Tuesday, 15 May 2012



All good things of this earth flow into the city (Pericles of Athens)

BS was in Tokyo in the 1970s. His bosses in Delhi called him up and asked him to look after a visiting up-and-coming political couple. Those were the days when the yen was soaring, the dollar was plunging, the rupee wasn't worth the fine print etched on it, and only the old guard had Swiss bank accounts. BS re-wrote the book on looking after, and the visitors swore eternal gratitude when they said goodbye.
Cut to the 1970s. BS is living happily ever after in Chandigarh, with his son. His daughter-in-law, a government school teacher, is transferred to a village school, 25 km away. She has to leave the house an hour early and gets back an hour late. BS has to take out cold parathas from a tiffin box for breakfast, instead of the piping hot, ghi-dripping parathas he is used to. The couple BS looked after is now one of the Top Couples of Punjab. BS recalls the vows of eternal gratitude they had sworn and decides it is time to call in a favour.
At the Top Couple's Niwas, BS talks his way through tiers of grim-faced cops. Finally he is in the presence of the the Top Lady. She hears him out graciously for all of 58.8 seconds before passing him on to an aide. The latter walks BS to a large room where clerks with ledgers sit in serried ranks. One of them looks up expectantly as BS nears: then drops his gaze as BS ignores him. At this point, BS finds the aide has disappeared, and he walks alone to the EXIT.
That evening BS is bemoaning ingratitude sharper than a serpent's tooth, in his back garden, over a stiff whiskey-soda. His neighbour, an Under-Secretary shouts over the back wall: Hey, Old Man. What's your problem? And before BS can answer, Give me 50,000/- tomorrow morning. The next evening, the Under-Secretary tosses a G.O. over the wall, into BS's lap. It reads, reassuringly: Mrs. ,,, transferred back along with post ....

In the 1980s, in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star and Mrs. Gandhi's assassination, VP Singh gave Punjab a Special Economic Package with numerous schemes to bring disaffected youth back into the mainstream. The schemes failed because rural youth could not qualify. If interview and test were held in Chandigarh, there was no shortage of robustly rural candidates. But if interview and test were held away from the capital - admittedly risky because the interviewer might end up with a gun to his head - supposedly 8th pass candidates could not add 2+2 on paper. Transfer along with post was still an under-the-counter business. So government did some soul-searching and found that while 80% of government schools were in rural areas, 80% of government teachers were in towns.


Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus (The mountain laboured and brought forth a ridiculous mouse) Horace

To provide Eklavya with a school, the Central Government has brought into force The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (35 of 2009) better known as the RTE Act w.e.f. 1.4.2010. Prior to that, 3 Articles Art. 21A Right to Education, Art. 45 Provision of early childhood care and education to children below the age of 6 years, and Art. 51A Fundamental duties - were inserted in the Constitution. Compare this massive legislative effort with the simple procedure for providing better telecom access in the rural and remote areas: a Fund was created, and a Rule framed for selecting the operator who will provide  better facilities (on his terms, of course).
The RTE Act makes it mandatory for governments and local authorities to set up neighbourhood schools for all children in the 6-14 age group by 1.4.2013. Less than 11 months to go, and not a single school has been set up.
The RTE Act also makes it mandatory for private schools:
In receipt of aid - To provide free and compulsory education to not less than 25% children admitted
Not in receipt of aid - To admit in Class I not less than 25% children from weaker and disadvantaged sections in the neighbourhood, and provide them free and compulsory education till Class VIII.
Curiously, there is no compulsion on the first category to cater to weaker and disadvantaged sections. That deficit has been bridged by the Supreme Court of India vide judgment dated April 12, 2012 in WP (C) 95 of 2010 Society for Un-aided Private Schools of Rajasthan, Petitioner vs. Union of India & Anr., Respondents). 
Assume that all private schools fall in line. The RTE Act requires the teacher-student ratio to be 1:35 or better. Since presently the number of students in a class is substantially greater than 35,  overall there has to be a sharp drop in enrollment. Coupled with the fact that government is not in the mood to set up schools, there has to be a surge of new private schools.  


It is impossible for us, with out limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must, at present, do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern - a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect..... Thomas Babington Macaulay (Minute on Education 1835)

177 years later, the success of Macaulay's policy is revealed in this excerpt from the RTE judgement:
  • There are boarding schools and orphanages in several parts of India. In those institutions, there are day scholars and boarders. The 2009 Act could only apply to day scholars.  It cannot be extended to boarders. To put the matter beyond doubt, we recommend that appropriate guidelines be issued under Section 35 of the 2009 Act clarifying the above position....per SH Kapadia CJ and Swatanter Kumar J
Have you ever come across an orphanage with day scholars? 


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