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 !!!!!


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 ?

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 !


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.



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


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.


  • 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 ( 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.


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.

Glimpses of India – from the Eyes of an Aamjunta

Boarding the Train

It was almost 2.00 pm, I started journey home from my room. As usual this time also I forgot to carry one of my bags. Forgetting things in the last moment is becoming a usual habit in me. Something or the other … I forget to carry at the last moment 😦 , no matter who accompanies me and how long or short the journey is. Have faced many problems due to this forgetfulness. I sincerely hoped if I could manage this trip without that bag. Luckily, I did not forget to carry my last minute shopping item.

It was getting late for a Local train journey to Dadar and so decided to call for a taxi. I am privileged to own the tel. no of “Vijay taxi wala”. He reached dot on time and was waiting downstairs. I was carrying my laptop with me. In the main-gate (of IIT Bombay), the security guard was supposed to stop any vehicle and ask whether any one is carrying any electronic item as per the security rules. But that did not happen here (that was not the first time also). No one asked me and no one stopped my taxi. Even though I was ready with my gate pass, I was expecting the security guard to follow the minimum security measures. But no one bothered to inquiry. They hardly ask any one carrying any thing; just mute spectators in most of the cases. But, at times certainly harass people to show their power and to score a point. Unarmed, unprepared and indifferent security force of IIT Bombay 😦

Anyway, managed to reach Dadar before time. Konark Express, Train No. 1019, my train and home for the next 37 hours was scheduled at 3.10 pm from CST. But, I decided to board the train from Dadar at 3.25 pm to save some time. Vijay could manage to drop me within 35 minutes as there was hardly any traffic at that time (quite unusual in Mumbai). I entered Dadar Station through Platform No. 6. I was expecting huge police presence in the station after the incident of 26/11 in Mumbai. Yes, traces of police presence were there, but could not find their preparedness and alertness.

My ticket was in RAC and therefore I had to check before boarding whether the ticket was confirmed. Asked the police officer sitting at the enquiry counter to guide me to the place where boarding charts are put. After asking him 3 times, he answered my query with a sign language and pointed his finger towards the notice board in Platform No. 5. I was relieved to see my name in the confirmed tickets list. Tough to travel by RAC for 37 hours without a sleeper berth. Anyway, was lucky this time. My serial number was the last in confirmation, though it was the last berth of the coach. I just thanked my starts and made some telephone calls to friends and relatives to inform them that my ticket was confirmed. Train was on time and I boarded the train.

Train Journey – A Mini-India

My berth number was B3-64. Already two people were sitting in 63/64 by the time I reached there. Both of them were claiming that they have 63 – RAC! Interestingly, some one else came in and too claimed that his seat no is 63. Three persons for the same seat!! 🙂 Could not believe. With the help of the PNR number verification from a BSNL Mobile, they could resolve the seat problem. Two of them had RAC, and the other person was having W/L ticket only. The wait-listed person could not believe how come his seat had not got confirmed, when he had already booked his tickets 25days ago. This gentleman was W/L number 1 whereas the other gentleman was W/L 36! The other gentleman could manage to confirm his ticket through some VIP quota, even though he bought the ticket at the last minute, leaving the other guy with W/L-1. Looks like aamjunta suffers every where, no one listens.

By the time the seat confusion got resolved, TT had verified our e-tickets and the train had reached Kalyan. A new drama was unfolding related to ticket buying and selling. Seat no. 59/B-3 was still vacant. The lady who booked the ticket did not show up. Every one was eying that seat. In principle that seat should go to the person with the lowest RAC. But, I wondered … will the TT allot that seat without taking a single pie? The person seating in B3-63 with RAC started buttering the TT and literally begged for berth no. 59. He did not hesitate to bribe the TT too, opened his wallet and gave two one hundred notes to him. And the TT… thanked his stars, took those with a smile …. his first income of the day. I thought when we are talking and gossiping against corruption and corrupt practices, we forget to include ourselves in the list of culprits. Both bribers and bribe takers are equally responsible.

In the mean while our train had reached Pune, I was dozing off in the upper berth. With a big suitcase, a young girl in her late twenties entered our compartment. Pushed her suitcase under the seat, tried to occupy the seat no. 59, which was already assigned to some one else. She could not believe that her seat was allocated to some one else 🙂 . She started arguing with the TT and the commuter. After realizing her mistake (booking from one station (CST) and boarding from a far-off station (Pune)) she became distraught and composed, but had to finally accept. She requested the TT at least to allow her to board the train and to share the seat with the other gentleman who was occupying seat no. 63 in RAC. She could manage to convince the person and shared the seat.

In the mean time a couple of plain cloth police men came and inquired with many of us and checked our luggages. May be the bombings in the trains and other places in India are the reasons for this checking. But, I did not find a single police man afterwards, in the next 30 hours of my journey. What kind of security measure then? Couple of my co-passengers (including ladies) were software engineers working in Pune. To spend their boring train journey, they were ready with many things, at least some 10 different type of snacks, all the meals of train’s catering and most interestingly they had enough bettle (paan) leafs and all masalas (jurda, kimam, katha, supari.. etc.). Each of them are experts in making the bettle pack and in eating those. Amazing scenes. There was another co-passenger who had a RAC ticket and started narrating his links and connections with big politicians of Mumbai and his lunch/dinner parties with the IPS/IAS officers and the ministers in Mumbai. He did not leave a single stone unturned to boast of his greatness. I did not understand one thing, if he had all the connections then how come he could not manage to get a confirmed seat? May be Laluji ki raj me kuchh gadbad hai 🙂

Home Sweet Home

Train journey was cool, though a bit boring. I reached Bhubaneswar on time – at 4.35 am. My brother was there to receive me. Once I reached there, I found myself at home. The care and concern of my brother, home made food of my bhabhi and the love of my sweet nephew — what else I wanted? The Bhubaneswar which I had carried in my memory and that which I was seeing were completely different. Nowadays, it has grown like any other city in India. But, on the flip side as an outsider in my own homeland, I could witness rash drive of young (kids some times) students and unemployed mass, the effect of liquor on our society, eve-teasing, showiness and artificial smiles of relatives and friends. Tough to accept 😦 I stayed for a day at Bhubaneswar, visited couple of my relatives and friends in the evening, did a little bit shopping for my nephew and niece. I was meeting them after a gap of 18 months, longest gap so far. I knew my parents were eagerly waiting for me in my village…. I got at least 15 calls on that day with only one question: “when are you coming?” “Come at that time, do not bring this and that”… etc., and etc…

Once I reached home (village), I felt like the king of that place 🙂 . Very happy… I started showing all the photos of my last China visit, and was telling the stories of my success/failure, life, future to my parents. Suddenly I realized that I forgot to bring the Umbrella which I carried for my father. I left that in the bus, forgot completely…I felt very very bad. The umbrella was an amazing and unique piece, many people were interested to take that… but, I was adamant that it was meant for my father…. I tried my best to follow the bus, enquired with the driver through some of my relatives, but could not trace it. Felt very low as I was too much attached to the umbrella and carried a lot of dreams to present it with love to my father.

Small Incidents of Big India

I stayed hardly for 4 days at home. These four days I was completely cut off from the rest of the world. There were important calls which I was expecting on my MTNL roaming cell. But alas… MTNL and BSNL had problems, my roaming phone was half of the time struggling to find and register itself with BSNL. More than 90% of the time, its signal was down, and the rest 10%, frequent call droppings, one sided voice, bad signal quality …. I was pissed off with their services. How come these so called basic service providers (largest telecom. operators in India) do not maintain the basic quality in their services? Nobody was listening to my complaints, they were not even accepting their fault. In fact, even now after a month of my coming back from home the service and signal is extremely poor. Other users also are facing similar problems. Had it been in USA or other European countries, the operators would have been sued for service failure. I had to struggle a lot to call my friends in Mumbai for updates.

While at village, I came across with some interesting facts. My father was narrating to me about the Rs 2/- per Kg rice scheme introduced by Orissa Govt to help the needy. Initially when I heard about this I was thrilled and was very happy that the Govt is helping the poor; the common man. But my happiness was short lived. Looks like Rs 2/- per Kg rice is the biggest problem at this moment. Most of the people who are availing the scheme are becoming very lazy. Many of them are not working for more that 4/5 days in a month. Reason, a day’s earning is sufficient for their livelihood of a month.. 50 kg of rice (Rs 100/- is the daily wages) and the other 2/3 days’ work is sufficient for the rest. More than 70% people are not working, not ploughing their land even… why to spend time and money, when they have free food at their door step? The question that came to my mind… is that Rs 2/- per Kg rice scheme for the benefit of the country? Are we doing justice to the tax payers’ money? Why is the govt playing with the country’s future? For vote shake? For power? Election is around, and many parties are committing Rs 2/- or Rs 3/- per Kg rice. My frustration became serious, when I came to know the names of BPL (Bellow Poverty Line) card holders… many rich people of that area are having BPL cards, they get those rice in Rs 2/- per Kg and sell that in Rs 20/- Kg in the market. Pathetic attitude.

During my short stay, I visited couple of Govt. and Private schools, couple of Engineering colleges. What I saw there and what I experienced was pathetic. The condition of the education system and commercialization of basic services in many parts of Orissa (in India too) is something which is of serious concern. Engineering education is a big business there. In the name of charity, people just do business and exploit. They also spend huge amount for bribing the authorities (be it state education board or national education board) to get the accreditations. The common man suffers everywhere… their land is being sold at a cheap price to these institutes, their kids are not getting quality education, they pay heavy price as donations and fees for education, and they do not get their full salary. No one is interested to send their wards to Govt. run schools. Every one is interested in English medium schools. But the English medium schools charge heavily as fees and donations, make interviews of the parents and the kids . My nephew was asked for his Class I admission : Name two Chief Ministers in India who were married in the same day?. Neither the Govt rulings nor the court directives stop them from blatant commercialization. Not only that the quality of teachers they have are very poor. Many of them are under paid too. With this kind of education, where do we see our future? I could not visualize…

Corruption, attitude problem, politics, castism… everything is corroding this country and the common man. Unless the common man does some thing and realizes that he/she has to be aware and do things to help himself/herself who else can save? It is late, but not too late. Still there is time to shape the country, to guide the youth and to channelize the taxpayers’ money.

Aamjunta it is your turn now.

Qualitative Expansion of Indian Education System – Need for a Strong and Better India

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

M. K. Gandhi

Even after 60 years of independence “Education for all and 100% literacy” is still a dream in India; though the present country wide average literacy rate is around 60%, it is actually less than 50% in many parts of India. The youth literacy rate is around 71% in India, whereas it is around 99% in neighbouring China. We will have to accept the truth that we still lack in terms of basic education and literacy as compared to many other countries. Not only is quantity affecting, with this percentage of literacy bringing development to the door step of every Indian is difficult. When the illiterate common [hu]man does not understand and does not know the schemes drafted for him/her, then how do we expect (re)action from her/him?

Our first and foremost goal should be to start with providing basic education to all. This needs proper planning at the apex level. But, by drafting the schemes at parliament or at the planning commission level, our responsibilities do not get over. In fact responsibility means — to complete the process and implement the scheme at the ground level; by involving the mass in the process of education and development and by expanding the base of education.

Expanding the reach of the present educational system is crucial. Basic education should reach every single child of our country. Making all children go to school, not just enrolling them (we have 96% of enrolment of children at present), and teach through innovative means is the key in this direction. These measures can not only help us increase the percentage of literacy, but also can increase the quality of our life in general. This will also create a position for the economically weaker strata of our society to understand the schemes designed for them. Various studies show that there are people in India who are still untouched by the modern society; modern education system has not reached them, forget about sanitary condition and health care. But, what have we done in this direction? How serious we are in our endeavour?

We spend just 3.5% of our GDP on education, way below China’s 8%. Is that enough to increase the reach of the education to all?

On a finer level of introspection – the numbers of schools we have in India are not enough. The quality of education is not there. English medium education is still considered as a status symbol confined to the cities only. In the name of free primary education, wasting of taxpayers’ money is enormous. Education for girl child is still a far-fetched dream and is not encouraged even in the civilized sections of our society. Facility for the students at the school level is also not that encouraging. Many schools do not have even the basic infrastructure; no chair, no table, no toilets and even no roof.

The mid-day meal programme, which is the main attraction for kids to come to school in many parts of India, is not properly implemented. In some places, the program gets disrupted by corrupt practices of hoarding and stealing. We need to overcome these problems through various corrective actions in terms of opening more quality schools for all not just for a set of people and making the authorities accountable. Moreover, the call for awareness should not be confined to vision books or newspaper articles or to statements in the parliament only. It needs implementation through whatever means possible.

To attract more children to school, not only we need to motivate the kids and their parents, but also need to create social awareness. For that we need quality people around in the form of teachers. But, unfortunately we face serious shortage of quality teachers. Not that we do not have quality people, but the attitude of many of us towards teaching is extremely negative. Teaching is not considered as a career at the first hand.

The salary structure for the teachers is not at all encouraging. In the name of Sarvasikshya Abhijan (“Education for All”), new teachers are getting appointed with a monthly remuneration of Rs 600/- (i.e., Rs 20/- per day) at the primary school level, which is even less than the monthly remuneration of unskilled labourers. Even then, many people apply for a single teaching post, not because they all are interested, but because of the rampant unemployment in the society.

Even if we succeed in bringing more students to school, we are not in a position to motivate them for higher education. Percentages of drop-outs at and after school are very high. For instance, the percentage of drop-out students is about 40% at the primary level. Only over 33% high school students complete graduation. This has to be looked into seriously. Unfortunately, we do not have planned guidance system/schemes to tackle the drop-out problem. For the growth of the country, we need trained man power, be it trained labour or trained farmers or trained educators or the intellectual class with a research base.

Unless, we stop the drop-outs at or after school, and provide education to all through corrective and affirmative actions, where do we get the required manpower?

College education is also necessary for growth. But, in India, college education is not that accessible to all. Even if it is accessible, the quality of education is not as good as compared to that of other developed countries. Technical education is still a far cry for the common man. The present form of college education does not ensure any form of employment opportunity in most of the cases.

In the recent past, in the name of software boom, we have opened many engineering colleges. But, by opening engineering colleges only a country does not succeed. We need infrastructure, laboratory facilities and quality instructors to teach. Couple of years back in the name of expanding education we had allowed mushrooming of universities and colleges in many parts of India and have compromised on the quality of education.

Honourable Supreme Court’s ruling in recognizing the institutes and maintaining the basic quality should be taken seriously. We have also to remember that unless proper mechanism and quality is maintained in both the teaching and the taught, the system will crumble. Educating the educators is more important at this point than educating the student. Even though there are schemes in research places, such as Quality Improvement Programme (QIP) or study leave, the output is not visible. Caution and quality measures are definitely required in this direction.

The other important challenge of Indian education system is conversion of undergraduates into graduate studies or research. Even though the number of graduates which India produces per year is six to eight times higher than that of countries like USA produce in a year, the retention of graduates for higher studies leading to doctoral studies is very less in India. This needs to be looked upon with urgency. High conversion rate of graduate to doctoral is important. More number of doctoral students should be enrolled into the system and people will opt for doctoral studies, if the programme is encouraged with higher fellowship, better facilities for research and other infrastructures. This requires emphasis on research by the society and by government.

However, the doctoral research programme should not be misunderstood with time bound degree. It has a different requirement and philosophy. Continuous research can be done, only if one’s basic requirements are fulfilled. One has to remember that at the age of 30s (average age of doctoral students in India); the equation is different, very hard to ask for a financial help from parents. Hence, financial help is a must, if we are really serious for research as an imperative for development of the nation and our researchers as national assets.

With the opening of new IITs, IIITs, IIMs and many colleges in the country, care needs to be taken to attract quality researchers in the form of students and faculties. The faculty crunch needs to be tackled with highest priority and research needs to be emphasized with seriousness. However, encouraging the youth to opt for teaching and/or research is not exhibitive. We have to remember that the well-being of researchers will definitely have direct impact on the growth of the nation.

If we need 10% GDP growth, we have to give importance to value based education and encourage youth for opting a career in research and teaching.

The other major problem which we are facing is caste based reservation policy. Yes, we introduced caste based reservation as a corrective measure, but there are people from various unreserved-castes who are underprivileged and are backward too. They have still not come at-par with their other fellow Indians. It is our responsibility too to bring them to the main stream, to bring them to the mass, to include them in the nation building. But, why to politicize that? Why to make caste as the only factor for reservation? In fact, with caste based reservation we too support casteism and further divide the society adding fuel to the age old caste based divisions. Many have already availed the reservation and have joined the mainstream. Should we give further reservations to them?

Let the people who are really underprivileged and need reservation avail this opportunity, irrespective of the caste and religion. This will expand our reach and include the mass. A serious discussion and brainstorming is required on this issue.

Many of us still do not understand the rationality of reservation at higher education level and that too after 60 years of independence based on some old data-base. Simply political! When we do not give as much opportunity as required to the unprivileged at the school level and bring them even to secondary school level, what is the rationality of reservation at higher education? Instead of giving reservation at the higher education, let us give opportunity to them and prepare them at the primary school level, at higher secondary level and at the under-graduation level.

By stopping the drop-outs at the school level and bringing them to higher education level, we can reach the mass in a more effective way, which will have definitely have better impact than having reservation or quota system in higher education. We have to understand the need of quality in higher education along with the quantity.

On a slightly different note, there were concerns and differences in the recent past due to reservation at the private sectors. Most of the private sectors are opposing the caste based reservation at their places. To survive in a competitive market, should they be not given a fair chance to decide their own action and whom should they hire? Instead, the private sector be encouraged and directed to provide resources for better school and other facilities at least till the higher secondary level. Let them also participate in the nation building process by supporting the education system. There can be a similar project like the Governments directing the major telecom operators to provide basic services in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharastra and Rajasthan, which is definitely a success in India. Similar schemes can be duplicated in the education sector too.

With all my arguments, I however do not discount the level of planning or vision at the highest levels. Yes, we need planning, but that is not a big problem in India. With planning commissions, ministries, development boards, knowledge commissions, we can at the least hope for better plans.

But, what about implementation? Many will not deny that we lack in implementation skills. For better and quick implementation, let there be an independent survey by a group comprising representatives from NGOs, Governments and Private sectors. Let there be collaboration between these agencies for the implementation part along with the Government machinery. But most significantly, the common man should be a part of the implementation.

To conclude, let us pledge to bring more children to school, control the drop-outs and encourage teaching and research with quality and quantity for a better and strong India.

Jai Hind.

(Article earlier submitted as an essay to a competition hosted by National Knowledge Commission)

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