This afternoon I caught bits and pieces of one of the last election pitches of the star candidate of the ruling political party. This party has been in power for almost 6 decades. However to me the substance of the speech was 6 decades to late. Actually I was reading an interesting book while the TV was own in the background. Most of the time it was the annoying drone one has been forced to get used to. Thank heavens the election saga was under 60 days or as science has proven this jarring and ear splitting campaign could have become a habit we may have found ourselves missing one the show was over. Anyway let us get back to the point in question. As a real member of the second sex, to borrow Simone de Beauvoir's expression, I am good at multi-tasking, a skill honed to almost perfection during my booth simultaneous interpretation days when I often found myself listening to and then translating some technical speech while writing my postcards! So while I was engrossed in a fascinating book on the Defence of Food, my ears perked up to the content of the speech where the candidate was speaking about heart surgeries a subject dear to my heart - excuse the pun! I snapped my book shut and was all ears. The candidate in question was I guess enumerating the 'perks' people would get were his party voted to power again. He was talking about having met 'mothers' who came to him as their children had been diagnosed and needed open heart surgery which he estimated at costing 4 to 500 000 Rupees. I have been looking for a transcript of the speech but did not find it.
He went on to say that if they came into power the Government would pay for these costly surgeries. I could not but help smile as one does not have to be a rocket scientist to know that the funds will never reach true beneficiaries but get lost in transit and the child in question, who to quote his words has 2 years to live, would certainly die.
I could not help but go back to 2006 when a man hobbling on a stick
entered my office with a sheaf of papers in his hand and utter despair in his eyes. He had knocked at every door possible to help him get the money required for his son's heart surgery. Every door had been banged at his face though in a country where reservation is made a panacea for all ills he came under more than one category: OBC and handicapped. I could not remain a mute spectator. His son was operated upon and is today a smart young lad in class XII. Since we have repaired more than 20 broken hearts and the cost is nowhere near 500 000 but 100 000 max! I felt sad for the thousands of simple souls listening to the words being thrown at them and trusting what was being said as I knew that they were just words and nothing else.
There were many promises made in this speech, promised that as I said were 6 decades too late. Education was also promised. Education that is now a Fundamental Right for every child born in this country. Then my question is: what happened to the children who beg at red lights or work in tea stalls. The promises were lofty and years too late. The Act
that came after almost 60 years or 3 generations and is totally flawed. Maybe what politicians needed to promise in Election 2014 was a simple engagement to ensure that all past social policies and programmes would be implemented in their true spirit. We do not need new ones; it is they who need new ones to garner their pockets. Have you ever asked yourself where the 2% on education levied each time we eat out and pay our taxes. One would have thought that our taxes went to education and social programmes. An interesting article
debates the issue. It says: What could be more important for our country than spending on basic education, public health and basic infrastructure? Whatever the government spends on these heads must be fully financed from its primary revenues. In other words, these subjects should have the first claim on the government’s resources. Whatever might be our politics or ideology, no one can deny that these should be our priorities, and after we have adequately provided for these, we should spend on other things. Why then does the government charge a cess for education and another cess on higher education? This seems to suggest that the fundamental priorities of the government are not concerned with improving the lot of the poor, the needy and the citizenry as a whole, but something else
. So the question is what is that something else?
To this I would like to add that its time we asked where does the money go! More so because the Right to Education
Bill is so drafted that it will never reach the poorest of the poor. Instead of using all the money levied in taxes and ceases to upgrade existing schools to a level which would even attract the middle class to them, as was the case many years ago when the plethora of public schools we have now did not exist, the State chose to come up with its absurd notions. The Bill has been criticised by many as it chose to ignore quality altogether. Today in Delhi, there are in certain schools more than 100 children in a class. Forget all else. 100 kids cannot learn anything in 35 minute periods. To address the notion of quality the State rushed to its favourite cure-all: reservation. Hence 25% of seats in all private schools would be reserved for 'poor' children. All private schools means school as diverse as a local school and the uber rich school. The State simply abdicated its constitutional obligation towards providing education. And of course there is more: the right to education covers children from age 6 to 14. Ha Ha! What happens after that is any body's guess. And not to forget that the pass percentage remains a paltry 33% when colleges require 90%+ for securing admission. So if the child had no dropped out along the way, his chances at gaining higher education at a reasonable rate is limited to open universities, even colleges or correspondence courses.
Back to the speech. The candidate stated that a farmer's son could dream big and become a pilot and that his Government would ensure this. My humble question is that to become anything s/he needs basic education and you have not been able to provide that even with ceases and more ceases. So how does he become a pilot. Stop bartering false dreams. Clean up your act first!
And talking of deja vu it has been more than a decade that we have been cleaning your act, albeit with a handful of kids, and though we still do not have a pilot, we have amongst our alumni an international ramp model who was born on a roadside! Talk of dreams. Not to forget the now thousands of kids who have completed their studies honourably and hold good jobs and have broken the cycle of poverty and acceded to the middle class. This was also what was promised to millions in the speech.
The said speech was 60 years too late and so were your promises. The only I got out of it was that I was on the right path. I just hope that I can continue to do so. There are too many dreams to be salvaged and fulfilled.