only- so events in your life, your reservoir of good knowledge, mental health, emotional maturity, sometimes your social circle, place of upbringing or living or writing, and both time and timing matter a lot. When I say mental health, it does not necessarily mean composure but nonetheless, your levels of sensibility must always be present to correctly channelize your thoughts !! For example, to write a romantic poem or illustrate a roseate sunset, you shall certainly need to have a serene mood; whereas lines echoing nationalistic fervour or any desperate want of freedom can be still appreciatively composed by you in an agitated frame of mind.

In this context, I am further reminded of Teachers and Parents /Guardians  evaluating compositions of children on various topics. Some certainly do justice to such delicate formative years; they are aware that children need to grasp concepts at this stage and not necessarily do an extra-ordinary job – be it a routine exam or competition. Thus they never drive them hard; they adequately guide them in their pursuit. Especially regarding creative writing, what a child is far from achieving today, he or she may profoundly excel in it tomorrow, provided the passion for it is discovered as well as rightly nurtured at the right time at the right place.

Others unfortunately, simply label marks without using an average standard or without themselves understanding the basic framework of nascent writing. They may unfairly end up grading a child as an under-performer. To make matters worse, sometimes such unweighed high expectations from children may completely ‘kill’ their potentialities like a pre-maturely ripe fruit. We saw something much similar in the very well depicted Indian films Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots. And then, the modern pace of life may not allow enough space or time to everyone for re-adjustments later on !

Therefore, irrespective of the medium of language, education systems must abide by well-balanced methods that are scientifically assessed and set up. It should be process-oriented and not people-oriented.

Now, scaling it up…

Here I go to reiterate the message that we see everywhere- let’s shed the unhealthy bearings wherever possible…and rather encourage children to explore their potentialities or passion- whatever be the field. Together with children, let us patiently and tactfully help them discover their own-selves. The early the curve of their lips is defined or re-defined, the more secured and happy shall be any society. Our aim should be to assist them gather pleasant memories, contentment and happiness from the core-of-the-heart; not dictate their profession or status or salary.

And my experience says- apart from unwinding and having unlimited fun, summer vacations are an excellent opportunity for this introspection and nurturing of hopes borne by passion. Let us utilize it to our best advantage. Who knows, what goodness is stored for entire mankind even…? 🙂

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Mid-day (Midday) Meals in India – a Challenging Task !

With all the recent tragedies and controversies associated with the Mid-day (Midday) Meal Scheme in Bihar, Odisha, UP, MP, Chattishgarh and other states, many like me must be wondering whether there is a need to re-look at the effectiveness of the scheme and/or whether this program should be stopped altogether. Some say that these are just isolated incidents that happen at times (random theory) and some like Chief Minister (Bihar) Nitish Kumar say that there is a conspiracy behind these incidents !

The ‘mid-day meal in schools’ programme in India that started in 1960 had the main objectives of protecting children against hunger and increasing school-enrolment and/or attendance. Other than these main objectives, mid-day meal programme had also aimed to achieve equality or social harmony among children of various classes and castes, and to provide employment to the unprivileged women. Though the key objectives are still valid in the changed scenario of today’s world, the promotion of social harmony or equality is still a myth !

It is true that there are many points to be discussed, many issues to be solved and many things to be proved or disproved by the Government, by the Officials, by the Media and by the so-called social Intellectuals and human-rights Activists…

Instead of going to the mode of another commentary, let me narrate my own experiences on the mid-day meal scheme.

I studied in a village school in the early eighties. Those days, government schools were the only mode of schooling in many parts of India (a few private English-medium schools, mostly managed by Christian Missionaries were there in the cities). We had three Teachers only to teach five classes/standards, each class/standard having 50-60 students. Teaching curriculum was definitely exhaustive those days. Other than teaching, duties such as preparing voter-lists, census, checking village sanitation, etc., were day-to-day activities of our Teachers.

Like many other schools, we too had mid-day meal programme, though not regularly. There was only one item – wheat kheer (porridge). We used to bring our own utensils from home and assist our Teachers in cooking the meals, cleaning the utensils and bringing the stocks from the local Block or Panchayat office; never received the full-quota – as these offices reserved their shares !

No external help or cook was appointed for this programme.

Every student was asked to bring some firewood from his/her home for the cooking (now I realize, that in fact, it was a punishable offence). I remember, some of my class-mates used to steal firewood from their neighbour’s backyards to avoid harassment in the school.

Since there was no tube-well in the school premises, we used to walk at least 2 km (to and fro) to bring drinking and cooking water; a very tough job during the hot summer and the rainy season.

I still remember… There were some broken-wheat supplied by the government for the programme; at least half of the stock used to go to the Teachers’ homes directly for their own use – like making sweets or feeding their cows ! Oil and Salt were also supplied; more than half of the oil was used at the feasts and for preparing snacks during the School Sub-Inspector’s visit or Village Committee’s visit to the school.

And the quality of the wheat was sometimes horrible; worms were almost certain and it was an every day affair. To handle the mid-day meals in schools, Village Workers and CDPOs (Child Development Project Officers) were appointed by the government. It is true that these officials used to visit school for inspections followed by a grand feast and a holiday for all of us. But these officials also had their shares in the mid-day meal programme !! We or our parents did not know whom to complain ?!? It was therefore hardly discussed even in casual get-together of our parents or guardians.

Speaking about social harmony and equality – there were high differentiations among the students based on castes (at least religion was not involved in our school) even while preparing food, bringing water and eating those meals. This ill trend reportedly continues in some schools even today !!!!

The mid-day meal program has continued for years… worsening day- by-day. For some, it is a business; for some, it is a mode of earning; and for some, it is just a single meal in the whole day !!

Taxpayers’ money is being regularly spent on such a programme, whose effectiveness is much debatable and it is still not made clear who is accountable for these tragedies; no proper monitoring system is yet in place ! There is definitely a huge lack of administration and accountability in this. Officials or Social-Workers, even when enabled with sufficient power, seem to fall short in carrying out or meting their responsibilities, and taking initiatives to prevent mid-day meal tragedies. There is an indifferent attitude in most of the cases – no one is really bothered. And the blame-game goes on as usual…

But is the government only to be blamed ? We too are responsible in many roles as – parents, teachers, village committee members, Sarpanchs, ward-members, officials, social observers, social activists, etc. We have been sleeping on the mega loopholes for years, even though we knew it was meant for our innocent little buds !!

Aamjunta – what do you think? It is time for you to act too…

Maoist Menace in India and Aamjunta

The recent kidnap and hostage drama of the district collector of Malkangiri (Odisha), Er. R. Vineel Krishna and Jr. Engineer Pabitra Majhi has once again opened the Pandora’s box of democracy and governance in India. It is unfortunate that the Maoists had targeted Er. Krishna who has been working effectively and honestly for the Tribals of Malkangiri and that to, after the inauguration of electricity connection to a village after 63 years of India’s independence. On a serious note, this incident once again has proved the lack of coordination between the police and the civil administration. However, on a positive note, the kidnap drama has initiated food for thought among the Tribals for whom the Maosits are working (claiming!), the Politicians – both at the Center and at the States, the Government machinery, the Intellectuals – both anti-Maoists and the sympathizers, and the aamjunta like you and me. If some one carefully observes the reaction of people of Odisha and that of the people of Malkangiri in particular, then certainly one can understand the concern, love and respect of the people for the Collector who has been working selflessly there. In addition, it has increased the frustration of the people against Maoists and their day-to-day interference on public life – by killing, blocking roads, kidnapping and using tactic of bomb-blasts. Overall, the episode of 9-days rather seems to be a positive development. Moreover, it is a learning experience for the Government, corrupt Politicians, Maoists and the Intellectuals.

Killing and kidnapping by the Maoists is not new. They have done this before during their Nayagarh (Odisha) attack in the fateful night of 15th Feb 2008 and other instances. They took the entire town by surprise and nearby villages in their captive for hours, killing policemen mercilessly. Their action on that fateful night and the killing at Nayagarh, Nuagaon and Dasapalla on their way to Phulbani jungles is very much similar to that of Talibans in Afganistan during their march towards Kabul in late 1990s and early 2000. This is just barbaric; no one can justify this kind of barbaric activities. Who gave them the rights to kill innocent people just because they supported the system in place? Interestingly, their leader Mr. Sabysachi Panda under whose leadership Nayagarh attack was hatched, was a local BJD leader before joining Maoists. His father Mr. Ramesh Panda was a long time MLA of Ranpur in Nayagarh. With this kind of background if he does not feel to be a part of the system, then there are many other ways in which he can take part and motivate the people for their rights. Taking the Maoist ideology is not at all the right way. He should have taken a positive clue from the Praja Andolan of Ranpur (to which he belongs) during the independence struggle of India.

Not only Nayagarh or Malkangiri, Maoists are very active in various parts of other states like Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh. The numerous killings at Dantewada or the land mine attack on Chandrababu Naidu’s convoy, or the sabotage of train lines leading to numerous accidents or kidnapping police men, doctors, engineers can never justify their means of struggle.

On an ideological view, the socialistic aim of the Maoisim or Naxalism might be right, but the means of their struggle cannot be justified. Violence, killing people – be the policemen or the aamjunta, just to show strength, calling frequent bandhs and stopping the development activities in the tribal areas cannot be justified as right paths to achieve a socialistic society. These only delay the development process ! Moreover, the Maoists have failed to notice some of the substantial work undertaken for the upliftment of the tribals by some honest men of the land.

Violence alone can never solve their issue; history has proved again and again – in Arab, in Sri Lanka, in Libya, in Myanmar and in many parts of India too. Contrary to that, peaceful struggle with human base and mass agitation can definitely uproot the corrupt government and the officials. It has happened in India in 1947, in Bangladesh in 1971, in South Africa in 1990s and very recently, in Egypt. However, peaceful struggle does not mean to keep silent all the time and to be a silent spectator to all misdeeds of the government; it should be a strong and honest opposition with human base. One has to remember that if the common man can make the government, then it can definitely throw the government out of power.

If development of people is the core issue of Maoist movement, then we need to look at it from all angles – from the Government’s angle, from the NGOs’ perspective and from the people’s view. One will not disagree to the fact that most of the regions where Maoists are active are mostly undeveloped – no road, no education, no sanitation, no electricity and no development for the last 60 years. But, who is responsible for this?….. Only the Government and babus? How can you discount the indifference of the aamjunta of those regions for decades? And how can you discount the politicians of those regions and let them go scot-free for ages? Are not they accountable? Of course, they are… Then why are we silent on that? Moreover, it is not that funds have not been sanctioned for development, rather sanctioned funds have been siphoned to foreign banks, luxury estates, villas and flats in cities. A very small fraction of the sanctioned amount actually reaches there, and some times money also returns without being duly spent.

In addition to funds, Government also encourages its employees by giving extra remuneration for working in those remote areas. But how many of them have worked and how many of them are working? Most of them never go there; the teachers, the doctors, the engineers and even the VC of the Central University works from Bhubaneswar (citing an example in Odisha). All of these are open secrets. It is a collective failure of aamjunta and a conspiracy or callousness of corrupt babus, politicians and greedy middle-men.

It is late, but better late than never. The development programmes have started as evident from the trips of Collector Er. Krishna. Most of the development programmes are directly monitored by officials, the political leadership has realized its mistake and aamjunta of those regions are vigilant. Then why anymore the killing and kidnapping drama? Let every one fight for the common goal – development and continuous development. Let the law of the country takes its own stand – to punish or to reward; we can definitely be a part of the system and expedite the development process. If the babus and politicians are corrupt, then we should be blamed first; we only made them corrupt for our “chalta hai” attitude. Can we stop bribing, start using RTIs, file PILs and keep an eye on our development programmes? Every one should be answerable, and we need to change the method of our opposition and struggle.

The other major change required in this area is the communication of this part with the rest of the world. Other things will come automatically – be that education, sanitation or electricity. Road blocking, bandhs and life-threats will only delay the development process. There is a need for drastic change in the education system in those areas. Remember – education can bring all changes in life as in Chanakya’s era or in Bangabandhu’s era or in Mahatma’s era; history repeats every time.

In addition to all these, there is a strong need of robust reformations in the State defense mechanisms of the Maoist-hit regions. Policemen should also be very well-equipped with modern arms and ammunitions, technology and information system; not with out-dated guns or batons  only as seen in many parts of this region (note: Most of the policemen posted in Maoist regions even do not always keep arms and ammunition with them, and they are advised informally to keep safe of their own.). Medics and para-medics must reach them promptly. Good rewards, citations and recognitions at public ceremonies must be duly commissioned as a salutation of their acts of bravery and priceless sacrifices in protecting the lives of the aamjunta.

As for the surrendered-Maoists, proper rehabilitation centers must be set-up and the State must find suitable employment for them.

The media and the aamjunta have very crucial roles to play in the system, right from creating social awareness and motivating people to guard against an otherwise corrupt and ungrateful system.

Very sensibly and collectively, let us stop politicians, bureaucrats, miscreants, middle-men and goons from hijacking the entire development programme of the land. At this stage, our internal malices, stigmas, and huge corruption with the public funds are menacingly large to enable us to stand as an united India against any external aggression/threat, or to take further leaps towards even pursuing a world-class economy. Its high time for all of us to act in a matured manner… There’s absolutely no more space left for any dilly-dally! Unless we realize and take care of ourselves, no one can do any thing for us. It is an wakeup call for the aamjunta and then the rest.

Jai Hind!

Note: For the benefit/reference of interested readers, this article is a sequel to “Odisha Assam me Hai na!“, an article published by aamjunta.

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