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All India Shiksha Sangharsh Yatra, Unique campaign to demand education!

Palash Biswas
India has become a free hunting ground for education mafia and decontrolled, deregulated market linked education hubs makes the knowledge economy with free flow of foreign capital as well as black money. Education is now subjective to purchasing power and the masses deprived of sufficient purchasing capacity may not afford quality education despite so much so hyped right to education and Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan.

I did not know that last Sunday (2 November 2014), a unique campaign was launched in the country. Unique, because never before people in such a large number had come on street to demand something like education, possibly not for themselves but for the coming generations.

Our respected friend Anand Teltumbde informed as I returned from North India on first November and  I could not connect him as he was away and had been engaged to flag off south Indian phase of All India Shiksha Sangharsh yatra. I did know anything about this campaign as during my travel most of the time, I was disconnected in the digital nation which is in fact is reduced to a smartphone nation or a tab nation. I needed his expertise to explain so many things and he was unavailable.

As I landed in New Delhi on 29th Oct, he called me to inform about the sad demise of his 93 old father,the senior Teltubde on 22nd October and told that he was at home in Mumbai.

Returning Kolkata I just could not get him and all of a sudden he with other friends countrywide launched the campaign. I am surprised and missed the opportunity to stand with them with this excellent campaign most needed.

Meanwhile, we already have launched a nationwide campaign to dilute the secular versus communal dialogue which rather polarize Indian people on religious lines and the secularism banks on identities so much so which disintegrates the nation as well as the peoples resistance against the prevailing genocide culture all over the bleeding geopolitics.

We know that Indian constitution is, of course, drafted by Dr.BR Ambedkar but it is not his creation as whole sole as the ruling hegemony which grabbed power did everything to tilt the equations against the depressed classes. Eventually, the rights which we get from constitutional provisions are taken away by other provisions. Nevertheless, the constitution of India is the source of our democratic, civic and human rights and we may not allow it to be manipulated by the free market economy and its foreign priorities, the investors and the corporate lobbying.

Anand thinks otherwise and sees the trap within as glorification of the constitution might be suicidal, his assumes.The ruling hegemony is misusing, abusing Dr BR Ambedkar and the emotional love of the excluded communities for Babasaheb. He has been warning, though he is not against the debate on the relevance of the constitution and democratic set up in India.

We discussed the issues at large time to time.

But Teltumbde and his friends have rather strengthened us as the deprivement of the agrarian communities, the enslavement of the excluded Indian majority roots in the basic scientific module that the masses had been deprived of education for thousands of years and had no opportunity of empowerment whatsoever. Teltumbde is absolutely correct to focus on this basic issue without which the empowerment and sovereignty of the citizen remain impossible and the ruling hegemony reserves every opportunity in every sphere of life as it is well showcased in Bengal.

I stand rock solid with my dear friends.

We request all citizens to support the campaign nationwide.
 Just read the note, Anand Teltumbde has sent to me to explain the campaign.
 This campaign, if succeeded, could pave way for the radical transformation of India. The countrywide one month long campaign began from different directions to be converged and culminated in Bhopal on 4 December 2014. It would expose the intrigues of the ruling classes in creating a mess in the sphere of education and to rouse people to fight against them to win their fundamental right to education.
Teltumbde writes: While education is generally reckoned as an important issues, as we are inured to consider many other confusing our priorities, its prowess is barely recognised that it could resolve the perpetuating problem of inequality in one shot. In any case, howsoever we invoke past injustices, it is impossible to recover the lost past or adequately recompense it. However, we can surely put a stop to its perpetuation. Education has the prowess to do that. If we ensure that a child coming to the world does not inherit the misfortune and carry the imprint of poverty of its parents and receives the basic inputs such as health care and education equitably, the problem of perpetuation of inequality would be solved to a large extent.
Education along with health constitutes the basic factor in human life. While health represents its physicality and is common to all sentient beings, education represents its consciousness and characterizes only humans. As such, education becomes more important than even health. In the context of India’s caste system, education assumes far more importance to the Dalits and the Shudra castes because it was the single biggest causal factor behind their enslavement by the upper castes for millenniums. Mahatma Phule’s Marathi couplet: succinctly highlights the importance of education to the lower castes:
“vidyevina mati geli; mativina neeti geli; neetivina gati geli; gativina vitta gele; vittavina shudra khachale; itke anartha eka avidyene kele” (Lack of education led to lack of wisdom, lack of wisdom led to lack of morals, lack of morals led to lack of progress, lack of progress led to lack of finance, lack of finance led to the downfall of the Sudras; all these damage was caused by just the lack of education)
In the present context, it rather applies to all the poor who constitute more than 83 percent of India’s population.
Education has always been used as lever by the ruling classes to keep people enslaved. In colonial days it was informed by Macaulay’s Minutes which envisaged creating “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect” through education. Coming to present day rulers, education is being used to promote the hindutva agenda by saffronizing school text. Every ruling class thus used education to mould people in a manner that would be helpful in perpetuating its domination. While this may be axiomatic; what would one call if even this education is denied to some people or if it is dished out in a way so as to perpetuate the iniquitous social order? The state of Indian education today precisely presents this spectre. Indian ruling classes intrigued to give the dying caste system new lease of life through modern institutional contrivance and further ensured its perpetuation through commercialised multi-layered education system. It needs to be seen that this system is more insidious than Manu’s because it perpetuates graded inequality without appearing as crude as the latter.
Contrary to the desire of the founding fathers to make education universal, free, and compulsory, the ruling classes who formally assumed reins of power from the British surreptitiously drove their policies to promote the interests of incipient bourgeoisie and traditional elites. Private schools and colleges did exist but the majority were still run by the government. Although education had multiple layers, it was yet to be naked commerce. From mid-1980s however, with the advent of neoliberal reforms, education underwent rapid transformation for the worse. The social Darwinist ethos of neoliberalism turned it into a commercial good to be bought and sold with market logic. While this resulted in huge quantitative expansion, the poorer strata, particularly Dalits, were effectively excluded from quality education. The so called Right to Education Act brought by the government with much fanfare has actually proved to be the last straw on their back. Not only it took away whatever little that existed in the Constitution, it legitimized the naturally evolved multi-layered education system.
 Today the market of education is full of variety of wares being offered by all kinds of people. The entire rural India where still nearly 70 percent of our people reside are squarely cut off from education of any consequence. The same is the situation of the urban slums where majority of poor people live. Since public school system has lost confidence of people, private English medium schools have mushroomed everywhere which are fast driving people to the ditch of ignorance. Many types of schools have come up which offer varying quality education depending upon paying capacity of the buyer. A poor man’s child will get to the school for the name sake, where teachers barely appear whereas rich man’s child will go to the global schools which compete with the best in the world. Right here the destinies of children get cast. Later, if one scurvies through the primary phase, one is pushed into markets for tuition and coaching classes and special tutoring centres like Kota to enter the premium institutions, the cost of which is just beyond the means of majority of Indians who are supposed to be living off Rs 20 a day. The entire game is informed by neoliberal logic. The government reckons its responsibility to provide primary education, just to ensure no one falls out of the market net, but distances itself from higher education saying it is not a public good. This 50 billion dollar market is already agreed to be exploited by global capital through WTO. The results daily unfold before us with amazing rapidity in the form of mushrooming education malls and superstores called universities and institutions. While there is quantitative expansion for the rulers to flaunt their achievement and fool people, qualitatively it is touching the nadir. Barely four universities of India come within first 500 universities in the world. Survey after surveys being conducted by Pratham like institutions reveal that there is no learning in schools.
 All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) was formed by progressive educationists, activists and organisations working among masses to oppose this ruinous development. Tens of hundreds of organizations working among people, thousands of activists and intellectuals have joined it or lent their support. In a country of 1.2 billion people and cacophony of Modi their voice is still not heard. We demand universal, free, compulsory and equal quality education through neighbourhood schools to all from Kindergarten to post-graduation (KG to PG) classes. The all-time alibi of lack of resources by the government right from the colonial regime is not valid. Education has to constitute the topmost priority, the raison de etre of any government, and no amount of excuse can change it. The country that flaunts 1.8 trillion dollar economy and can hand out 6 lakh crores of rupees to the corporate honchos with impunity cannot say it does not have resources for education.
 As a member of presidium of AIFRTE I wish to invite you to join this struggle. All India Shiksha Sangharsh Yatra, Unique campaign to demand education!

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