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Mulla Periyar – Life be DAMned

Water, water everywhere. Not a drop to share! As human civilization progresses, natural resources face the challenge of extinction. Geographical borders now decide the fate of bounties that should belong to the biosphere as a whole. Sizable majority of God’s own country  fear extinction now, thanks to a century old dam which has developed cracks. So, why not rebuild and renovate the existing structure to save lives? Well, Mullaperiyar faces test of political waters.

Mullaperiyar Dam, constructed more than a century ago has been a center of debate for over two decades now. Although, the bigger beneficiary of this dam has always been the state of Tamil Nadu, complaints of insufficient water being released by its neighbour have surfaced before too. Built in Kerala, on the river Mullayar and its tributary Periyar, water is mostly diverted from this 136 feet dam eastwards to Tamil Nadu.

Courtesy Jamewils dot blogsport dot com

A Supreme Court order in 2006 instructed Govt of Kerala to raise the height of the dam to 142feet, which was overridden  by the legislature by bringing in a law. Govt of Tamil Nadu challenged this in court and the matter is subjudice currently. The debate currently is not about the volume of water to be shared or the storage capacity of the dam. It is about safety of 3.5 million Keralites who live downstream of the dam site.

Govt of Tamil Nadu’s banning the film DAM999 clearly shows how jittery the state is on this issue. The Chief Minister’s claim “the dam is as good as new” met with uproar on social media platforms – reports of cracks developing in the dam, how water has been gushing out of those cracks and also pictures and videos showing the pitiable state of the dam site have been floating on wires for long.

Studies done by IIT Delhi, IIT Roorkee and IISc Bangalore have projected the vulnerability of the people of Kerala from the “hydrologically unsafe” dam. Tamil Nadu fought those claims with its own government engineers claiming the dam is safe and sound. Clearly, waters of Periyar have been polluted by politics.

TN and Kerala CM

Courtesy The Hindu

Leaders, known for their knack of fishing in troubled waters have already began their job. While both state governments have been attending Delhi durbar to make the Central govt party to their cause, local politicians have already observed a day of Hartal for the cause. Ethnic politics have started too, brazenly demonstrated by ban on Tamil Nadu bound buses from Kerala, in several parts of TN. And while state MPs and MLAs are busy voicing their support to the cause of their state, national parties like BJP and their supporters have been accusing people of making a mountain out of molehill.

Amidst all these, Mullaperiyar was increasingly shaken by earthquakes in the last 22 months, rousing fear among people even more. That the ongoing “movement” was not to malign the state of Tamil Nadu or deny it of its share of water, is clearly demonstrated by the slogan “Water for Tamil Nadu, Safety for Kerala”. Why then is the Chief Minister of TN not willing to send out a message of conciliation and humanity to people on the other side of the border? After all, they are citizens of the same nation.

Or is it easy to sacrifice millions of lives for staying in power? Life be DAMned, God knows the answer.

 

Right To Education

Last night I was listening to an enlightening discussion on Right to education on NDTV. Barkha Dutt was interviewing Minister of Human Resources Development,Kapil Sibal. The audience comprised of students and teachers from various fields. I must confess here that I find our HRD minister very efficient. He is a man of action. A great visionary. Instead f short term goals he has an eye on the future.

Like I said in one previous post, our education system needs a massive overhaul. Starting from the basic primary education to the highest degrees, our system is grossly inefficient and archaic. This man with his ideas is trying to bring India’s education at par with international standards.

We can discuss on the nitty-gritty’s of education system in some future post. Right now we can focus on the RTE.

SO what is RTE?

In a nutshell, Right to education guarantees children aged between 6 to 14 years the right to study in government schools for free, irrespective of their social and economic backgrounds. The private institutions will have to reserve 25% seats for economically disabled students and have to provide them with financial aid for pursuing their studies. The government also proposes to bring school to everyone’s doorstep and plans to build one school in every 1Km of targeted areas.

In India, 220 million children go to school. But with advancing classes the number of dropouts surges! Only 18 million in India are lucky enough to avail college education. So the rest 202 million children are deprived of education. Sociologists working at grassroots will be able to guess the reason for such high rate of dropouts. In a family where eating two square meals in a day is a luxury, schooling is but elitism. Many students from not so “well-to-do” families face scorn and bullying at school from so called “elites”. This makes them school-phobic. Mostly girls are taken off schools after they reach puberty, to make them learn household chores – something that they would require in future married life rather than the puzzles of the human body or the universe. In many cases the medium of instruction becomes a great divide. The “English medium educated” students look down upon students from vernacular schools. The race for getting admitted to a Private English medium school has given rise to mushrooming of such schools where “education” is missing. Moreover the quality of education imparted at government institutions is also a big hitch. Teachers in many places just make an appearance in class but do not bother to teach. Lack of accountability makes them arrogant. The government is short of 5 lakh teachers. In many parts of the country the one single teacher has to teach many classes together due to shortage of teaching capacity. This definitely qualifies as a herculean task for the government.

Kapil Sibal sounded very optimistic. He stressed on hope for every problem facing this act. Increased co-operation from the civil society would go a long way to make this act a success. He asked each one of us – the “educated” elites – to spread the message. Recruitment of teachers would continue and he set a target of 5 years by which this law would be fully active and generate results.

But the problem of implementation remains. Time Of India showed the way with Teach India campaign. The government can re introduce that to recruit teachers. But what about the monitoring of quality? Who will see whether the money sanctioned for the education of the downtrodden is actually spent for them? Moreover where will such a huge amount of funding come from?

Already politics has started over this act. The chief minister who can spend crores for statues and garlands does not have money in the coffers for education of the dalits!!! And I fear the same will happen in many other states where the Ruling UPA is not in power!

Come what may this law should be enacted in letter and spirit. It looks good on paper and imagine what a great country our nation would be if we could actually guarantee that the nation’s future goes to school and not t work in a tea stall. The onus lies with us as much as it lies with the government.

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