Hope Against Hope

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I feel laughing… I feel kicking… I feel spitting… I mean I want to do all nasty things when I come across people who play ignorance or act oblivious of, and when you have reasons to believe that the particular incident has been in their knowledge constantly for decades together. Yet they didn’t even hiss about it till someone else brings the incident to light. It is this social double standard that Bihar would go down with in contemporary history of independent India.

It appeared all rosy till the topper students opened their mouths and the stink gathered moss. I believe that media had not gone there intentionally to dig the truth by interviewing the toppers of Arts or Science. The students on their part, acted without required alacrity and sagacity as being just at the threshold of realms of life. They proved themselves starkly immature for themselves and not professionally crafty and thus, were caught in their enthusiasm by the wicked camera.

Elsewhere, the people are not that plain and simple as in Bihar and they design their schemes meticulously and therefore, they digest their misdeeds with buttery roundabout instead of answering directly to questions thrown to them. Even in crime and also in its investigation, Bihar is yet to come out from its primitive methods and modus operandi. Use third degree till even absolute honest admits the crime police accuse him of. Lathi is still their telescopic rifle and deshi katta their missile. And all this because the classrooms there are crowd-rooms with teachers and taught remain busy in their murky design to acquire everything else but education. I take liberty here to avoid a generalization of the abominable system of education in Bihar though it appears formidably present on the larger part of the canvass there side by side ‘Super Thirty’ like prestigious institutions too.

Who didn’t know that the percentage of marks in examinations is important for admissions, jobs and that too for the job of a teacher, particularly the para-teachers? If our law makers didn’t know about it, this could be eighth wonder of the world. They ushered this criterion in, and when people jumped for it on the adage of ‘survival of the highest’ why the hullabaloo now? Wait… wait, I know you’ll say it should be through fair means. Now, come on! Who decides what is fair or unfair? When a system or for that matter a government distinguishes people by cast or religion or region, does it have the moral right to sit in judgments towards fairness? Doesn’t the present dispensation in Bihar prompted learners and also their parents to manage, yes Sir, ‘manage’ high percentage in examinations by hook or by crook as this was the sole criterion for the jobs or admissions?

This can only be ‘managed’ around the scenario present in the classrooms and because the present dispensation has miserably failed to ameliorate the educational standard in institutions mushrooming in all nook and corners of the state, the buck doesn’t stop at the parched aspirants. ‘As you sow so shall you reap’. What examples are offered to people to follow from the facts that semi educated persons are in the positions of policy making in the government whose only qualification is that they belong to a particular caste or they descend from a family or group who possesses billions in their coffers from no apparent means of earning. This sends encouragement to those who aspire to be billionaire without actually sweating a drop in life.

How the marks play a formidable role in admission, Delhi bears the testimony for this. There could be dozens of students with aggregate of 100 marks and the Saint Stephen like college is tested for its skills to distinguish students through binocular in order to prepare merit lists for admission. This is also true that in a society where education is another commercial venture, it is a herculean task to devise a full-proof formula for admission except by way of taking marks as the sole criterion for admission. Because the mark sheet once awarded to a student is considered his Bible being legally recognized proof of his success in an examination. I have no apparent reason to surmise at the long list of 100% marks holder but there is something that doesn’t meet the eye.

I wonder if Ruby be arrested and so is Bachcha Rai, then why the parents can’t be arrested as the real accomplices are the parents. Ruby or Saurabh was in no position to take decision whether to opt or not for the mundane means to acquire that position. It were their parents who were in that position and so they are the real culprits in legal parlance. But this is the go of life in Bihar. I pity the legal advisors of the Bihar Intermediate council and its officers who are bereft of the basic concept of criminal jurisprudence. But, there is no surprise element in it as they may also be the products of the same system with a marginal difference of having not been caught ever. However, these children are being used as scapegoats whereas the real culprits are sitting in judgments. May one ask. What happened to the area MP or MLA? Can a broad day light crime of this magnitude go unnoticed by the public leaders? If yes, the MP or MLA does not seem to have the mass base. Then how are they getting elected and by whose votes? A whole lot of questions arises warranting action against them too, of having connived at such activities thereby committing the crime of abatement. The same law applies to them too along with all local administrative machinery down to the panchayat level in whose presumed knowledge the system was made to be abused.

At this stage, I want to share one piece of conversation that took place about 20-25 years ago between a Headmaster-in-Charge of a Secondary school in Bihar and some parents. I was expected to be a disciplined and worthy listener as the headmaster happened to be my teacher too, though for a very short spell in my schooling thankfully.

It is worth mentioning here that the said headmaster held three Master degrees in a row- English, Hindi and Sanskrit. He was really a scholar but all the ethics that he had learnt, seemed to have been crucified at the social dynamics of the day. Anyway, the headmaster and the parents had their wards in Class IX in the same school. And then I realized that they were very intimate. The parents were worried about the fate of their wards particularly when they would reach class X. The headmaster shared the worries too. Their main concern was that the headmaster was due to retire that year itself and thus, will not be available for help when their children would face the Board examination. A solution was found in the form of advancing their career by one year and make them take Class X examination while reading in Class IX. The result was almost granted under the reign of the headmaster being the Centre Superintendent. (Let God keep his soul in peace.) They all passed in flying colours that year.

The same worries of parents still loom large in Bihar and they fall prey to sharks like Bachcha Rai present in educational systems in Bihar. People are compelled to resort to unfair practices as righteousness is cowardly. It is the time when ‘sweet are the uses of adversity’ is considered jokers’ cry. Ever since the concept of social justice has been abused and misused, the ethics is relegated to the background. A class of thugs and scoundrels has overshadowed the right thinking breed turning them into three symbolic monkeys of Gandhi jee.
Nevertheless, I am optimistic. I’m optimistic not because there is a class that still exists that has not given the way to all these social evils but because those who have accelerated these social evils benefitting temporarily for themselves out of this crumbling social order and chaos, are also getting the brunt now. For, they know that the future of their offspring is bleak. The realization of ill got and ill spent is descending, albeit with too slow a pace. Their voices may just be a whimper now but will certainly get momentum by the passage of time.
With all impartiality at my disposal, I must admit that like many of my brethren I tend to resort to only criticism and therefore, it is fruitless unless I pen some suggestions towards educational betterment in Bihar. Be prudent as there is no magic wand that can do the trick like Bachcha Rai did for Ruby.

Though on guard not to be ridiculed as having experienced a lot in life of the fact that suggestion loses its significance if volunteered without being sought for. Yet I would love to commit the same mistake as old habits die hard. And here they are:

I would like the government to rejuvenate the State Institute of Education mainly for the purpose of testing and training of teachers at all levels in school, of course, not by frequent visits of its official to schools but by way of various modules of training programmes for teachers through distance learning system. What I mean here is that in order to assist the teachers some practical incentives should be taken to upgrade their professional skills vis a vis their subject knowledge on regular basis.

Few know that the regular vacation is allowed in educational and judicial institutions only because these areas are so dynamic that annual stock must be taken to reform the system by learning from past failures and by devising a replaceable new scheme so that the causes of those failures must be addressed. Thus, the vacations are meant for workshops, seminars, refresher courses and so on and so forth with a view to formulating new strategies to meet new social challenges. A blind cannot teach a blind. If a teacher lacks teaching skills and even subject knowledge, it is sheer waste of time and energy to let him function as a teacher. By his useless presence in the classrooms he would spoil the broth on one hand and also resist and create hurdles, with implementation of new ideas on the other. If they are found corrigible, let them stay.

However, care should be taken not to resort to abrupt weeding of unwanted entities as this may add up to unemployed youth count. Besides, we can neither afford to outsource technical staff from elsewhere nor can we render the local population useless thereby bringing about all sorts of social unrest. As I have observed, there is no involvement of very large sum of budgetary support in the exercise of training through distant learning system. A few loose ends need to be tightened such as misuse of subsidized ration under frivolous food security scheme, half or more than half of which is distributed for garnering votes at local levels. For example, the family of a govt. retired primary teacher also munches on subsidized ration. This is managed when family units are plausibly bifurcated into suitable sub-units to usurp the subsidized ration. All this can be curbed to spare money for more vital a scheme for long term benefits. There are plenty of such wastage of public funds.

Secondly, tax collection is abysmally low in Bihar. The baboos in offices do not like to lose the comfort of their air conditioned offices. And even otherwise, they are counterproductive unless the local intelligence at work can help them with readymade knowwhere. Therefore, there is a need of developing local volunteers to gather information about individual earnings in order to assess direct or indirect taxes and ultimately make them pay. It is wide and rampant that the shopkeepers refuse to issue cash memos for the purchases made from their shops. And if you insist, you may get a loose paper with any other printed caption but for cash memo. The local youth systematically be trained to effect the issue of such receipt/cash memo ultimately expediting the revenue generation. It is only the neighbor who knows roughly how his next door has earned or where he has spent. Markets in Bihar are lavishly full of consumer items but tax collection is at pittance giving rise to abundance of black money flow. As situation is ripe for decentralization of power, an effort should be made to let people directly participate in governance. One may find it illogically at the threshold but my friends may recall that these activities were chartered and tested before imposition of internal emergency in 1975. As I recollect, after the 1971 Bangladesh War, when this country was flooded with refugees who would gobble up significant amount of national coffer at one hand, the country was also facing economic and food crisis owing to destruction of its considerable resources in that war.

As my fading memory goes, people’s unhappiness was writ large against the government and the administration then. At local level, I would observe my friends teaming themselves up with different assigned purposes. The most noticeable activity included the detection of hoarders of essential commodities and informing the police about the stock and requests them to take action accordingly.

Initially, the police supported the activities whole heartedly but after sometime began pouncing back at us. That situation led to joining the historical JP movement little after. It took time but things did change. Similarly we can engage the youth not only by jocularly making them believe that each of them would be richer by 15 lakhs but by actually presenting them with the facts about their surroundings that may change them from turning themselves into petty thugs and thieves, but transforming them into ethical police. This would curb the corruption in offices and force the officials to tow by rules as the ethical law keepers would be close to them. A number of such teams can be organized at local level with various assignments. For example, the land records in Bihar are in pathetic condition resulting in poor realization of land revenue. A team can be assigned to prepare maps and charts with the particulars of actual land holders in order to minimize dubious land transactions. Their daily activities should be required to be video graphed for taking appropriate decisions at appropriate level.

In short, let the offices be brought to public courtyard. Condemning as it may sound but the fact remains that the government suffers from trust deficit and is groping about for light, and in haste, makes mockery of a desirable social schemes such as recent prohibition side by side a ridiculous arrest of students who themselves are victims of government authorized system of education. It has proved fatal as the wave of sympathy for the students is gathering corners.

As there is nothing like free lunch, some pecuniary incentives earmarked for this purpose would certainly do the tricks provided the present government shows some honesty to mobilize the youth and involve them in the exercise of ‘knowing their government and their society’.

Let wisdom prevail in Bihar at the earliest.

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