Thursday, 16 July 2015

Hemantha Kalam - 35 'Contrasts and Contradictions'

The news over the past few weeks was mixed and skewed more towards discomfort. And two photographs (appearing in the beginning and at the end of this blog) fed the content for this blog.

A Greek Pensioner Citizen Crying on knowing that he could not withdraw his weekly pension!

First, the Greek Crisis!

Much water has flown on this account and much has been written. With falling GDP rates, higher Government Deficits and low repayment capacity among others, the situation contrasted with the austerity methods proposed by the troika comprising of the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). With ever polarising political and economic powers in the region, Germany, with its geo-economic power, stood firm on the austerity method.

The Greeks, who are used to comfortable entitlements such as education, healthcare, housing, pensions from early age and unemployment benefits, must have felt that the bubble would last forever and apparently did not ensure creation of a next generation of people to continue industrial productivity and thus increase the GDP. Left with hardly any other choice, the question looming large before the Greeks were European Union (EU) or Greece Exit (from EU) or simply GREXIT! Greece withstood the onslaught for the time being but the government has to face an imminent internal battle where the success is a big question mark.

As Mr. Sanjaya Baru wrote for ‘The Hindu’, imagine a similar Greece like situation happening to one of the weaker states in India. One realises, thankfully, that the Indian Union did not stop from being just an economic or a political union, but adopted the principle of federal financing. (

But again contradicting the above, even in India, one can see the dilly dallying by the Central government in ensuring the promise of Special Status for supporting Andhra Pradesh, which has been split for political reasons, with not even an excuse of a referendum. While the carved out portion of the United Andhra Pradesh (UAP) is sitting pretty on the budget surpluses created by the UAP, the residual portion of Andhra Pradesh, with gargantuan deficits is being forced to receive just promises, but in effect is to fend for itself.

Talking of the Central Government, the intentions might be good like fostering good internal and external relations. While Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is trying to strengthen the country’s relations with neighbouring countries and those countries that matter, the internal problems of severe opposition for his travelling abroad frequently, the unending ‘Vyapam’ issue, problems facing the five women ruling party leaders being alleged of their roles in minor and major incidents and scams, etc., are contrasting this claim of building good relations and governance.

In the same Andhra Pradesh, the state government which believes and says it does, has empowered women DWCRA groups with the responsibility of fair distribution of river sand (which of late has become a source of high income for the mighty, and making any construction reaching the skies and stars), hoping that being women, they would be much more judicious and less corrupt in discharging their duties. Contradicting this belief, a group of DWCRA women had allegedly assaulted a Tahsildar, in the rank of Mandal Magistrate, again another woman herself, who was discharging her duties in preventing illegal quarrying and smuggling of the sand by a sitting minister of the State Government of Andhra Pradesh at the instigation of the same minister who allegedly came to the spot to ensure that his trucks and tractors of sand move out smoothly, in the cover of the night. 

And recently there have been reports of a man being booked on charges of commenting about women in a distasteful manner on the Facebook and the court is taking up the case to proceed in the matter suitably. Contrasting this, there was quite an amount of newspaper printed upon, on how a court has released a rapist on bail / parole so that he can go and mediate with the rape victim to marry him and so he can escape further penalising.

Contradicting the above are the successful and happy cases of women, like Ms. Sania Mirza who was victorious at the Wimbledon and that Chennai Metro Rail is being piloted by women – Ms. Preethi and Ms. Jayashree.

And when talking of the recently launched Chennai Metro, stringent rules are laid out that people may carry food in packets and boxes with them but they cannot use the train cars and stations for eating. Is this not a contrast, when elsewhere, in Delhi, there was this gentleman who blatantly and in face of a camera eased himself inside a train car by taking a pee? Not that I am recommending or supporting either!

The Chennai people appreciate the Chennai Metro Rail services, but with a protest right from the first day that prices are too high and that they should be normalised, or else…

While talking about prices and costs, the latest World Development Report (WDR) 2015 titled “Mind, Society and Behaviour’ seems to be suggesting that poverty is a state of mind and behaviour and hence behavioural economics should be applied in making the poor take on a positive behaviour. In other words, as Mr. G. Sampath’s article is titled “Teaching the poor to behave”, the poor should be taught to 'behave' such that the poor do not make any wrong ‘economic’ decisions? (

Now see the contrast! Poverty is a state of deprivation of most of the resources including basic / decent education. So, when the poor does not even have the means of filling his stomach, how does one teach the poor to behave, in any other way than being and feeling poor?

Well, then is it 'Mission Impossible' and we need to use the services of Mr. Ethan Hunt? 

Or is it that, that over the centuries, we, as people of different, ancient and neo-civilisations, have been continuously failing or floundering and that still “Might is Right’ and we continue to live in jungles following the rules of the jungle, especially the 'Survival of the Fittest' rule?

Have, we really come to that stage, where we realised, that we have to retreat and start from the scratch?

Please, tell me! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish)

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Hemantha Kalam - 34 'Educating Education'

I was a topper in school or at least one among the top three, till I was in my 8th Standard / Grade. Later, I was more interested in reading anything and anything, thus eclipsing my interest in the class books and work. And within 3 years, by the time I reached my Secondary School Leaving Certificate level (SSLC-11th Standard / Grade) , I fell down to the ranks of the just about average student. As I continued with my college education, my interests expanded into NCC and learning music and I fell down to abysmal depths in the college studies and it was, indeed, a struggle for me to complete my college education.

So much so, that after coming out of college, I confided with my father that I no longer wished to waste his money (with whose support I was continuing my education) and my time, in pursuing something which has, time and again, proved to be elusive for me. That later I did management courses on my own and did quite well is another story.

In retrospect, I think I did not do very badly in life though my foundation has been quite weak. Today, people, at least some of them, consider me knowledgeable if not educated – a small gratification.

All this was possible because I was given a chance, more than once, in fact. My failures were tolerated. But today, the educational scenario in the country seems to have so drastically changed that there is neither tolerance nor a chance seems to be given to those who cannot make it – by the standards set in (most absurd levels, in my opinion) by the schools, which are now more identical to factories.

So why am I talking about this today, several decades after I had completed my educational odyssey? A report in yesterday’s Telugu newspaper ‘Eenaadu’ ( triggered my thoughts and culminated into this lament that it is.

The news item says that many schools, especially those in the private sector, in Tamil Nadu, a state of south India, are not permitting the lesser bright and not so bright students to take their qualifying examinations by forcefully evicting them out of schools, at the 9th Standard / Grade for not performing up to ‘their expectations’. The rationale - the schools have taken up on themselves the onus to guarantee a 100% pass percentage.

The figures for the year 2013-14, provided by the news item, are that 1,169,110 students were admitted into the 9th Standard / Grade but out of them only 1,072,691 have been promoted to 10th Standard / Grade. If readers think that the balance 96,419 (8.25%) students have failed to make the mark in their 9th Standard / Grade examinations, they would be in for a surprise. The news item says that these students have been cajoled, coaxed or forcefully evicted from the school by giving them a Transfer Certificate even before they could face the 9th Standard / Grade examinations. No records show that these evicted students got admitted in any other school; as no school would be touching them with a barge pole.

Now, the saga continues. That among the 1,072,691 who entered into the 10th Standard / Grade, only 1,060,940 students were permitted to face the qualifying examinations leaving behind a further 11,751 students not permitted to take the examinations. So totally out of the 1,169,110 students, finally only 1,060,940 students took the examinations leaving behind 108,170 (9.25%) students to face their own fate.

The alarming point is that now the malicious disease seems to be spreading to the government schools as well.

As it is, with even the educated youth of the country facing lack of employability skills, leaving about 10% behind every year, just because they are unable to reach the ‘expected’ grade / efficiency levels, are not the educational institutions doing gross injustice to the children and also to the future of the country?

Is the government taking necessary actions to provide alternate education to these ‘deprived’ and evicted students? How efficient is that system. If that system is working, how come there is a genuine scarcity for skilled workers in various trades such as Electrical, Plumbing, Masonry and so on….?

All this reminds me of a fabled task I used to listen from elders to think out of box. The task is simple. Make a vertical straight line smaller than what it appears now, without erasing or painting or covering over it, blah blah blah. Many people fail and one smart alec simply draws another vertical line a tad longer than the one already there making the first one look smaller in comparison.

To me somehow the present education system looks a bit similar. You want to show only success so decimate the failures! What nonsense?

Again, what is the purpose of education?

Writing in the Campus Newspaper ‘Maroon tiger’ Martin Luther King (Jan-Feb 1947 ‘The purpose of Education’ Atlanta, Ga) said;

“Education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society:
the one is utility and the other is culture…………….

…The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”

In the recent years, running behind the so called ‘efficiency’ which anyway seems to be quite questionable, as our education system seems to be based more on the rote system, aren’t the citizens losing their right to education and a proper one at that?

What will happen to the 10% who are denied of their education year after year? If they cannot get admission in any other educational institution, as almost all schools follow the same method of elimination, and they cannot get any life skills, is not the education system and the department concerned responsible for turning them to abject poverty or into wannabe / forced criminals?

After all, every man having come into the world has to live and when they are denied / deprived of using their available mental resources in the name of pseudo-efficiency how do they make a living? Is not the government and other sections of the society concerned, giving a license to poverty / crime this way?

We work to give some succour to the differently abled. Now these students who cannot make the grade also are differently abled. What efforts are taken to find out their aspirations and choices? Why should the system be so blindly driven and people are made / forced to follow?

As the children are put into schools at such a tender age of 1 ½ years and 2 years they are already deprived of their childhood. If they are also deprived of schooling opportunities because they do not meet the school requirements, what is their fate? It is a clear case of lost childhood in the face of an imaginary oasis which ultimately turns to a mere mirage.

Who is responsible for botching up their lives? Has any worthwhile study been undertaken to prove that such tender children should not be sent into schools? I am sure that there would be any number of studies to the contrary.

In my humble and considered opinion there appears to be a case to urgently ‘Educate the Education’ departments in the country. The later we do this, the more the country could lose. As it is, excepting among a handful of citizens, we have questionable civic sense, common belongingness or common responsibility. It is more by the grace of the omnipresence or by providence that things seem to be happening.

There is a dire need to bring in civic sense, moral sense and common responsibility among the people and if schools do not do that, who are the better agents for that?  

Pray, tell me, if you can! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish)

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India