December 18, 2006

India makes headway on education issue, with new legislation.

For people like me, who love ridiculous ideas, ridiculous politicians more than ridiculous ideas, and ridiculous legislation best of all, the last week was a sensational one. Enclosed find a news report.

Dec 18 (Mumbai): Educationists will remember the last week as a memorable one.

Proceedings began with the Lok Sabha unanimously passing the bill for 27% reservation for OBCs in all educational institutions. In an unprecedented show of unity, the House passed it and praised it. We love minorities.

Also demanded were:
1. Elimination of the creamy layer (Loony Left)
2. Extension to Muslims (the Congress, who else?)
3. More, more, more percentages to be reserved (BJP, surprisingly happy)

8 institutions were exempt from this new law, including BARC, TIFR and some others. We can’t compromise on research institutes after all. It’s okay for the regulars to manage this. All institutions are to expand their faculty and infrastructure over a maximum of 3 years, so that there is no difference between the number of students admitted in “Open Merit” categories today (the poor little minority) and three years hence. A truly commendable effort by the government to think about everyone – except, of course, the institutions, which could have some teeny-weeny difficulties in expanding infrastructure by 30% in three years. But some sacrifices are, of course, necessary in the national interest.

Minorities all over the country rejoiced. OBCs, SCs, STs, Kashmiri migrants, 4th generation descendants of freedom fighters, Muslims, Christians, women – all have extended their wholehearted support to the government, now and in the future for such essential legislation. (Women are technically not a minority, but as Sir Humphrey says, “They share the same paranoia that is, after all, the hallmark of any minority.”) A spokesperson from More For Minorities told reporters, “It is a historic day for us. In future, we plan to press for similar quotas in the private sector, public sector, government offices, parliament, candidature to the President’s post and maybe even on space missions!”

Meanwhile, outside the offices of the government and the offices of More For Minorities, several young, disadvantaged and defeated youths were staging a half-hearted protest. Their contention was that they were not SCs, STs, OBCs, Kashmiris, children of freedom fighters, handicapped, Muslims, Christians, or women – in short, they were caste-less and disadvantage-less – and they were the true minorities. Needless to say, the police was called in for a lathi charge on the group for such a violent and irrelevant protest.

Meanwhile, in Maharashtra, politicians in the Legislative Assembly lamented the loss of their culture as a result of the decline of their mother tongue – Marathi. In another inexplicable move, politicians, after lamenting a fact, decided to do something about it. “Something,” this time, was to make Marathi a compulsory language for ICSE and CBSE schools, who had so far been cunningly evading this issue.

ICSE and CBSE schools, as we all know, are a hotbed of Westernization, lack of culture, lack of manners, absence of identity and every conceivable evil of the 21st century. These schools have forgotten their duty to their respective cities, districts and states, preferring to focus only on India and the global scenario. How evil.

There are some footling oppositions against such a move – for example:
1. Several students are transfer students, shifting homes across states every year or two.
2. Students are already overburdened with 11 other papers to answer and a 300-page book for each of those papers.
3. The Second Language being optional, if a student voluntarily wishes to learn Marathi, he can give up Hindi and take up Marathi instead.
4. Most ICSE and CBSE schools are in urban areas where regional languages have almost ceased to matter.
5. The idea is to create students who are competent on a national and global level, not just in Kolhapur and Sholapur.

In response to these arguments, the state’s politicians argued (very cogently, we must say):
1. Good for them! They’ll learn more and more regional languages, and that will mould them into good citizens.
2. Chamaila – you think SSC students don’t study?!
3. No, no – he must study English, Hindi, and Marathi! Majha porga has to study all three – why should your son escape that torture, haan?
4. Gappa bas! “Ceased to matter”? It matters to me! It matters to Shiv Sena! It matters to Constable Pandurang! It matters! Especially because I can speak only Marathi!
5. What is this global-vobal? Stop ruining our culture. We are proud to be Indian, we are proud of our heritage. All this westernisation and global-vobal is destroying our bharatiyata.

In addition to these statements, another politician (on condition of anonymity) remarked, “We will extend this to the IB schools as well. A few years from now, we will make them study Marathi, Hindi, and an additional regional language (of their choice) instead of French, German and all that bakwaas.”

Naturally, critics were silenced. Powerful arguments from the makers of tomorrow. The people of Maharashtra eagerly await the application of these reforms, which will bring all students to the same level and protect our distinctive regional identity.

A memorable week, as we said.

P.S. For all my fellow-ICSE students – Prof. O. P. Sinhal passed away last week. Remember those Math textbooks (orange and brown covers)? Strangely enough, without even knowing the man, I felt really bad about this. As AVM-ites, of course, the first thing that comes to mind when “O. P. Sinhal” is mentioned, is Subramaniam Sir’s alternate praise (“What a question! Feast for my eyes! Hats off to O. P. Sinhal!”) and criticism (“Originally Pathetic Sinhal!”). But now who’s going to write those Math books for the kids? :(