It was when I actually forgot the password of my blog while attempting to log in that I realized how badly I’ve been ignoring my little corner on the web. Blame it on work, blame it on a few other urgent commitments that had to see the light of day, blame it on a complete lack of ideas and the creative juices, or plain and simple laziness! It was all the time quite heartening to get messages from supposed ‘ardent’ readers of the clap trap I churn out (wonder if the species ever existed or if they did at some point in time and space, whether they still inhabit the planet!) to give up this colossal inertia and write…but write what? Something, anything…but atleast I for one, cant write till the fire within rages strong enough to spill over onto pages. My earlier stint with poetry died a sudden and unnatural death, simply because there was no more inspiration. I feared a repeat of history here. But not until newspapers and television channels beam images and stories of the return of the phantom in this country’s political and social history.
It is with a sense of deja-vu that I see these images of thousands of young boys and girls, braving the heat and leading protests across the country crying down something that they see as downright injustice. It was with horror that I watched as a kid then, newsflashes of youth setting themselves on fire when the first Mandal Commission Report was tabled and adopted, way back in the late 1980’s. As a kid then, insecurities did surface in my mind as well, about where the future would lead me, as worried parents, grandparents, friends and families discussed the paucity of good education opportunities for our ilk in the days to come as we didn’t belong to the favored section of the political class. Almost two decades have since passed and with credit given to all who need to be given their due, I am done with the business of educating myself. And in retrospect the fears were misplaced as the sojourn has always been in some of the premiere institutions of this land despite my “upper caste”. I must agree when I say that it’s a tinge of indifference now…the feeling that I am-done-with-it-and-it’ll-be-a-while-before-my-offsprings-bear-this brunt. And each time this feeling crosses my mind, I feel terribly ashamed of myself and the unbridled selfishness that drives this thought!
The India that I saw as a kid and the one that I now live in seem poles apart. The country surges ahead in many sectors and areas and is on the verge of becoming a global super power. For the youth of today’s India, modern thoughts and information are just a click away. And in the midst of all this, we have a huge spanner thrown in from an irrelevant relic of the past, who has perhaps had nothing to do with the whole concept of education; or worse still, feels as snug and selfish as I do at times, since most probably all his children (and even grandchildren may be) have already acquired plush degrees from universities abroad! The tragedy of India is that for every right step ahead that its citizens take, its so-called leaders and politicians take four backward. Whether it’s the feud between the “humble farmer” and the “IT-czar” or the current face-off between the Government and the medicos, India is a glorious land ruled by the worst bunch of buffoons that mankind could ever produce. The State that sits pretty when terrorists blow up places after places, in fact even has the audacity to let a foreign minister accompany a most vicious criminal to secure the release of hijacked passengers---the same State (irrespective of the political affiliations) comes down brutally on harmless, peace-loving citizens who are only but exercising their fundamental right to dissent. The brutal lathicharge on students in Mumbai, the barbarism perpetrated on the workers in Gurgaon last year---all bear testimony to this lopsided priority of the State.
But leaving specifics aside, the fact remains that a large section of this country are still terribly deprived and oppressed. Within kilometers of the Stock Exchange where the rich and famous of the country gamble their fortunes, we have horrific reports of starvation deaths of tiny infants. Elsewhere we have the very people who grow us our crops- farmers- committing suicide. The Government would argue that it is their bounden duty to ensure that these folks get a level playing field and no better way to do that than providing education. Agreed; I am sure no one with a sane mind would have another opinion on this. But the point is are quotas the way ahead. If 59 years of reservation have yielded no results, if the quota seats continue to remain unfilled, if the lot of the people whom it is intended to serve remains as bad or worse than it was before the introduction, if it is so easy in a country like ours where corruption is ubiquitous and it costs a little something to get a false caste certificate, if the fruits are reaped by the creamy layers of the backward castes---isn’t it then time to sit back, reflect, introspect and think of better means to achieve the same end? Only a fool would invest in a loss-making firm.
But no, it isn’t a loss-making firm atleast as far as our horrid political class is concerned. Their vote banks run on this fuel and having learnt the art of dividing and ruling from our erstwhile colonial masters, these old hags wouldn’t give up! It is rather ironical to note that the very grand-father-in-law of our illustrious super Prime Minister Sonia Gandhi, Pt Nehru, had this to say on Reservation in a letter that he wrote on the 27th of June 1961 to the Chief Ministers of that time:, "I dislike any kind of reservation. If we go in for reservations on communal and caste basis, we will swamp the bright and able people and remain second rate or third rate." This way, he added, "Lies not only folly, but also disaster." The very cartoons who swear by the “Dynasty” of Indian politics conveniently gloss over the observations of the very founder of the Dynasty! Sadly therefore we have not one soul from across the political spectrum- left, right and center –standing up and calling the insane and senile Minister’s bluff! How many of these very politicians opposed virulently the move to reserve seats for women in Parliament, as they feared a loss of their own jobs and money-making endeavors! But when it comes to the future of the youth being jeopardized not one hag cares! Not one understands that if the State is really serious about uplifting the conditions of the genuinely depressed classes, what is needed is level-playing field at the school level. Villages and even cities in India have horribly run Government schools with the least or totally deficient infrastructure. Providing good and quality education, preferably in English, at this level is the only answer to make these classes competitive at a postgraduate level. Providing crutches at that stage of one’s academic life is suicidal; after all we are talking here of life-saving doctors and which of us would want to go under an unskilled surgeon’s knife? And if the surgeon is already skilled, why at all would he need a quota?
But turning my whole argument on its head, like he does most often is Uncle Krishnamurthy, my Marxist family friend, with whom I’ve had more ideological debates than friendly banter. He asked me with a rather straight face in the middle of a heated debate we were having on this issue- “ When was there merit in the professional courses? What right do these medicos have to protest now? How many of them protested when medical and engineering seats were out on sale in the ‘payment’ category? Isn’t that another form of quota? There you are okay with it as it’s the quota of the rich (in Marxist parlance-capitalistic!) sections of society?” And for once, it did seem that the characteristically irrational Marxist had made a very valid point. If merit and merit alone is the deciding factor why at all did the concept of capitation fee come about? For once, I was stumped and this being the season of Left victory in the country, I conceded defeat!
But scoring brownie points apart, the time has come for what people call as ‘Affirmative action’- a proactive, timely and well calibrated and measurable mechanism to be put in to address the issue from the root- Primary education. Destroying centers of excellence is certainly not the answer. Speaker after speaker chides the IIT’s, IIM’s and the likes as centers for the “elite”. My counter point is what is wrong in being elite? And Elite here is not socially elite, but academically elite. Higher education has, after all, been the reserve of a few, and that is how it is across the globe. After all how many engineers and doctors do we need? Everyone in this country cannot possibly become one? Why should we get into the socialistic and Nehruvian mould of feeling ashamed of success, of people making their fair bucks through their hard work and toil? A sizeable chunk of my fellow students in BITS-Pilani came from Andhra Pradesh and mostly from the most backward areas of the State. For many of them it was their first brush with English, or for that matter even Hindi and North India. Most often they were the butt of the jokes of many of us “elitist” convent-educated snobs from Urban India. But today they are having the last laugh as they are placed on par or perhaps even better than many of us in life! And mind you, not one came in through the quota way! So why cant we just learn to trust and respect the intellect and capabilities of our not-so-fortunate brethren and not make them feel eternally inferior for having taken the short route to success!?
Sadly, as the protests continue, as students get caned, as the indifferent and pig-headed administration sits smug in colonial fashion, countless patients suffer for want of care and attention in the hospitals. The plastic smiles and incompetence of Manmohan Singh or the eternal 'V' symbol that Sonia Gandhi flashes can bring no succor and relief to them! With zero-political support to the strike coming in, in all likelihood these young boys and girls would have their hopes shattered and may be, many of them would hate their country for discriminating against them on the basis of their birth and simply choose to fly off elsewhere. May be “Brain-drain” would continue to remain a hot essay topic for High school examinations as it did it my times! But with all this, like most of my fellow Indians, who are known to have a never-say-die attitude in the face of all the adversities, all the corruption, all the lack of effective governance, all I can sign off with is “ Hum honge Kaamyab Ek din”!