CONCEPT OF SCHOOL CHOICE

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Every incident happening around us is a part of a story. Even every individual surrounding us are the characters in the multiple stories surrounding our heavenly body Earth. This essay represents an attempt to narrate one story from the bunch of thousands of stories and to analyze it multiple dimensions.

A small town farmer named RAMU had two sons i.e. RAMESH and ABHISHEK. Both of they were very active lads showcasing keen interest in their father’s work. However, RAMU having lived his entire life in town areas had recognized the importance of education and the rich dividends it can reap in the future. He decided to admit both of his wards into a nearby government school. And here began the vicious cycle of dilemma and skepticism. RAMU shouted, “You two are back again, don’t you have anything to learn in school”. The honest and quite fearful reply was, “MASTERJI is absent owing to the harvesting season. He is busy in his fields.” The same story continued for some time.

RAMU finally had to succumb to his dreams, his aspirations of making his children highly educated. He could not afford private schooling not could he afford to move out of his place of residence. What is most amusing is that RAMU’s story is not a standalone version. The issue is widely prevalent and visible in poor learning outcomes from government run primary and secondary institutions.

An innovative solution to such issues lies in the concept of “school choice”. What if RAMU gets the option of switching his children to another school without paying any extra charge? He will definitely be able to fulfill his aspirations. School choice concept aids in doing the same. Government in this initiative will provide education vouchers to parents. This voucher will be used to admit students into educational institutions whether private or public. If a private institution charges more than average fees then the balance needs to be payed by parents out of pocket.

The core philosophy behind the initiative is to combine market economy with welfare agenda of state. By giving discretion in hands of parents to select school, element of competition has been given a significant push. Whereas by providing voucher having average value, state is also fulfilling its welfare agenda. The positives of the initiative will be visible in personality of RAMESH and ABHISHEK. Depending upon their parents income they can now opt for school having better performance, the discretion of exit makes institution to improve its performance and develop competitive economy around the educational curriculum.

However, try recalling initial dilemma of RAMU. He was not having sufficient economic potential to opt for better institution. It indicates that RAMU choices will increase within limited fashion i.e. he can opt for institution with in same price band. This illustrates the classic issue of vulnerable sections of our society. The optimum solution for this lies in universal development of primary institutions. Even though Govt. has taken multiple initiatives like RTE, SARV SHIKSA ABHIYAN etc. the results are far from visible. The ASER, 2015 report continues to illustrate the dilapidating condition of government run schools.

Clearly, the proposal has both pros as well as cons. But at the heart of entire debate lies one issue i.e. serving the needs of vulnerable and weaker sections of society. The proposal can be very nicely elaborated via “VOICE and EXIT” principle of Albert O. Hirschman. It is the core of market economy i.e. you raise your voice and finally exit if the services provided are not of desired standards. But the classic dilemma with RAMU is exit to where?

Thus, to conclude on an optimistic and pragmatic note, there is no magic wand which can solve basic governance issues. Health and education have been identified as basic parameter of human development. It is high time utmost priority is attributed to reforming the public institutions working in the said domain. The benchmark set by public institutions will ultimately boost private sector to raise its standards. But the master i.e. state has to take the first step. Concluding with Gandhian philosophy:

The soul of nation is fulfilled not by the achievement so of higher class but by the fulfillment of basic needs desired by downtrodden and vulnerable class.”

Development for whom?

land

  “Waqt ne mano rafter si pakad li thi….

Naye karkhane lagaye jaa rahe the….

Aisa manjr shayad hi kabhi in logon ne dekha hoga….

Par ek aur dar unko andar hi andar sata raha tha…

ki kya hamara ghar ab hamara naheen rahega?”

The above quotes in Hindi represents the classic dilemma faced by majority of Indians among vulnerable sections. On one hand lies the opportunity which can bring about dramatic changes in their existing lifestyle. Ramu will no longer remain confined to agriculture chores. He starts envisioning his new future working in a industry and ensuring better lifestyle for his family. Whereas another fear continues to hound him. Whether I will be insulated from my homeland? What about the cattle farm which has provided generation of my family livelihood support? What about the temple in which I have dreamt of marrying my daughter etc. and many more.

The key objective of this article is to analyze our current development paradigm and the impact of the same on multiple stakeholders. Gandhiji envisioned the concept of Sarvodaya and self sufficiency. He daily spurn Charkha for portraying the importance of self reliance. Even his concept of Indian development was based on empowerment and self sufficiency of Villages. Every village must seek its own salvation via indigenous resources and locally available HR. However, post independence developmental aspects have undergone sea change and era post 1991 reforms represents a story contradicting the Gandhian notion of development.

# Key issues

Recent changes in land acquisition act spurred a controversial debate around the must totuted question of “Development for whom?” It has been alleged that steps of introducing exceptional cases seeking 80% consent and weeding out the proposal of Social Impact Assessment is an attempt to snatch away the rights of vulnerable class in interest of corporate class. Further, recommendations from HLC under former cabinet secretary for reviewing the environmental laws has drawn sharp criticism from civil society groups. It has been alleged that amendments are an attempt to create single Environmental Management Act subsuming multiple other acts existing in current domain. It is being said that it is a deliberate attempt to fast track environmental clearance at the cost of environment per se.

What haunts me and confuses me is whether everyone has a different story of development? Whether bureaucratic tendencies towards development remain absolutely contrary to common man’s perspective? In layman terms, answer to the above question lies in affirmative. As said by Herbert Simon, individuals are rational beings having significant inclination towards self interest. Everyone wants to progress, creates his own distinct image and ensure better living conditions for his family. But when we talk of development of India as a whole then our attempt should be to analyze the crisis in macroscopic domain.

 

# Probable Solutions

In accordance with common goods perspective, few have to sacrifice for ensuring the development of majority of community. It is in the deep intricacies of this sacrifice lies the solution for our current dilemma. Any rational man would argue, Why me or why among the population of millions I should sacrifice? Above paragraph will be an attempt to analyze the finer nuances of our dilemma under discussion.

According to spatial analysis, bulks of minerals are located under a confined zone of central India. Moreover any proposal of setting up Industry would require land acquisition and human rehabilitation. Schemes like SEZ in past and Make in India campaign represent the attempt by executive to bring India on development trajectory and create more employment opportunities. Thus we may establish consensus on at least one aspect that India needs development. But concomitantly we must acknowledge the prospects of displaced population. Single minded agenda of pursuing development by unprecedented cutting of forest, overtaking agricultural lands etc. remains unjustified. There has to be a benchmark or standard beyond which we cannot exploit natural resources. Proposal of isolating 5% multi cropped area present in Land Acquisition Act represents one such empathetic introduction.

If the displaced population is not provided due compensation, alternative rehabilitation sites and employment opportunities, the very act of Indian development agenda would go in contrary direction. Extremism, Naxalism etc. penetrate under similar conditions of exploitation and hatred against state per se. Hence, on one hand I duly support the current govt. move of fast tracking project proposals and introducing certain exceptions, I remain equally opposed to current compensation regime. As discussed in introductory paragraph, Ramu’s world not only included farm land but also the dream of marrying his daughter, cultural affinity with soil and other emotional aspects linked with human per se. Hence, compensation in such issues must go beyond the rate of land acquired by making MNC accountable to domestic region interest, ensuring ease of resettlement and providing due employment opportunities.

I remember, my father telling me during my childhood days that we cannot progress by stepping at the grave of others. I do realize that statement remains true especially in current controversies linked with development. India does not need development but it needs Inclusive development as has been discussed in my previous article also. Only the combined synergy of all the sections of our society will aid in realizing our aim of global super power.

INCLUSIVE GROWTH VS REDISTRIBUTION

budget-2013-need-for-inclusive-and-sustainable-growth-says-chidambaram

India gained Independence from British Rule on 15th August, 1947. It was the day of celebration and symbolism thus marking victory of immense struggle which our freedom fighters had waged against colonial rule. Yet, in other way it was just the beginning of another struggle. Now the focus was on consolidating the gains of independence, ensuring unity among diverse sections of individuals and synergizing national energy towards development. Under the aegis of Nehru-Mahalanobis model, focus was given on upliftment of public sector. It was assumed that on attaining the commanding heights, trickledown effect would aid in redistribution and comprehensive development of society at large. But was it so? This Essay is not an attempt to criticize Nehruvian approach. Rather it is an attempt to deliberate on Inclusive Growth VS Redistribution agenda.

India is a diverse country comprising of numerous communities inheriting an argumentative tradition. Every community, every individual sees India from its own perspective. Even though India might be progressing but the story remains quite different for beggar on street or farmer on the outskirts. Does he not belong to our nation or whether it is naturally assumed that their demands lie outside mainstream development process? The depth of Indian growth story lies in Inclusive Development subsequently followed by redistribution. Every man is the master of his own fate and it becomes quite pertinent to involve and synergize the efforts of every community in national progress.

On the political front Indian govt. recently launched Swachh bharat Abhiyan, Smart City Project etc. and many more. Thousands of crores of rupees are diverted towards social welfare payments. Yet why is it that still open defecation continues or the poor still has to survive under dismal conditions? Focus is not towards presenting a pessimistic approach towards viewing Indian progress rather to analyze the importance of involving of individuals in progress of nation. Even though NE region remains flush with natural resources along with human resource yet lack of Inclusive development approach has led to virtually insulating the region from mainstream progress.

Inclusive Development involving mobilization of every community, depicting tolerance and empathy towards vulnerable sections remains the need of hour. Local governance Institutions demand involvement of local community for effective and transparent functioning. Moreover National development demands involvement of every PRI and Municipal organization. It may be possible that we achieve progress based upon the strength of middle class or service sector. But then it will not be a inclusive progress. It may further propel inequality subsequently leading to communal clashes or civil agitations.

Our Preamble calls for: “We the people of India”. India does not belong to any particular group rather it represents a numerous democracy depicting interest of multiple communities. Being a domestically led economy we have to realize that our strength lies at involving every actor in mainstream development process. In, Fortune at bottom of pyramid CK Prahalad explicitly highlights the importance of bottom sections of society.

Focusing on Inclusive development would aid in ensuring development in accordance with every community perspective. It would not only lead to psychological involvement of citizens in national progress but would concomitantly ensure strengthening unity of nation at large. Redistribution also assumes critical importance but only post inclusive development on the first hand.

Signing out! Jai Hind and Jai Bharat!