No Oliver Twists in this one
When the Union government introduced the Right to Education bill, it threw in the leaves for revolution into boiling water, a revolution that challenged the words of John F Kennedy, who said: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." A revolution doesn't come by everyday. But when it comes, it comes in leaps and bounds. The charismatic chief minister of Tamil Nadu and cine mega star MGR introduced one such revolution in the early eighties when he introduced the concept of schools providing lunch for school children in order to improve school going habits amongst children.
With parents often requiring farm hands or help in their small business, the idea of a child receiving a meal alongside education was an enthralling one and brought children to school in droves. It was however scoffed at, as the most unworkable idea of the last century. Most people thought it was a cinema guided gimmick which would not last even a couple of months. In most movies, a hungry MGR would just be digging into his only meal of the day, when a beggar would extend his hands seeking alms, MGR would compassionately hand over the meal and make do with a glass of water. The mid-day meal scheme was straight out of the movies, said its critics. Time passed, with a few mis-haps along the way, the mid-day meal scheme will see a 30 year standing in the country a couple of years from now.
Article 38 of the Constitution reads: 38. State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people.- (1) The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.
(2) The State shall, in particular, strive to minimise the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations.
When India declared itself to be a welfare state, the mandate of the Constitution was that there ought to be equality. The American writer Henry Miller had famously said that "We have two American flags always: one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly it means that things are under control; when the poor fly it means danger, revolution, anarchy." The ideal way in which a revolution arrives for the wretched is without fanfare and the waving of flags, it works best when those invested with the job of securing a better tomorrow do their job efficiently.
The typical reaction of the middle class when they understand the import of the RTE Act, is "my peon's kid will sit in the same class as mine." While much is said of fact that bad language and bad culture would seep into the classroom, it is forgotten that our scriptures too state that the mythical Krishna, who belonged to the Kingly class went to school with a poor priest's son called Sudhama. The friendship forged by these two unequally placed persons is legendary.
In democratic India, there is nothing to separate class from class - this is the meaning of a Republic, which says that the rulers are the people themselves.
When the Supreme Court upheld the right of a deprived child to acquire the very same educations as that of a privileged one, it threw its weight behind a quiet revolution, one that carried no flags, no outrage or outcry. Indeed the noisy revolutions as observed by George Orwell have done little to provide for equality of humans. He said, "No advance is wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer".
Despite what the nay-sayers hold there is little doubt that this step is likely to have a large influence on improving the quality of primary and secondary education. When a set of unprivileged children receive superior education, the message is bound to carry to the others who share his background. New expectations will arise, new standards are set which will bring about better and improved delivery of education. When the mid-day meal scheme began in Tamil Nadu, nobody imagined that the whole nation will one day have a similar scheme which will set the ball rolling for the nation to turn into a world human resource power house.
Without doubt, there will be some increase in fees, instances of some corruption of morals, some instances of children learning bad behaviour and others of children being saddled with poor self esteem. However the larger benefit of a deprived child acquiring high standard education makes the entire exercise worthwhile. With two little children of my own who attend the rather privileged Modern School, I, for one, welcome the step whole heartedly.
A young President
We are likely to have a new President soon. In 2002, a friend (Basavaraj Bommai, presently minister for water resources, Government of Karnataka) and I, set up a forum for a Young President. We argued that the world over, the average age of heads of state like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton was about forty - therefore we ought to have a youthful President too. The answer to our concerns was in the form of APJ Abdul Kalam. A decade later, wisdom has dawned on me; I now feel a President with a youthful thought process will suffice though he/she may well be an octogenarian. My prediction is that the next President will be someone who has not been bandied about by the Press thus far - a dark horse.
More about Brijesh KalappaBrijesh Kalappa, an advocate in the Supreme Court, is the Additional Advocate General, Haryana. A former journalist, he has a wide range of interests including reading and travelling. He has worked with several legal luminaries on subjects of importance in civil, criminal, water and electoral laws and has individually represented governments, eminent individuals and major industrial houses. Gifted with the prowess for distinctive sharp-edged analysis, he has been working closely with several leaders of the Indian National Congress.
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