Monday, July 3, 2017

published as Ideologies are Myopic by Financial Chronicle on June 26th, Delhi

Secularism, Socialism and Social Good
While multinationals have stabilised in India, and recruitment portals are replete with the statistics of employment, we have to look at the various spaces people occupy mentally, while serving the nation.
Ideologies tincture our worlds. We presume that right wing ideologies are totalitarian, but then, so were left wing ones. And those who were fence sitters, representing the right to remain neutral, were generally vacuous. When India won it’s Freedom, from the British, the Gandhi Nehru leadership had it’s moments of extreme tension, since mutual dialogue was not always possible. Industrialisation and Nehru’s “new temples of India”, have always communicated  that the Nation knows best. As a result rural people are always buttressed between the world they have known, and the rights to tradition, which they hold so sacred, and the sensibilities of the elite, who mark them as backward, ignorant and superstitious. Worse, they often play on these sentiments in a bid to bring them to their side of the fence.
A former Naxal  from St Stephen’s College, once said that they had to leave the villages because the villagers could no longer feed them.  The daughter of a famous  BJP politician said that actually they were like everyone else, but for reasons of political gain, they played the Hindutva card. “Like everyone else” in the late seventies, when the Jan Sangh flags were beginning to flutter in places like Ashram and Lajpat Nagar, in New Delhi, meant “modern, anglophile and looking towards America as the site of popular cultural consumption.”
It is not surprising,  then, that forms of socialisation make us perceive agriculture as something that industrialisation should promote, trampling the interests of the farmer with small holdings, underground. That two and half acres is the national average for producing bumber crops is something Indians should be  proud of. However,  that industrial elites look to colonising everything is a self evident fact. The joint stock companies, sociologists argued in the  1960s, created a buffer between bourgeoisie and proletariat. That was when the factory was the mode of organising, and joint investments integrated a rising middle class into the profits to be made by investing in companies. Today, however, as the Sociologist Daniel Bell foresaw, it is the laboratory that predominates, and since secrecy and surveillance are its bywords, the oligarchy of scientists excludes the common masses from decision making, and ‘fear and trembling’ are the natural consequences.
Socialism, co-operatives, unions all become redundant in these new economies. Political organisation in these new States disclose that federation is irrelevant when it comes to the colonisation of rivers, mountains, fertile lands, deserts, even the sea. The commons are considered to be the right of exploitation by contract to private parties, for enhancement of industrial goals. Tribals and peasants are rendered even more marginal. Craft communities are deprived of their natural skills, as their poverty forces them into manual labour for construction.  Since they are dehumanised, they are merely paid minimum wages and left to their skills as a lumpen proletariat to survive in the midst of real problems such as infant mortality, maternal mortality, and decrepitude in old age. Caste comes in as a useful explanation for their condition, as everything is blamed on their previous life. Consensus about religious participation between upper castes and lower castes leads to euphoric states during ritual events. Merchants and workers combine to engage in participation where the presence of Gods and Goddesses further elaborates this forced servitude upon the  lower castes. The depletion in the numbers of the  working class members enrolled in Unions is only too apparent.
Socialism by itself, without it’s self regulating mechanisms leads to tremendous inefficiency. The   industrial barons, as debtors to Nationalised Banks, clearly represent the way in which the bourgeoisie are able to thwart the codes of modern banking and send the entire nation into paroxysms as we saw in the winter of 2016. Earlier recessions had not disturbed the Indian economy because of the resilience of post box economies which nestled in the Post Office, and ofcourse keeping money under the bed, and in cupboard by housewives who always managed to stow away savings for a rainy day.  The mountains of cash which surfaced are still to be recycled, after being shredded, to make notebooks for government school children.
The second example of Socialism without legitimation is ofcourse Air India.There is a category known as tickets for LTC, which charges more than the sum routinely charged by Airlines companies for air tickets, by several thousands. If the government employees do not book through a company called Laurie and Balmer (some relic mnemonic from the past) the tickets are not refunded by the government. So this is a form of corruption, as the government siphons money from one account to uphold another.

Published as Communities and Education by the Financial Chronicle in Bengaluru, on June 12th 2017

Local Communities and Alternative Education: Constructive Examples

South India has had a long tradition of thinking about school education. The network of schools which has taught village children, and provided a wholistic sense of being, has continued to proliferate. The Right To Education Act of 2009, while being an immensely important measure to provide democratic and free education, did have certain rules about the kind of books, paraphernalia and certified teachers employed. Schools run by voluntary organisations for tribal children and rural children, including dalits, quite often could not meet these requirements. As a result, the children passed their examination through Open School, which then became a boon for those who wanted to enter the professional world.
Rural schools run by NGOs often attempt to provide a wholistic education, which is quite different from the mainline schools which promote rote learning, competitive attitudes, and disciplinarian methods. In these schools, the teachers are often trained previously in Theosophical Society, Waldorf (Rudolph Steiner) or J Krishnamurthi Foundations. They come to their tasks with a certain enthusiasm, discipline and commitment. Ideologically, they are infused with the idea that ecology, sensitivity to environment, sustenance,  mother tongue  education,learning of art and crafts, and knowledge attained through conversation, formal interaction, play, experiment, and freedom are immensely important. This frees the child’s imagination, allows him/her a non-hierarchical relationship with teachers and guides, and most importantly releases the innate ability that human beings have, to ask questions.
Art and Theatre, music and photography as skills allow children to understand that uniqueness is as important as collective efforts. Whether it is jewellery making, production of art work such as maps for Geography and History, or simply understanding horticulture and irrigation through practical techniques, the child is given free space. It is often argued that this  nurturing of individualism, integrated with team work, is possible only in schools with small numbers. Yet,  the idea could have been made to work with  urban neighbourhood schools, with adjoining parks.
Children crumble under continuous surveillance and testing systems. Parents know that every child has needs which are to be recognised by the teacher. Mainline schooling promotes the idea of the talented child versus the mediocre child, which is painful for both parents and students. The new policy of having Board Exams in Primary and Lower Level Secondary School is a frightening turn of events. Children will be put to the hardships of public exams much before they have even developed their personality. They will be forced to cram, and even if they are successful,  their attitude towards the world in general will be marked by fear and/ or aggrandisement.
Since they experience climate change, economic recession brought about by instability in crop production, empty wells and irrigation tanks, young people already fear the future. Their sense of well being is accosted daily by the news of murder, rape, drunkenness, wilful violence, suicide, normlessness…the list is endless. To be inured to their vulnerability as young children facing a rapidly changing world, and to impose the hardship of Board Exams at such a young age is an act of pedagogic cruelty. Children are optimistic, they accept that adults control their fate.  The severe load of school books injuring their spines was noticed by Society, and the regulation of books taken to school everyday came into force.

When young people first come to college, they are so stultified by the Board exams, that first year B.A syllabus is presented as a simple entry point into the discipline. This allows them to enjoy being at University, make friends, learn a new technical language, and also participate in college activities like sports, theatre and politics. Now, Universities are also being targeted by the State, so that with Budget cuts in Education, Privatisation of University Education is putting it out  far out of reach. RTE presumed that by making school education compulsory, all children would have access to  basic human rights, citizenship being  an array of obligations and privileges. By crushing young people with formal examinations, the path to equity is blurred.
Alternative School educationists understand that not all children can accept the pressures of knowledge production. They are given multiple skills, including weaving, farming, animal husbandry, technical skills, silk work rearing, carpentry and so on. These are not seen to be lesser attributes, rather, the child is encouraged to understand that the tactile world, as much as the cereberal world is defined by his/her involvement in it.
In Kerala, a house wife’s revolution, supported by the State and Scientists has meant that every woman believes that she can grow organic vegetables to feed her family. This has been immensely successful in Ernakulam, Aluva, Kasargod, Ponnapra, Trivandrum, the epicentre being Palakkad. Many alternative schools in Tamil Nadu and Kerala seriously believe that children can be socialised to think about garbage recycling and food production.