India – the biggest democracy in the world – is going through a lot of changes and turmoil, both from within and due to forces outside. As a country, it is unparalleled in its diversity – cultural, religious, social, and economical as well as political. The way India has evolved since departure of colonial British in 1947 is not at all inspiring. Despite the celebration of August 15 as Independence Day and January 26 as Republic Day for past six decades, it does not appear that India has really shaken off its colonial past. Contrary to the expectation that Indians would rule themselves with their own thinking it turned out that Nehru and his colleagues largely followed the demeanors of the White British and failed to look at larger issues faced by the newly free state.
Today, India is known for just three things: high population, high poverty, and high corruption. India has the largest number of poor in the world and is set to become the most populous country by around 2028 beating China. Doing business honestly in India is as tough as winning an Olympic medal, may be even harder!
In confusion people generally ask: Is India a Poor Nation or Emerging Superpower. The answer is beyond my brain capacity! If I say something it would only confuse you more!! So, please help yourself.
THE LEGACY OF PARTITION
The biggest strength of India has been the respect for democracy which has remained intact since 1947, except for the brief 2 year period in the mid 1970s when Indira Gandhi took away people’s freedom after a court verdict went against her. This is in stark contrast with Pakistan which repeatedly fell for military dictatorships since its creation in 1947. The partition of India was largely a result of personal ambitions of a few Muslim leaders, fueled by the colonial powers. By all means it was a ill founded decision as far as Indians were concerned and yet another manifestation of the usual divide-and-rule mindset of the British. It only promoted religious divide between Hindus and Muslims leading to massive blood bath and mass migration of both Hindus and Muslims. If Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, the faith failed to keep the country intact beyond 1971 – when a dispute over results of a general election precipitated a civil war in the East Pakistan. Indian military intervention due to refugee pressure resulted in defeat and surrender of 93,000 Pakistani troops and birth of a new nation, Bangladesh.
In 2010, India had around 176 million Muslims in India – similar to Pakistan’s population – forming about 14% of the Indian population. Thanks to the amalgamating influence of 80% Hindus, they enjoy a rare degree of social and political freedom; especially when compared with Islamic Pakistan which has preference for military dictatorship, and now radical Islam showing up as various terrorist organizations such as the Taliban and Al Qaida.
Today what remains as Pakistan was West Pakistan until 1971. It has now emerged as a terrorist breeding center of the world, despite its decade long fight against terror alongside American forces! As NATO forces are leaving Afghanistan, the out-of-job well-trained and well-armed terrorists are reorganizing and focusing their attention towards Pakistan society and nuclear weapons; of course, their next big enemy is, as usual, India. It helps to remind that the idea of promoting religious fundamentalism originated when the US wanted to use them to oppose the soviet occupation of Afghanistan over two decades ago. (They only turned “bad” after the 9/11 terror attack on the US soil!) How long the Pakistan society will endure the sabotaging impact of their home-cultivated Jehadi groups is a question in the minds of all concerned people of the region and the world.
The reason for this short historical perspective is that it helps to understand the current social and political structure and problems created them.
THE UNFINISHED AGENDA OF NATIONAL INTEGRATION
THE KASHMIR ISSUE
When the British left after 190 years of plunder of the country, the political scene was that of chaos – there were over 550 small and big Rajas and Nawabs having their own tiny empires inside India. It was Sardar Patel’s iron hand that forced them to get absorbed in the democratic India. However, a few tactical mistakes left Kashmir as a disputed issue between India and Pakistan. After shameful defeat and division of the country in 1971, Pakistani leadership sees Kashmir dispute as a political issue to create problems through its Jehad factories. The special status through article 370 appears a major road block in today’s changed political realities. This article has prevented private investment in the valley and hampered its economic growth as well as integration into the mainstream society. This needs serious debate and an amicable solution so that all Kashmiris including Kashmiri Pandits begin to enjoy normal life as rest of the countrymen.
THE NORTH EASTERN STATES
Yet another major unfinished business of national integration relates to the diversities – cultural, linguistic, and traditional – which are integral parts of Indian social fabric. In diversity India is more colorful than any other country or even continent. But it is ironical that a typical north Indian knows very little about the realities of south and vice-versa, and most Indian know precious little about the north eastern states, their people, culture and tradition. It is a shame that even in the capital Delhi there are ignorant people who consider their brothers and sisters from the North east as foreigners. This is frightening. Economic activities have significantly bridged the north-south gap but the north-east must be integrated with all the care and dignity. Perhaps the best way to do it is to hold regular cultural festivals across India so that people of one state know about others.
You may like to explore: Birth and Spirit of the Sixth Schedule
NAXAL VIOLENCE – THE BIGGEST INTERNAL SECURITY THREAT
Indian government is solely responsible if the left wing extremists (Naxal movement) are now recognized as the biggest internal security risk for the country (as described by Dr Manmohan Singh). Foolishly the tribal regions, usually far and remote, were left ignored and these areas never felt the presence of protective governance machinery since 1947. Why?
The British left these areas isolated labeling them “excluded” from governance (for their own convenience). The brown rulers after 1947 never bothered to take care of their fellow countrymen living is isolated conditions in remote hills and forests, leaving them to the mercy of forest officials who acted as if they were still employed by the agents of the British East India Company. The vacuum was filled by left-wing extremists – they exploited the isolation and exploitation of the tribals by state officials and money lenders to strengthen their cadre. Their aim is to destroy the Indian State and replace it with a communist state following the Maoist ideology. Through all these decades the Indian government kept pretending that it was mere law-and-order problem.
The “Red Corridor” and Maoist Violence
Over the years, they carved out a vast territory covering 92,000 sq km area, called “Red Corridor” by the media. It has grown dramatically in last two decades along the East coast right from Nepal to Tamil Nadu. In the early 1990s the number of districts affected by varying degrees of Maoist violence stood at just 15 in four states. This rose to 55 districts in nine states by the end of 2003 and to 156 districts in 13 states in 2004.
Maoists are currently believed to be operating in around 200 districts (of a total of 604 districts in the country) in 17 states. The worst affected states are Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa. The poverty and backwardness of people in these forest covered areas has provided a fertile ground for the growth of Naxals/Maoists who have been gaining strength at every neglect of these people on the part of the governments.
Download the full report on Naxal/Maoist Violence: NAXAL_Report
Why the Tribal and Naxal Issue become Important NOW?
The reason Indian government was forced to pay attention to Naxal Violence is the corporate interest in the natural resources, mineral mines, and water reservoirs located in these areas for ”developmental” activities under the economic reforms started in 1991. Over 75 percent natural resources, mineral mines, water reservoirs are located in the remote areas populated by the poorest of poor – Adivasis (tribals). After neglecting these areas for decades and allowing them to become the den of Naxal violence, the State and Central governments suddenly became interested in them in the post-reform era.
However, rather than appreciating the eco-friendly lifestyle of the tribals and rewarding them for preserving the natural wealth, our rulers are throwing them out so that the rich and greedy corporations can setup industries and grow the GDP of the country.
[No one wants to think about the scenario after say 20 years when all the resources have been consumed by the corporates and their bottom-lines fattened? Yes, they will sell-off their businesses leaving behind the trail of ecological mess in the areas which have been kept lush green and preserved by the illiterate tribals since ages. Isn't it pathetic?]
Deploying security forces ostensibly in the name of fighting Naxals is the usual trick employed by the governments. The real reason is to secure the resources for the corporate houses and help evicting the local tribals. But if the government is sincere about tribal welfare, it should strengthen implementation of the PESA Act of 1996 [Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996]. The Act extends the Panchayat Raj system to the Fifth Schedule areas and allows the tribal communities grass-root democracy by activating the Gram Sabhas (village assemblies). The Act empowers the Gram Sabhas to take authority over local natural resources also.
If the Act is honestly implemented, it will also render the Maoists baseless by allowing the rule of the law that protects the tribals. Once the tribal people get connected to the Panchayat system, they will have platforms to raise their issues and develop themselves. Unfortunately, so far the implementation of the PESA Act has been pathetic because no one (state government, forest officials, or politicians) wants to allow the poor tribals to rule themselves through their Gram Sabhas. They are more comfortable nurturing the interests of rich corporate houses.
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POVERTY IN INDIA
India, the largest democracy of 1.25 billion people, is also the biggest center of poverty in the world – it is both widespread and intense. Today India has officially 269 million (or 22 percent) people under the poverty line, as against 407 million in 2004-05. This is latest claim of India’s Planning Commission in July 2013. In 2011, it fixed the poverty line at Rs 32 per day in urban areas and Rs 26 in the rural areas. It was reduced to rupees 26.80 and rupees 22.40 in March 2012. As a result, only 21.9% people are officially poor. A brilliant game of counting the poor! And a sick comedy as well. When the poverty estimate was severely criticized, the government appointed yet another committee, the Rangarajan committee, to look into the poverty-line philosophy. It sure is a sick joke people of India are quite used to.
The comprehensive Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) of UK based Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) gives a better insight into the extent and nature of poverty. The MPI puts Indian poverty at about 53% (650 million poor).
While no one believes the official poverty data of the Indian government, it is fair to say that about 400 – 600 million people are poor in India. While there can never be agreement on poverty numbers, compare these numbers with the European Union and US populations of 500 million and 310 million, respectively. These are huge numbers, by any standard.
India holds the distinction of having the most number of poor of the world – a super poor nation! Consequently, South Asia has become the world’s biggest center of extreme poverty. On the World Bank’s extreme poverty line of 1.25 dollars a day, there are roughly 500 million extreme poor in South Asia – most of it in India. The only other comparable pocket of poverty is the sub Saharan Africa, with 400 million people in extreme poverty.
HOW TO COUNT THE POOR
Counting poor on some arbitrary income line is an artificial number game. Poverty must be looked, beyond income. Research of past few decades has firmly established that poverty cannot be properly understood in economic terms alone – divorced of social, cultural and political perspectives. People are social beings; processes and activities of the society affect their state of well-being. Studies of the problems of poor people and their communities have led to an understanding of poverty as a situation of several simultaneous deprivations, feeding one another. The new perspective sees poverty as a human condition that reflects failures in many aspects of human life – related to nourishment, employment, shelter, health, education, social and political participation, etc.
Therefore, the right way to view poverty is to see all its manifestations and its multidimensional nature. This makes the MPI very attractive and useful tool for policy planners. Several nations like Brazil and Mexico have adopted variations of the MPI technique for estimating poverty. The most interesting case is that of Bhutan which measures its progress by what it called gross national happiness index which is calculated by the same Alkire-Foster methodology that goes behind the MPI. Bhutan’s case will be commented upon later when we talk about sustainable development.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT?
WHAT IS WRONG WITH GDP?
The West and Western thinkers have traditionally seen “economic growth” as development. That’s the reason why everyone talks about GDP growth. But the truth is: the GDP is just an economic number – total market value of all goods and services produced during a specified time interval. It can’t distinguish economic activities which are beneficial to people, society and the environment. Highly expensive celebrity parties and expenditure on charitable work among the poor communities are treated the same way.
Further, consider these oddities of GDP: Polluting activities increase the GDP because of the expenses involved in the clean up. Crimes boost the GDP due to expenses on police, security, jails, are legal procedures. Wars and conflicts increase expenditure on weapons. None of these are healthy expenditure. Moreover, as people tend to become self-reliant, the GDP goes down. If a community decides to grow fruits and vegetables together and share or if community members decide to help each other at times of financial crisis, the GDP decreases.
Ironically, all wasteful or unnecessary or avoidable expenditures boost the GDP. It thus promotes consumption and consumerism. It doesn’t even consider people or focus on them. Yet, when people see it as the primary indicator of development and people’s well-being, reality gets blurred and the dialog go in the wrong directions. Today, countries are obsessed with expansion of GDP year-after-year… till eternity! It sound like insanity to me.
So, what is development?
Since 1990, the annual Human Development Reports (HDR) of the UNDP have been promoting the idea of human development (HD) which is a people focused comprehensive development model. Commonsense also demands that people and their well-being should be the focus of development, not economy.
The HD perspective put people at the center of development. The idea of human development revolves around the basic theme: “People are the real wealth of a nation.”Thus, the prime objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to live long, healthy and creative life. This was stated in the first HDR published in 1990. This is a remarkable paradigm shift in thinking about the poor; it sees poverty as lack of development.
Incidentally, the foundation of the HD perspective came from Amartya Sen’s capability theory of development. Sen argues that the purpose of development is to enrich human lives, not richness of economy which is only a part of it.
WHY INDIA SHOULD LEARN FROM BHUTAN?
Bhutan is the only country in the world that does not use GDP as a measure of progress; instead it uses what it calls the gross national happiness (GNH). Way back in the 1970s its king declared that “Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than Gross National Product (GDP).” The GNH is holistic and gives importance to other dimensions of human life such as cultural, spiritual and social as well as health of the environment. Therefore, the state policies are not made only from the monetary or economic angle.
While rest of the world is still shying away from taking responsibility of the environment, despite increasing threats of climatic and ecological disasters, this tiny country of only 750,000 people is drawing global attention. While experts keep talking of environmental conservation and sustainable development and people agree with them, but this tiny kingdom is already doing it; it is doing so mandated by its Constitution!
Indian citizens need to question the wisdom of the “trickle down” economic model imported by Manmohan Singh in the name of globalization, liberalization and economic reforms. It is ideal if the country has to be governed by the rich elites and powerful corporations. India needs a development system that attack poverty and is people and labor-oriented. The HD model is the right medicine for a poor country with large population base; Bhutan, whose major source of income is export of hydropower to India, also gives us the ideal recipe. Will the Indian government show courage and stop following the West?
FAULTY ECONOMIC REFORMS
MODERNIZATION OR MERELY CORPORATIZATION?
Since 1991, the Indian government is occupied with economic liberalization, privatization and globalization, but in the process it has only deepened the divide between the rich (hence powerful) and the poor. By design, the process is geared towards industrialization and corporatization of India in line with how the Western nations developed, disregarding the ground realities of the country. Consequently, there has been 6-8 percent growth in GDP for over a decade and yet no meaningful impact on poverty.
For all practical purposes, the new economic policies remain directed to the 25 percent population living in the urban areas. Rest of the larger India is expected to benefit only from the “trickle-down” effect. Americans are particularly proud of this Reagan- Thatcher philosophy which wants to hand over everything to the rich elites and run the country. This is also driving rural to urban migration into cities that are already overcrowded. It is height of insanity to think that 125 crore Indian can be herded into towns where they will slave the corporate houses and drive Altos, eat pizzas and buy grocery from air-conditioned Malls like the Americans do.
In the reform era, natural resources, minerals, water and land are all being given to corporate houses at throw away prices so that they can setup industries and modern facilities that will generate employment for ordinary Indians and India will “develop.” This approach, though dictated by the IMF and the WB, is not suitable for a populous and poor country like India. First, this corporate led economic growth can not generate enough employment India needs – around 1 crore new jobs per year mostly for the unskilled or semi-skilled people. What’s the ground reality: Between 2005 and 2010, Indian economy only created around 30 lakh jobs!!
Second, promoting urbanization is absurd for a country where cities are already overcrowded. The core idea behind the current policies is to transfer people from the agriculture sector to industry or service sector, just as the West has done. Due to their rather smaller populations and mechanized farming practices they need fewer people in agriculture to produce food grains; the rest survive catering to the industrial sector, around which their lifestyle revolves.
Unfortunately, currently India is ruled by US educated technocrats who know India and its people through books written by American authors. Text book understanding is fine for lecturing; solving real life problems is totally another thing. Perhaps their only Indian connections are passports and birth certificates. Who else but people cut off from reality could say that rupees 26.80 in urban India and rupees 22.40 in rural India per day decide the poverty line. Else, suicides of thousands of poor farmers would have stirred some corner of humanity in their hearts.
It is a shame that we are displacing innocent and naive tribals from their ancestral lands (where they also act as natural custodians of resources) and forcing them to migrate to cities to become manual labors for the industry. And we are doing it in the name of development.
How about displacing people from New Delhi and Mumbai and forcing them to repair the ecological mess of mining activities of Vedantas, Tatas, Essars, JPs, and Ruias and clean the pollution of mega thermal power plants? I think “consumers must pay” rule should be changed to “consumers must clean”!
WHAT WOULD BE RIGHT ECONOMY FOR INDIA
Ideally India should only focus on simplifying and reducing the government procedures that stifle business and enterprise. Corruption is another discouraging reality of people’s lives in India which goes hand in hand with complicated procedures and formalities. An ideal development approach for India could be:
Discard GDP as a measure of progress: India should adopt a holistic development model, learning from Bhutan where aspects of life other than economic are equally important. To start with, adopting Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) might be a good idea. It modifies the GDP calculation to focus on the useful expenditures that enhance people’s well-being. The online investopedia defines GPI as
“A metric used to measure the economic growth of a country. It is often considered as a replacement to the more well known gross domestic product (GDP) economic indicator. The GPI indicator takes everything the GDP uses into account, but also adds other figures that represent the cost of the negative effects related to economic activity (such as the cost of crime, cost of ozone depletion and cost of resource depletion, among others). The GPI nets the positive and negative results of economic growth to examine whether or not it has benefited people overall.”
Promote micro and small enterprises: Given the need for livelihood opportunities for the poor, particularly rural poor it makes sense to focus on promoting small and micro enterprises; only they can generate employment on the scale India needs. India needs around 1 crore new employment opportunities every year, given its annual population growth of 1.8 crore. Large and mechanized industries and imports should not be allowed for goods and services that can be produced in these smaller units.
The microcredit revolution of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank is an ideal concept for Indian conditions. It is truly remarkable how Nobel laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank initiative have revolutionized anti-poverty efforts across the world. Prof. Yunus’ idea of promoting “social businesses” is another wonderful idea Indian government should consider seriously. It will also strengthen the cooperative movement particularly in the rural areas.
Replace the Shareholder capitalism with Stakeholder capitalism: The business world today follows the shareholder capitalism which is too narrowly focused to maximize profits only for investors. It largely excludes the well-being of all other stakeholders: employees, society, customers, and environment. This has made people mere “tools” to achieve maximum profits for the tiny minority – the investors of the company. This promotes greed which leads to disruptive competition or cartelization. The alternative is the stakeholder capitalism which is rather broad-based and has bigger potential to enhance people’s well-being for the same economic growth.
Why population of India does not stop growing – is a question everyone wants to ask. It is growing not because people are having large families, but simply because there are too many people in the reproductive age group – population momentum. The sterilization camps are no more the right place to tackle the population issue; the family planning battle must be now fought on the social plane. The correct anti-dotes to population growth due to momentum are: late marriage, delayed pregnancies and spacing among children. An important factor contributing to population growth is unwanted pregnancies (accounting for one-fourth births), it requires making a variety of contraceptives easily available to people, particularly in rural areas.
There are many popular myths around population of India. At the core of it, lies the issue of women empowerment, which itself is powerful contraceptive.
Indian family planning officials will do themselves as well as the country favor, it they educate themselves on the issues of population momentum and also pay attention to what the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), Cairo, 1994 laid down on the population question. For an historical perspective, please read
The British way to control population of India?!: You may also like to know how the British “ignored” famines in the colonial India as a weapon (instrument) for population management. During the shameful British Raj 30 – 50 million Indians have been estimated to have died in famines in 200 years of colonial plunder.
The good news is the birthrates are falling all over the world, not only in India. The Malthusian fear of overpopulation has gone bust already and the global population should stabilize around 2100, in the range 11 – 13 billion. Currently, people are debating how to curtail global population from reaching 9 billion by 2050, as has been predicted by some experts.
Child marriages have played a big role in propagating poverty through population growth throughout the world. In India 47% girls are already married before the legal age of 18 and a significant proportion has already given births.
KERALA: POPULATION CONTROL THROUGH PEOPLE DEVELOPMENT
The tiny state, Kerala, is a unique example of the power of people development; the whole world acknowledges and admires the wonderful culture and society of Kerala. It is also unique in the respect for women; it has the best female/male ratio in the country – 1084 female for every 1000 male as per the 2011 census (highest in the Kunnur District 1136 and the lowest in Idukki district, 1006). Compare it with the national average of 940 females. The next best is way behind; it is Tamil Nadu, 996 female followed closely by Andhra Pradesh with 993 female per 1000 male. Interestingly, the economically prosperous Haryana has the lowest sex ratio, 879 females. What stops our foreign trained scholars of New Delhi to learn from Kerala? In fact, Kerala can teach a lot, both to India and China about how to look after its people and control the population.
Every patriotic Indian is feeling the pain looking at the way politician-corporate-bureaucrat nexus has taken control over policy making and distributing country’s resources among themselves. India is among the worst governed countries in the world whose leaders rely on foreign dictates more than local sane voices. This slave mentality has not died even 65 years after the colonial British left India; on the contrary it has only strengthened. All ills of the nation can be traced only to one thing: Bad Governance.
In fact, lack of accountability at all levels is at the core of bad governance in India and every problem emerges from it – whether Naxal violence, corruption, poverty, or even population. On the Global Integrity Index that measures governance and anti-corruption of nations, India fairs badly. It also points to weak governance due to lack of accountability of politicians and bureaucrats.
The most important governance reforms relate to the electoral processes, police and judiciary, bureaucratic and judicial accountability, and also strengthening grass-root democracy by seriously implementing the PRI and PESA Acts and making caste-based reservations history.
Political reforms and transparency in political funding is at the root of all corruption and bad governance. It particularly creates corruption at the top of the State hierarchy. Simultaneously, two urgent reforms are Police and Judicial Reforms. The police force is still operating in the colonial mindset and sees itself as a protector of rulers from the citizens! Poor and ordinary citizens are particularly vulnerable when they have to deal with the police and seek justice. Indian courts are atrociously slow that makes a mockery of justice. Rich can exploit loopholes in the laws and procedural aspects and can get by with practically anything.
Download the Full Report: Corruption in India
MNREGA AND FOOD SECURITY
Passed in 2005, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is the Biggest Anti-poverty Program in the World! In spirit, the developmental projects under the NREGA (now renamed MGNREGA; MG for Mahatma Gandhi) are supposed to be designed, planned and implemented by the gram Panchayats. Thus, this unique Act has the potential to revitalize the PRIs, giving impetus to the grass-root democracy, and also create unskilled jobs in rural India. This scheme has become the darling of the rural poor who can LEGALLY claim up to 100 days of unskilled work at the prescribed minimum wages. However, The real Potential of MGNREGA is yet to be Realized. Unfortunately, many states have failed to appreciate the potentials of this program. If implemented in fairness and in coordination with broader plans, MGNREGA can become the catalyst for transformation of rural India.
Poverty cannot be eliminated from the country without looking after the small farmers. Fascinated by text book prescription of eliminating all subsidies by the Western lenders, the government is bent on eliminating all forms of subsidies given to the farmers. This is simply disastrous: Western nations indulge in all manners of protections for their farmers and subsidize basic food items to keep food prices low and affordable. Their farming sector is not a major livelihood provider unlike in India. Offering ever increasing minimum support price (MSP) to farmers is an inadequate and inefficient way to help the farmers or to keep the food prices in control. Indian farmers need Income support, not just MSP.
THE FOOD SECURITY BILL
The ruling coalition at the Center passed the Food Security Bill recently in order to gather votes in 2014 general elections. It is simply a matter of Center imposing its arbitrary rules on the states who are the actual implementers. But for the immature thinking, the Center should have only encouraged the states to make their own rules based on local realities. It also failed to appreciate that the country might be heading towards water scarcity. Water shortage scenario might also develop from another angle. Chinese water resources in its industrialized northern region are fast becoming polluted and there appear to be plans to divert waters from the Tibetan region. The mighty Brahmaputra seems to be on target of Chinese plans. If and when the Chinese go ahead with such projects, both India and Bangladesh have reasons to worry. The north-eastern Indian states as well as Bangladesh are heavily dependent on the Brahmaputra waters. Melting Himalayan glaciers, due to global warming, are cause of serious concern for the water security of Himalayan rivers that nourish northern plains.
SARVA SHIKSHA ABHIYAN AND THE RTE ACT, 2009
(Download the full report: Right To Education Act, 2009)
The right to education Act was put into force in 2010. It gave legal right of education to all kids in the age group of 6 – 14. The vehicle for implementation of the RTE is the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Since 2010 necessary changes have been made in the rule of the SSA to conform to the RTE requirements.
It is certainly a massive undertaking to cover children even in the remote habitations. But it must be acknowledged that a lot of children began to see schools, they would have never dreamed off otherwise. No doubt, shortage of teachers and quality of education is poor but shall we not celebrate over 96% average enrollment across the country. If the government keeps its promise and raise expenditure on education to the tune of 5-6% of GDP, it will have a long term impact on the future generations.
No doubt, critics will keep asking the question: Does Right to Education mean Right to Schooling Only?
However, in stead of cynicism it might be helpful if we also look at the positive side of elementary education in India.
ADVENT OF AAM AADMI PARTY (AAP)! – A VERY HEALTHY DEVELOPMENT
When everything appeared to be going “as usual” in the powerful political circle of India, a new political party was born in late 2012 – the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It was born out of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement of 2011 and showed stupendous performance in the Delhi assembly elections of late 2013. It won 28 seat (of total 70) to come second behind the BJP who got limited to 32 seats, just 4 short of majority. The ruling CM lost humiliatingly to AAP chief Avrind Kejriwal and her Congress Party got limited to just 8 seats.
The AAP’s victory is seen as fitting reply to the high arrogance shown by the Congress elites at the time Anna’s 13 fast and attempt to go back on the promise of passing a strong Lokpal Bill. No one took AAP workers seriously because they are “ordinary people” in true sense – coming from the poor colonies and the blue color working class.
The AAP came with self imposed electoral reform, accountability, honesty and openness. The grass-root connection of Arvind Kejriwal and his team is something that was lost long ago from the Indian politics. Ordinary people were turned into objects of manipulation at the time of elections – and sent to oblivion till next election. But AAP changed all that. Its election manifesto was created by common masses of the constituencies, not by elite manipulative leaders in the party offices.
It shamed the “national” parties when it put all its donation details on the party website. It allowed collection of funds only up to the limit prescribed by the election commission. Networking through social media and mobile SMS among its cadre – mostly youth and commoners was awe inspiring. It was this power of connectivity that made the “traditional” game winning elections through liquor and cash by the “established” politicians useless.
In the meantime, the parliament passed a reasonably strong Lokpal Bill after Anna’s second 10 day fast in December 2013. The AAP formed government in Delhi (with Congress support) and worked in the most usual fashion; it quit after 49 days when the assembly did not take up its Lokpal bill for discussion. Nevertheless, it is attracting people throughout India; many prominent personalities including journalists and activists are coming its banner and waving Jhadu, its election symbol. Its spreading popularity across nation is sending a chilling message to leaders of all political parties who have come to think that “they know everything about winning elections.”
As of now, AAP along with its leader Arvind Kejriwal has emerged as crusader against corruption – not shy of targeting even the richest man of India, Mukesh Ambani. Though its real impact will be clear after the Loksabha polls in April, but it has already changed the discourse of Indian politics. That give a ray of hope to the common people of the country, at last!