The Day India Celebrates F1 Supreme Court Orders Toilets In Schools
Some two decades ago, it was not easy that Indian policies were being governed by certain external influences in conjunction with the rich and resourceful of India. The present conditions in the country, are often characterised by slogans like “India shining” and “India arrived”. Delhi was excited about the Formula-1 races being organised in India for the first time. All roads led to Buddha International Circuit. Beaming faces informed the nation of what a great achievement for the nation in the shape of Formula1 track and all the related amenities that visitors and tourists to such an epoch-making event really require.
Media cannot miss such occasions. There was glamour and money all around and there were PR personnel. There was huge media coverage all around. For some, the rich and the resourceful, it was the dream come true. People were informed that this was the biggest sporting event that this country was privileged to host! What a great achievement; India is marching ahead! Further, a proposal is pending with the Government of UP to develop Noida as an International Finance Technology City (NIFT) on the lines of Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris and London. There is so much to be proud of the infrastructure being developed in Noida and Greater Noida.
All those who are the beneficiaries of the glamorous nine per cent economic growth rate could look forward to a more prosperous future in years ahead as F1 successfully ended and India joins the league of those possessing F1 tracks and all the related facilities. We are told that the conceptualisation of Noida/Greater Noida is absolutely in tandem ‘to meet the needs of a fast developing city of the future’. There is so much to be proud of once you are aware. Only spoilsports would be to know that for hours together on daily basis, Greater Noida offers unscheduled power cuts for its residents and for its students of professional institutions. If you talk of law and order, the glamour groups have their own arrangements and the system is always ready to help them, particularly something like F1 that brings ‘glory to the city’! All the great heroes of the cricket world and the Bollywoood graced the occasion. All this had to be looked after by the administration.
I saw vociferous headlines “F1 India’s winning formula”. Maybe citizens like me who have seen the way India has progressed over the last six decades find themselves out of the sync with what is happening around us. These cities of tomorrow are also the places that portray the stark realities of the convoluted progress that is invariably projected as directed only towards uplift of the aam aadmi! Once one interacts with the former farmers of Noida, the construction workers from Bundelkhand and other regions, certain stark realities do make their presence felt, and that too in abundance.
Here one comes face to face with the reality of the ‘implementation’ of the Right to Education Act. What is more shocking is the unwillingness on the part of parents, earning their livelihood as daily wagers, to send their children to sarkari schools. It is a positive development that they wish their children got good quality education which, in their judgment, is available only in private schools! When the entire focus is on making the place London or Paris, how could there be place for the ‘last man in the line’ identified by Mahatma Gandhi? The economic wizards have no place for Gandhian thoughts on development and economic growth and, consequently, why should anyone remember the deprived and deficient?
When the great event was in the offing, what could be the point in highlighting a perpetual known-to-all problem? On October 18, 2011, the F-1 establishment the was thrown open to the media and the select elite. On that very day, the Supreme Court of India passed an order, totally unrelated to the F1 initiative. The highest court directed the government to provide toilets in all sarkari schools before November 30, 2011! Millions and millions of children throughout the country are in schools that lack basic amenities like drinking water and toilets. For decades together, policy documents have emphatically stated all that is being done to bring the girl child to school. There are achievements not because of the system but due to people’s awareness of the need to educate not only their sons but also their daughters. After the 1986 national policy on education, toilets got their due mention but the implementation was shoddy and shabby. Even if the toilets were provided, these remained non-functional. The consequences are obvious. The latest Human Development Index Report mentions 19 per cent of the Indian children in the age group of 6-17 years are out of school. In the dream city if someone conducts a survey, it would certainly project a higher percentage. One can himself witness the levels of malnutrition, which this report pegs at fifty per cent for children below three years. The malnutrition figures in case of weaker sections are on the rise and would indeed be shocking as inflation has highly impacted the vulnerable groups. They all left their homes and hearth for a better future in the great cities and are now nowhere. To consult a doctor they have to shell out at least two-three days wages as consultation fees, medicines to be purchased separately! This is the reality in spite of the official claims of free health care and free education!
It is globally acknowledged that every nation continuously faces several crises—one of the most prominent amongst these being the ‘crisis of the ideology of progress’. India could have certainly made mid-course corrections some twenty years ago, after gaining experience of over four decades. It was fully under the influence of WB and IMF. During the last twenty years, the grip has further tightened. Those in power and authority are proud of it and their achievements. They want everyone to celebrate, rejoice and thank the nine per cent economic growth rate. How does it matter to them if schools for the aam aadami do not have toilets or drinking water? These are matters of details in official parlance and are left to be handled at the lowest levels. When around seventy per cent schools of India cannot afford even basic sports equipment, it is not easy to praise those who brought F1 to India. One wishes they had thought of one district and made each and every of its elementary school really functional! Not a single billionaire of India has thought of improving even a couple of primary schools in his/her home district. Is this not an issue before the corporate India?
By JS Rajput
(The author is former Director, NCERT)