Kerala State Assembly was in news headlines recently. Uproar created by opposition and the reluctance of ruling party ultimately resulted in total chaos. Chair of Speaker was witnessed flying in air having been uprooted in the ongoing chaos (yes, you heard me correct!). But if I am correct the venue of entire episode was our Temple of Democracy i.e. Legislative House and the actors of conflict were none other than our honorable elected MLAs. This is just one small example with multiple other incidents on even larger scale occurring across our country. Is that how democracy was supposed to function? Whether this represents a characteristic of democratic society functioning or is it just about the state to which our society has denigrated to? This article represents an attempt on my part to understand the functioning of democratic societies and way ahead.
# How Democracy functions?
Without going into technical terminologies of elections, democracy can be basically understood as supremacy of people. It is “we the people of India” who finally decides the end result. A parliament disruption is just a miniscule manifestation of larger picture. In words of “Amartya Sen: The Argumentative Indian”, interactions between two individuals give rise to arguments which decides the final outcome. Thus the final result is an outcome of consensus established between multiple actors. (Wait a minute did I really say that!)How can consensus be ever established when so many interest groups are involved in deliberation? Whether that does not indicates the technical error on entire methodology? However closer examination does suggest that this practice has been the basis of our existence.
If single actor is given predominance and allowed to run the entire country without taking other stakeholders on board, we might move towards rapid development but the same will not be an inclusive one. Inclusion of Rajya Sabha in Parliamentary functioning was based on similar premise i.e. to allow states to present their concerns under mainstream discussion. Thus we represent the small tortoise that has to move slowly, consistently but with final aim towards progress/development/or what we call it as Good Governance.
# Relevance in current context
I did not indulge in writing this article just out of curiosity to present a new entry on my blog. It represents my stand on democratic functioning of our society. Having heard criticism as mentioned in introductory paragraph and multiple others stating the poor states of developmental affairs in India, I remain a firm critic of the same. We are not failing but we are fairing forward!
Ongoing deliberation on Land Acquisition Issue manifests the entire scenario. One thing which no civil society activist can negate is the fact that we need land for development. We cannot forever be engaged in agriculture as our prime occupation. But then why this vociferous opposition against current BJP led govt. Answer lies in functioning of democracy itself. Once a benchmark is established as was under the 2013 Act then there is no going back. As stated in 2015 Economic Survey that radical reforms are possible only at the time of crisis. Present govt. might have come under full majority but short of strength in RS has made it taste the worse opposition.
Ongoing tussle between Ruling party and opposition alliance represents the strength of Indian democratic functioning. It prevents any radical shift in our policies and allows greater political discussion. What remains the point of concern is the manner of deliberation. Evolving code of ethics for parliamentarians remains the need of hour for rectifying the same.
I would like to end the article on an optimistic note that we are not failing. As Howard Zinn said “Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.” We need protest but we also need code of conduct to guide that protest. We need disruption but we also need healthy discussion. Thus we must appreciate the efforts of our Constitution Makers and try to see the positive aspect of ongoing disruptions.
After writing my civil services mains examination, I was filled with extra ordinary energy and vigor to work in social sphere. I was excited and it was the result of my efforts that I was able to engage in child education issues around my neighborhood. Apart from conducting teaching sessions in the most backward slum zones of luck now, I was able to initiate teaching classes for children belonging to such vulnerable communities at my home premises. Today is the last day of this innovative venture and I write this article after having successfully admitted those students in the nearby govt. schools.
Before I begin to elaborate upon my experiences, I would like to clarify that this article is not an attempt to glorify my efforts/initiative. It is just an attempt to share my experience and lessons learnt out of the initiatives.
# What India needs?
Zeher Ali, a young studious and well mannered boy has been living in slum for nearby 5 years. Initially he was a resident of Assam but owing to lack of employment opportunities his parents landed up in Lucknow under the so called migration wave. However, belying the expectations of pre arrival, Zeher Ali’s parents finally landed up in menial job of waste collection. Zeher Ali has been happily dedicated towards his parent’s job and supports them in waste collection. Even though he is well versed with English, mathematics and other theoretical terms owing to his initial education in Assam, he finds himself in a community imposed vicious cycle which restricts any efforts towards attaining education.
My effort in the entire initiative was just to act as a mediator. I took the courage of moving to these backward regions and indulged in personal interaction with the parents of such children. Consistent exercise of interacting and mentoring such children over a period of two to three weeks made me earn the faith of the people of this region. Post which I shifted the entire teaching sessions to my home premises witnessing timely and eager participation of young minds. I did not offer them and freebies nor did I gave them any stationary yet they remained highly motivated just owing to the methodology of teaching.
Our country is in the dire need of similar initiatives. We have restricted ourselves in small cocoon and we relent on moving outside this safe zone. We are afraid of the consequences and hence remain reluctant of taking bold steps. But the secret to success ultimately depends in coming out of own safe zone. Just imagine what the rate of development that India can achieve if we can ensure educational attainment of children lingering around our neighborhood.
# Key Lessons Learned
- Working on social issues does not demand a very high IQ but it demands a significantly higher amount of patience, EQ, compassion and inner will power to rectify the issues being faced by vulnerable communities.
- The present plight of vulnerable communities is the result of exploitation being faced over successive generations. Therefore expecting that they are instantly going to respond to your call will not be justified. Consistent engagement and winning the confidence of local community remains at the heart of social transformation.
- Education is not about teaching ABCD or 1234. It is more about opening the minds and infusing the element of critical thinking. Such an attitude can be only infused by participative classroom where views of children are given equal weight age. It remains of utmost importance for teachers to freely mingle with students and weed out their inner hesitation.
- Fourthly, no one likes to be criticized. Yes, it is true that we all have our weaknesses but rectifying them demands a totally different approach. Focus should be towards motivating individual child and using role models for inspiring the entire group. Instead of criticizing any child on his flaw he must be motivated to follow the footsteps of his neighbor who has scored well in the same subject.
- Finally education is not a single stage activity. Difficult concepts can be easily ingrained inside minds of children if taught at regular intervals.
# Relevance of Education in Current Context
“Make in India” initiative has grabbed the interest of investors, manufacturers, policy makers and multiple other eager Indian citizens. However, as it has been pointed out in Economic Survey that the demographic dividend that we have been cherishing for now has emerged to be double edged sword. We do have significant proportion of population under working age class but the proportion of educated individuals in the said domain remains marginal. For moving upwards along the growth trajectory India needs educated and trained labor force which we find missing in current context.
Thus Education remains of utmost importance. It not only improves the current economic, social and psychological condition of individual but also empowers the entire community at large. Finally taking cue from efforts of Shri Om Prakash Choudhary (IAS) for his efforts towards child education in chattisgarh, I would like to name the title of this final article under Project Vision as “Sapnon ki Udaan”. For this bunch of kids the real journey of life has just started.
Small group of women folk had gathered around a village center. Every participant was equally curious as how the subsequent events would turn out to be. Comprehensively, entire discourse manifested the characteristics of classroom having diverse actors. There were few who would proactively participate and multiple others who would find satisfaction by limiting themselves within the small conservative cocoon of silence. By now you would have already guessed that topic relates with a training program conducted in the vicinity of rural region. This article represents my attempt to describe and analyze the multiple dimensions linked with “NAI ROSHINI”, training program by Govt. of India on promoting leadership traits among women folk.
Very frankly, my initial response after hearing the Program Details manifested a skeptical attitude. I was suspicious on what was the need of conducting any such program? How will the outcome be assessed and how the enforcement agencies accountability be ensured? I thought that it represented another source of siphoning off funds from Consolidated Fund of India under the banner of Govt. scheme. However, all my doubts came to rest after I visited certain centers of the program as a representative of NGO. I was amazed, excited and really shocked on seeing the extensive participation of women in the concerned activity.
# My First Encounter
We reached the centre around 11AM to assess the conduct of program whose management was devolved to NGO of which I was a representative. Village School was filled with women, girls and even some small kids. There was a different curiosity in the eyes of audience. We were being stared as if we had arrived from any distinct land. What was this expectation all about and why was it present on the first hand? Whether we were perceived by them as harbingers of change or was it just the human nature of looking upon the unknowns with due curiosity? I was shortly going to realize all the above answers.
# What is NAI ROSHINI all about?
It is a program initiated by GOI for developing leadership qualities among women class. Leadership is not the sole prerogative of Managerial class sitting within the confines of Board Room. It extends to almost every activity that we perform in daily life. In fact one great philosopher has proclaimed that a true leader is one who performs even the most miniscule work with due perfection.
Empowering women on the leadership role is very crucial for development of society at large. Socities ensuring equal participation of women in decision making has witnessed significant pace of progress. Further analysis also suggests that ensuring development of women aids in development of entire family. Women folk is involved in activities starting from household management to contributing in family income. Program attempts to make women realize their hidden potential, provide them sound advice on health related aspects, promote their interest in attaining minimum education attainment and concomitantly aiding in regaining the lost pride in women hood.
Thus defining the agenda of Program in single definition would be a doing injustice to the novel intentions. This program prepares solid foundation and creates awareness at the most grass root level. The progress so attained can be utilized in multiple other govt. welfare programs such as Swachh Bharat Campaign to Right to Education implementation.
# Lessons learned from my practical experience
We may keep on debating endlessly on the utility of any program and we may also go ahead criticizing the multiple govt. social welfare initiatives. However the actual reality differs from our own restricted imagination. Such training programs if implemented properly carry the potential of reforming the entire villages based on women power. Besides, the peer pressure among group members compels the participants to perform better during such short term training programs.
The above experience makes me realize that India definitely possesses the richness of programs. However what we need today is effectiveness and innovation in implementation. Focus ought to be towards recognizing the stakeholders and subsequently delivering the message in right context among the end beneficiaries. And once again, this experience makes me optimistic on India’s progress. Yes, we can change and we can develop, just the need is to realize the individual potential which has been locked in our own mental confines.