An open letter to the Prime Minister of India

Dear Prime Minister

Please accept my congratulations on your resounding victory. The people of India have risen above caste, religion and all divisive groupings to elect you to lead our Nation. Some follow your ideological views but there are others who voted you in because we believed that you would be able to make us regain our pride which had taken a hit amidst the scams and corrupt ways that seem to have become our hallmark.

You have a huge task ahead of you, a task made onerous because of the immense trust people from across the board have reposed in you. Many believe you will become a conjurer of miracles and have high hope in you, hopes that you will be expected to fulfill. It is not an easy task and I pray God will be with you.

I am a humble senior citizen whose heart beats for India and has always done so. Nationalist parents tend to instil this love in their children, particularly children who are born and who grow up away for the Motherland. My father's dying words to me were: don't lose faith in India. That was in 1992 and believe me Prime Minister it has not been easy to hold on to that faith.

You have many challenges ahead of you and I am no expert in matters such as economy, finance or other complex issues. I only see with my heart and react the same way. For the past 15 years I have been working with underprivileged children in slums. Today I want to be their voice and try and reach out to you.

Every time we talk of India we take pride in the fact that we have one of the youngest population. One often hears about higher education and the need to create more IITs and IIMs. Sadly we never hear anything about primary education which is now the Constitutional Right of every child born in this land. This is the reality as one just has to step out of one's house even in our capital city to come across a child begging or working. Mr Prime Minister no child can aspire to enter the portal of an IIM without getting primary education. In today's India there are millions of children struggling to get a primary education. You will agree that a young demography holds no meaning if young India does not have education and access to sound vocational skills. A recent UNICEF report states that 80 million children don't complete the entire cycle of elementary education, close to 8 million are out of school. This is a matter of utter shame. Even when children go to school, and I am not taking of schools in remote areas but the country's capital, they are packed in classrooms where more than 100 children study in spaces made for 40. How can they learn Mr Prime Minister. Our country has failed in providing the very basic education to its children and children cannot wait as they grow by the day and soon it is too late for them. As I humble citizen who has seen the potential of these children over the past 15 years, I urge you to give primary education the place it has in the economy of any country wanting to compete with the best.

Education should not be privatised. There was a time when almost every child went to a Government school and went on to hold the highest offices. We need that Golden Age to come back. Government cannot abdicate its responsibility in this sector. Privatisation is not the answer. Should you go that way, then education will never reach the poorest of the poor and unless we reach them, our country cannot change.

Look at Delhi. It is replete with State and Municipal schools but not only are they overcrowded but they often run in ramshackle buildings and even tents with sometimes no desks! These are often single storied barracks and should be transformed into multi storied schools imparting quality education. More so it is sad that our capital city cannot provide morning school to all its children and so boys go to school in the afternoon, a time not conducive to learning. I do hope you will look at this as though children have no vote, they have hope in you, Sir.

There is one more reality that makes me hang my head in shame every day and that is the spectre of malnutrition and the fact that even today, as you celebrate your big victory, 5000 between the age of 0 and 5 will die quietly in the India you now lead. I urge you to look at this sad and shameful reality and do something. There are some programmes that could have made a difference had they been properly implemented and not hijacked by wily people. ICDS which should monitor children from age 0 to 6 has failed. Had it worked any Indian under 35 should not have been malnourished. You just need to step into one of the Anganwadis in this city to see what a sham and cruel joke they are: a damp hole, a broken weighing machine and a disinterested caretaker is what what will greet you. As for nutrition, as that is what these creches are meant to give, what the kids get is again a handful of puffed rice and gram and that too not everyday!

Mr Prime Minister we cannot have children dying everyday; we cannot have millions of children out of school.

I hope you will hear the voice of the voiceless.

A citizen of India