Friday, 21 February 2014

Law and Lawlessness


This refers to the news about two ministers of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) turning vigilantes. There is no
denying the fact that the entire country is experiencing the effects of AAP’srise, including Kashmir where people do not generally show particular interest in other regional or national political parties, except the Congress. However, people in Kashmir now talk and discuss about the AAP; and why not? This new
party has appealed to the common man, whether it is the ending of “VIPculture”, the reduction of electricity tariffs and the supply of free water up to a certain amount. All of this has been appreciated and complimented. However, the recent actions of its Delhi ministers, particularly of its law minister, demonstrate that AAPseems to be too clever by half and seeks to play with popular emotions for political gains. This is very much against the interest and image of the party. The actions of its law minister are not only against the law but morally and ethically condemnable too. I would like to ask the law minister what would be his response if a crowd assembled outside his house, asking the police to raid it? What would he and his family face if the police break into his house on a mere suspicion? And what will be the response of the AAPif t he police do t his? What is worse is that the minister labelled people just because of their colour and geographical background. What these foreigners in India have had to go through is inhuman.
AAPhas galvanised the people with its slogan that everyone is an aam aadmi (common man) including those who are in positions of power in the government. But now the AAPis giving the same answers which other political parties give when their leaders are caught in wrongdoing.
Finally, the AAPmust bear in mind that Delhi is not the north-east of India, nor is it Jammu and Kashmir, where the security forces enjoy the impunity of draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Instead of bringing lawlessness to Delhi, they should work towards bringing the rule of law in these areas of India.

FEBRuary 1, 2014  vol xlix no 5  EPW  Economic & PoliticalWeekly

Sunday, 9 December 2012

social scientist: Kashmir Movement, How Many Options they Have

social scientist: Kashmir Movement, How Many Options they Have: This refers to recent news item regarding Syed Ali Geelani’s threat of starting agitations after Eid-al-Azha. The news has sparked online...

Kashmir Movement, How Many Options they Have


This refers to recent news item regarding Syed Ali Geelani’s threat of starting agitations after Eid-al-Azha. The news has sparked online debate and heated discussions.  After an hour of the news break, one of my friends updated his status on Facebook, “History will bear testimony to the fact that “Calendar revolution brought death to the ever rising revolution’. Our leaders are suffering from 'policy paralysis”.
The update of my friend is not mere depiction of words and sentences but exhibits the state of his mind. He seems fed up, infuriated and dismayed with any course of action which subscribe strike. This may not be state of mind of my friend only there; may be many others who are sailing in the same board.
In response to my friend I wrote on his wall, “Without reading the text, understanding context, jumping to conclusion is most pestilent unfortunate a nation can have. I think if we have sixth sense and understanding of history I don’t think we should have been here”. By these words I just tried to convey, why Geelani came with such a statement, whether he has given a calendar or is just a threat which in political terminology is called diplomacy and most importantly what I want to know - Do we have other option?
My friend was quick enough to respond. He wrote, “Mentally awake leaders never wait for opportunities to arise; they create their own. It took me two years to draw this conclusion with loads of analysis on text and context. Point to stress is do we need out of box thinking now or shall we stick to these old unyielding ways?”
The words and language which my friend used made me understand the severity of aggravation my friend was going through. No doubt he was referring to 2009 and 2010 “unyielding” strikes and martyrdom of hundreds of Kashmiri’s. This is not the question which haunts my friend only but many others. Let me make one thing clear, if Kashmir cause exists any where it is not because of people like me and my friend who enjoy deluxe life in AC rooms outside Kashmir. It exists only and only because people of Kashmir who time and time again nourished the cause with their blood.
The response he came with is not only controversial and illogical but impractical too. Whatever we hear about Kashmir at global level is to large extend due to tactics which he called ‘unyielding’. There is a concept of inertia in physics which says, if a body is at rest it remains at rest or if a body is in motion it remains in motion until it is not disturbed to change that state. The Kashmir movement in its present context is in motion and there are attempts by resisting forces to change the state of Kashmir movement. I do believe that strikes and shutdowns will never bring freedom to Kashmir and too frequent strikes will have negative effect.
The thing here to stress is if tactics are unyielding and fruitless, there may be way out. If there is at all any, why don’t we come up with that? That will yield fruits and save economic, educational what so ever loss we are having with calendars. It is easy to play with words like “think out of box” blah blah but practicality is something different. When Balgangadhar Tilak, in his book Kesari 1904 during India’s freedom struggle painted moderate and constitutional methods of Indian National Congress with croak of a frog, who croak once in a year, he did oppose INC tactics which were based on constitutional methods like Bandhs and present day’s calendars. Tilak did not only just criticize these tactics but came with alternate means and methods. How many of us are ready to go for those means and methods again?
Let me come to his another point, which needs appreciation and admiration, rightly said real and true leaders don’t wait for opportunities, they create them. The opportunities are created or come rarely in history, where we in Ragda 1 and Ragada 2.Without giving credit to any leader of Kashmir, there was great opportunity created during Amarnath Row 2009 where were we, perhaps enjoying our lives outside Kashmir or in Kashmir, concerned with our future and career.  
Kashmir movement is at such a crucial stage where nation needs not our life, time, career or whatever we may call it, but just to shun dreams of deluxe life which you and me are birthing. It is really a misfortune for a nation that people like me belong to it, who have been domesticated and colonized through so called education.  
 http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/how-many-options-do-we-have-35075.aspx

Saturday, 1 December 2012

RTE, Act 2009 and Sociological Apprehensions


On 12 April 2012, in its historical decision the Supreme Court (SC) of India threw its weight behind the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The court upheld the constitutional validity of RTE Act that guarantees children free and compulsory education from the age of 6 to 14 years of age.

The judgment makes it mandatory for the government, local authorities and private schools to reserve 25 percent of their seats for ‘weaker and disadvantaged sections’ of society. The decision has wiped away many apprehensions regarding the future of the Act. It has been welcomed by academicians, politicians, journalists and others. The Union minister for human resources development Mr. Kapil Sibal, articulated, “RTE can be a model for the world”. While there has been enthusiastic praise of the judgment, concerns related to quality, finance, ensuring of 25 percent reservation in private schools and change in classroom structure cannot be thrown into the winds.
The amount put aside by Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is only Rs. 25,555 crores for 2012-13, which falls short of the recommended financial requirement of Rs 1.82 lakh crore. From where will the rest of amount come?
According to Kapil Sibal (2012) more than 90 percent of households will have to enroll their wards in government schools. Thus 90 percent of households’ wards will have poor access to education; if at all they are enrolled in schools, as the quality of education in government schools is a matter of serious concern.
There is no clarity on how 25 percent reservation in private schools will be filled. There may be more than one private school in a neighborhood, so how will they decide who will go where?  How will reservation in private schools be monitored?
The 25 percent reservation in private schools will dramatically change the structure of classrooms in schools. Whether diversity of classroom will create democratic learning environment and enhance teaching learning process or will it put children from ‘weaker and disadvantaged sections’ in discomfited position?
Concern of Quality Education
One of the primary objectives of Right of Children Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 is improving quality education. The quality of elementary education, particularly in government schools, is a matter of serious concern. The quality of school education depends on various variables which includes physical infrastructure, method of teaching, learning environment, type of books, qualification of teachers, number of teachers, attendance of teachers and students and so on.
There has been substantial progress in increasing enrollment with national average now at 98.3 percent (2009-2010) according to official statistics. However, the attendance of pupils in class rooms has declined. In 2007, 73.4 percent students enrolled for Standards I-IV/V were present in class, which has fallen to 70.9 percent by 2011 (EPW, 2012). Fayaz Ahmad (2009) came with the findings that despite lack of staff in government schools, teachers remain absent on rotational bases. He adds that due to vacancies for teacher, absenteeism of teachers and poor infrastructure in government schools classrooms are multi-grade, i.e. one teacher attending to children from different grades in a single classroom. The attendance of teachers and students in schools is directly related with the quality of education.
Furthermore, mere enrollment of children in school does not fulfill the aims of RTE. Amman Madan (2003) argues ‘the question of reform in Indian education has usually been conceived of in narrow ways – putting children in school and getting schools to function efficiently’.
Despite high enrollments in schools 50 percent of children studying in the fifth grade lack the reading skills expected of children in the second grade (Annual Status of Education Report, ASER 2010).
Ensuring 25 percent Reservation
The RTE, Act, 2009 clause, 12 (1) (c) mandates for private schools to admit quarter of their class strength from weaker section and disadvantaged groups 1. The constitutional validity of this clause was challenged in the apex court of country. However on 12, April 2012, a bench of Chief Justice S .H. Kapadia, Justice K. S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar upheld the constitutional validity of the Act.
 In response to the Supreme Court order, HRD minister Kapil Sibal said, “I am very happy that the court has set all controversies at rest. One of the biggest controversies was on whether the 25 percent reservation applies to private schools or not… that controversy has been set to rest.”2
Reacting to the 25 percent reservation Krishna Kumar (2012) penned down “most ambitious among its objectives is the social engineering it proposes by guaranteeing at least 25 percent share of enrolment in unaided fee-charging schools to children whose parents cannot afford the fee.”  Both Krishna Kumar and Kapil Sibal did not give indepth critical insight to the provision. The questions like, what will be the mechanism of selection process of 25 percent children from ‘weaker and disadvantaged sections’.  Some private schools are very reputed and provide very high quality of education and some are either at par with government schools or little ahead. There is a hierarchy of private schools which are stratified in quality education. Who will go where what will be the criteria for that? Furthermore Indian society is patriarchal in nature, boys are even served good food in comparison to girls how one can expect parents or guardians will send a girl child to these private schools, if at all they agree to send a girl child to school.  The reservation benefits will go to a particular gender of society. This will further reinforce and reproduce gender bias and social inequality in society. Thus RTE itself creates a vacuum for “reproduction of culture”. Fayaz Ahmad (2009) underlines, parents prefer schooling for their girl child but prefer government schools for them in comparison to a male child.
The important finding which has been revealed by Fayaz Ahmad (2009) is the enrollment shown in schools was higher than what actually it was. This was done to get mid-day meals for more and more children so that teachers can save some money to bear other hidden expenditures and avoid wrath of authorities for poor enrollment. Despite employment of Resource Persons and Zonal Resource Persons by Jammu and Kashmir government in the department of school education ,who are obliged to ensure smooth and normal functioning of schools, such kind of loopholes are observed, how can the government ensure that private schools will follow the provision of 25 percent reservation.
Change in the Structure of Classroom and Beyond. 
The RTE Act directed all schools, including privately -run schools, to reserve 25 percent of their seats for students from socially and economically backward families. That means, quarter of students in classes will be from marginalized section of the society. This will change the structure of classes.
Krishna Kumar (2012) maintains “a classroom reflecting life’s diversity will benefit children of all strata while enriching teaching experience.” He further adds “classroom life will now be experientially and linguistically richer. It will be easier to illustrate complex issues with examples drawn from children’s own lives.” He rightly articulates that class room will reflect diversity and will be experientially and linguistically richer. But his argument that classroom diversity will benefit children from weaker section of society is hypothetical and ambiguous.
School education can’t be separated from its social context, those who teach and learn carry with them attitudes, beliefs, habits, customs, orientations which differ from class to class.  The elite schools have their own culture which suits to children of upper class. The teaching-learning environment at these schools suits children of upper class while children from weaker section may find themselves alienated from the schools. Bernstein (1971) while examining the mode of communication of working and middle class argues that both have different mode of communication and most of the teachers in schools belong to middle class which gives edge to middle class children in learning. Bourdieu(1977) empirical research in France explores that performance of a child in school on his access to cultural capital. He maintains that children of upper classes are able to understand contents of knowledge better than their counterparts belonging to marginalized sections of society.
The present experience of India with mixed or diversified classroom is not encouraging. The children from marginalized sections of society are discriminated in the classroom on the bases of gender, caste, and ethnicity. Despite Indian constitution strictly prohibits discrimination on the bases of caste and other social backgrounds and makes it a punishable act yet children from marginalized sections are discriminated in schools. How can discrimination of ‘weaker and disadvantaged sections be prevented?
There are various theoretical and empirical studies which have come up with that children from lower classes are at a backfoot in schools in the learning process. They are more vulnerable when enrolled in elite schools.
Conclusion
Indian children now have a precious right to receive free and compulsory education from the ages of 6 to 14 years of age. The government will bear all the expenditures of schooling. The act has mandated for private schools to reserve quarter of classroom strength for deprived sections of society, which will change the structure of classrooms in elite schools to school who are not yet enrolled.  However, there are many apprehensions with regard to achieving desired goals through RTE. By pressing for 25 percent reservation for the ‘weaker and disadvantaged sections’ of society, government has acknowledged poor quality in government schools where more than 90 percent of households in the country will have to enroll their children even if 25 percent reservation is implemented in true sense. This means that there will be further diversification of society in India. There are also concerns whether those enrolled in private schools will cope and adjust with education system and culture of elite schools.  There are many other loop holes which are pressing and challenging in the way of RTE: quality education, funding, teacher skills and enhance of reservation policy are some major concerns.
Despite the flaws in the way of RTE Act, it is important to simultaneously ensure proper implementation of the Act.
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Footnotes
  1. The Gazette of India, http://eoc.du.ac.in/RTE%20-%20notified.pdf
  2. Dhananjay Mahapatra & Himanshi Dhawan(2012) Times of India,  RTE:Govt Subsidy to be based on KV expenditure, New Delhi, 13 April.
References
Ahmad, Fayaz (2009) “ A Sociological Study of Primary Education Among Girls: With Special Reference to Block Hajin of District Bandipora” Dissertation, Barkatullah University.
Annual Status of Educational Report (2010): “Annual Status of Educational Report ( Rural) , assessed 21April 2012: http://www.pratham.org/aser08/ASER_2010_Report.pdf
Bernstein, B (1973): “Class Codes and Control: Applied Studies towards a Sociology of Language”, London, Routledge Kegan Paul.
Boourdieu,P (1977): “ Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction”, In Karabel, J and A. H, Halsey, (ed), Power and Ideology in Education.OUP
Economic and Political Weekly (2012): “The Right to learn: Two Years after the Right to Education Act, the government needs to focus on quality”,16 April, Vol XLVII No 16.
Kumar, Krishna (2012): “Let a hundred children blossom: A classroom reflecting life’s diversity will benefit children of all strata while enriching teaching experience.”, The Hindu, Delhi,20 April 2012.
Madan, Amman (2003): Education as Vision for Social Change, Economic and Political Weekly May 31, 2003 pp.2135-2136
Sibal, Kapil (2012): “Admitting kids from weaker sections while not lowering quality of teaching will be difficult for pvt schools, but it can be done: RTE Can Be A Model For The World” The Times of India, New Delhi, 20 April.
 http://www.jamiajournal.com/2012/04/24/right-to-education-act-a-cricitical-analysis/

    Wednesday, 14 November 2012

    Of Education


    Education has been used as a tool of dominance
    Fayaz Ahmad Bhat
    This has reference to the editorial ‘Rein Them in’ published in Rising Kashmir on May 17, 2011.  It would be ungrateful not to credit the Newspaper for the credible editorial. I hardly find editorial on this important issue in local dailies. The editorial not only brings forth how social reality is being constructed but drew attention towards the fact that education has turned into a commercial entity.
    There is no denying that education has turned into one among the most profit generating sectors. It would be not wrong to equate private education institutions like shopping malls, where ‘education’ is being sold on heavy prices. As far as constitution provisions are concerned P M Bakshi, constitutional expert, in his book ‘Constitution of India’ says “Education per se has so far not been regarded a trade or business where profit is a motive.”
    The Supreme Court of India in TMA VS Government of Karnataka case Judgment in 2003 said it is difficult to comprehend that education per se will not fall under Article 1(g). All citizens shall have right to practice any profession or to carry out any occupation, trade or business. Section 11.1.b of the RTE says that schools run for profit by any individual, group or association of individuals or any other persons shall not receive recognition from the government. However this section will not be binding on the states as it is not a part of the act. 
    Recently the Prime Minister of India expressed concern over the ‘worrisome barrier’ that for profit educational institutions are barriers to freer access to knowledge for all citizens of the country. There is a hell difference between words and deeds. The seriousness of government regarded the issue is clear. On the one hand it makes tall claims for free and fair education to all; on the other hand, with the policies of neo-liberalism and commercialization, education too is being commercialized. Furthermore it is beyond one comprehension why section 11.1.b of the RTE is not binding on states, inspite they claim they are serious and concerned about towering commercialization of ‘education’.
    If we will peep into the history we will come to know that how education has been used as a tool of dominance by those who have upper hand in society. In Bourdieu’s words education is nothing but a tool to reproduce culture of those who are dominant in society. Carnoy in his book ‘Education as cultural Imperialism’ writes, ‘in Brazil, the Jesuits formed communities with schools to turn nomadic Indians into plantation labour; in Peru another group of Jesuits helped Inca nobility became intermediaries between the Spanish Vice royalty and former Inca subjects; the schooled nobility were made responsible for assigning Indian labour to the Spanish mines and plantations and for collecting taxes’.
    Education was used by British to colonise Indian during colonial rule, now same is being done to other colonise of the world. There are infinite number of examples in the history that demonstrate the same. In every epoch of history same has been the case demands of market have been fulfilled through the schools.
    The only solution to this lies in Ivan Illich’s concept of De-schooling. De-schooling is not an elimination of schools but their disestablishment. The main difference between two is that de-schooling means closing down of schools and securing the use of public funds to support schools. The unfortunate thing is that whenever, wherever any one has raised the voice against exploitation, oppression and stood by disinherited or downtrodden, he has been labelled as radical, socialist and communist.
    The need of the hour is to deconstruct whole system of education.
    http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/deconstruct-education-system-10152.aspx

    Soaring Drug Business in Kashmir


    Soaring drug business

    Fayaz Ahmad Bhat
    This is in response to news,  “Death for addicts, drug merchants .It is much required and obligatory, not only act but act tough and concrete on drug abuser, peddlers who are directly or indirectly involved in this unethical activity. This not only gobbles money but also consume life. Drug addiction not only affects the victim but families and societies.
    The decision to implement Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) by police is a welcome step. Every responsible citizen of the state should cooperate with police to over root this menace from the society and save our young generation.
    Chemists and druggists have an important role to play in eradicating this menace. But the question is: are they only the people who are indulged in this illicit trade? The answer is no. This trade is profitably run by butchers, provision shops etc. This isn’t a hypothetical assertion but in our village it was found that shopkeepers other than chemists like butchers, provision shops, hosiery and cosmetic shops were openly selling Rexcof.  A young boy about 15 years old was making home delivery of Rexcof in cane.  Every day hundreds of bottles were seized and destroyed. Realising the severity and complexity of the issue, the police and drug officials were informed. Those days there was a lady drug inspector in Baramulla when she visited the village, she checked licenses of chemists and threatened them of dire consequences if found involved in this unethical practice. But when asked about involvement of other shopkeepers she expressed her limitation: ‘it is not my jurisdiction it is a matter of police’.
    I appreciate the move and agree with SSP Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari that chemists and druggists have to play more active role in checking drug abuse. No doubt a above mentioned people have play a role but what about police. It is important to make stockiest and distributors more accountable.
    What is required is to open rehabilitate centres where drug addicts will be provided psychological treatment. Hate crime not the criminal. Overthrow of criminal from society is not a solution; defeating crime is.
    http://www.risingkashmir.in/news/soaring-drug-business-9076.aspx

    Drug Policy


    Chemists enjoy

    New Drug Policy is more dangerous it will worsen the situation

    DRUG POLICY BY FAYAZ AHMAD BHAT

    This is in response to news ‘Cabinet approves Drug Policy; Doctors To Prescribe Generic Name Of Medicines’ according to news the state cabinets approval to new drug policy which will pave   way for reorganization the medicine procurement and checking the influx of spurious drugs in the State.. The state of Jammu and Kashmir no doubt needed a clear, strict and honest drug policy that will streamline the medicine procurement and checking the influx of spurious drugs in the State. It is very pleasing that state government at last has keyed out the main roots of growing and spreading nuisance of spurious and unauthentic medicines in the state in general and valley in particular as more than 60%of total sold drugs in the state are sold in the valley. The decision at full volume exposes the nexus between some pharma companies and self interested, moral less doctors. However there is much need and scope for more steps in stopping this menace. Government has to think something different and go much beyond to this policy.
    Though the present step of government is praiseworthy but to expect any good from the policy is not wise. The policy cannot improve the condition any more even it may worsen the situation. This may be shocking and disagreeing argument for most of the readers but it is a bitter and heart piercing reality. This policy will worsen the condition in the state and create enough space and vacuum for sale of spurious drugs in the state. The policy will give free hands to chemists and druggists to sell spurious and third rated drugs. Now there will be no bar on them how and where to cut the throats of common masses. Restricting doctors to prescribe medicines of particular companies no doubt means to restrict them from favoring any specific companies but what about chemists? What about doctors who do run private clinics? They may prescribe there by salt name but they will sell what favour them and what they want.
    There are medicines in the market which do cost much more to patients than branded drugs. These drugs actually cost very less to chemists and druggists but MRP on these drugs is much high say for example the Nicip (Nimsulide) of Cipla pharmaceuticals a multinational company which has launched generic operation way back in the state costs Rs 27 per strip to patients as per MRP but a strip costs maximum Rs 8 to druggists and chemists. The same salt of the registered and ethically operating companies only cost Rs 11 to 13 per strip to patients (Refer to Nimca of Ipca and Nimsulide of Mankind Pharma). Druggists and chemists earn 20 to 25% in such drug but greed marred every one and no one has overcome it. Here I have just cited a pain killer or antipyretic and anti inflammatory drugs. When we do talk about antibiotics and tonics it is worse. I request government to rethink about its new drug policy and come with a new one which will not create space and vacuum for any one. I also do urge doctors to come forward and create awareness among policy makers and formulators at the end it is there image which is at stake. Chemists may sell Aata it is the patient who will suffer and tarnish the image of a doctor.
    Negating current drug policy no way means that doctors should be given free hands but I only mean to say don’t give any one vacuum and space to spread business of spurious and third class drugs. When pesticide companies are required to fulfill certain formalities and procedures before operating in the state. Why state government cannot come with such a policy even stricter than this. After all it is an issue associated to human lives. 

    http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2012/Jan/16/chemists-enjoy-3.asp