Even in 2020, our systems continue to fail in internalising the teachings of the Mahatma
Recently, most of us came across visuals from the Karnataka State Legislative Council. The presiding deity was dragged out of the coveted seat by his fellow Hon'ble Members of the Upper House of the State. No one cared, as unruly happenings amongst elected representatives is rather a routine activity! We are all accustomed to reading reports on unacceptable behaviours, activities, actions at every level which deserve our attention and concern; but usually move ahead; comforting ourselves with responses like 'what can I do about' or 'it is beyond repairs'!
Take the case of police across some countries, the manner it behaves with the common man, handles protests, and humiliates those who approach them for safety and security, and how all the talk of police reforms has lost its fervour and vigour, as those who could change things are just not interested in reforms. Some big-bigs would like to maintain their controls; some have interest in maintaining their hegemony over police functioning, as it helps them in dealing with their 'Voters' -- one of the casualties of such a routinization; and a consequent sense of resignation in the public mind is that of preventing criminals from entering the sanctified arena of the lawmakers. It is indeed a very astonishing – if not hilarious – situation in which everyone agrees that only the good, honest, committed people should enter the precincts of the legislatures and the August Houses of Parliament, but no one seems to come forward and initiate tough legislation about it. It was widely reported in May 2019 that 43 per cent of the newly elected MPs in India had criminal records, that this was an increase of 26 per cent over the numbers of 2014. In a submission made to the Supreme Court of India in September 2020, it was claimed that 2556 MPs and MLAs had pending criminal cases against them. One hardly finds any serious effort being made to redress this definitely unacceptable state of affairs; there are not even serious deliberations on finding ways and means to initiate and accelerate the process of this much-needed 'exclusion'! Let me revert to another aspect of unjust practices getting no attention from either people or from those in positions of authority, who could really change things.
I often recall huge demonstrations by part-time teachers, given different designations in various states; appointed on meagre remunerations; demanding regularization of their services; citing the length of service already rendered. Practically every time, they were lathi-charged and dispersed. The callousness of the non-political intelligentsia was evident on all such occasions; they just did not bother about the plight of these teachers, or the impact of the absence of regular teachers on the quality of education. This callousness could be the major cause resulting in the irreversible loss of credibility of government schools.
Having got several opportunities to understand how our education systems work, and how policies are formulated, one must share the blame for deficiencies in preparing generations of committed, devoted and willing to serve others with concern, empathy and sympathy. Our system failed in internalizing the Jantar of Gandhi: "I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, try the following expedient: Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore him to control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj or self-rule for the hungry and also spiritually starve millions of our countrymen? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away".
As a teacher, one must accept failure in inspiring our younger generations in internalizing the values and principles on which the freedom struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi was launched; and successfully carried through. We also remained deficient in internalizing traditional values of giving back to the society. Moving up the ladder of education, we did not focus on the corresponding increase in the humility that must accompany the increase in knowledge acquisition. Consequences are before all of us. The moment a person becomes a police constable, or an elected representative, or minister, he – exceptions apart – distances himself from the last man of Gandhi Ji. In a truly civil society, the moment an educated young person attains a position that could be utilized to help others, particularly the weak ones; he should expand his horizons, attempt to become more supportive, empathetic and compassionate. The seeds for this must be sown right from the initial; years in the family and continued with all the tenderness as the child transitions to school education.
Practically every day one comes across an instance that clearly illustrates the disconnect between the citizen and those in a position of power and authority; who are supposed to be working for people's welfare. What disturbs me is that such instances hardly receive much media attention. The district court of Siddharthnagar in UP had granted bail to 'Vinod Kumar Baruaar', but the bail order printed his name as Vinod Baruaar' only; Kumar was missing! And believe it, the jail superintendent kept the man in jail for another eight months, till the High Court intervened. These are the time of ICT, of paperless offices, but a small lapse on the part of some government functionary; and the un-empathetic – if not inhuman – approach of the Jail Superintendent deprives a citizen of India his right to justice, liberty and freedom for eight months! The High Court 'reluctantly' accepted the explanation put forward by the functionaries for noncompliance of the bail order. It made me sad. Is this 'pardon' justified? Why should the person concerned not be put in jail for a month or so to experience personally what he had snatched away from someone's life because of sheer incompetence and lack of human compassion?
In a welfare State, should the sufferings inflicted on the individual citizen not be compensated by the State? Should such instances not receive the attention of legal luminaries and even Courts?
The writer works in education and social cohesion. Views expressed are personal