Friday, 20 October 2017

IF ANYTHING IS TO BE BANNED IT SHOULD BE PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND HOSPITALS

Among the first decisions of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh was to ban abattoirs and form anti-Romeo squads. First it was said that all slaughterhouses will be closed but later the government retracted and it was clarified that only illegally operating ones will be closed. But the atmosphere created due to this arbitrary order was that even ordinary meat shops were closed. This included other kind of meat as well – mutton, chicken, etc. A large number of people working in meat industry were suddenly out of job. The daily wagers were hit most badly. In the name of anti-Romeo operations even genuine couples were harassed. Government’s interference in private lives of citizens has created a mood of despondency in the state. Worst is that the effect is spreading to other Bhartiya Janata Party ruled states. In Gujarat now cow slaughter could attract life imprisonment.

After the ascendancy of Hindutva politics a new trend is set in. Even though there are already existing laws which could take care of cow slaughter, the fact being that in the name of banning beef most businesses which are being targeted deal with buffalo meat, or harassment of women on street, vigilante groups have surfaced which are more than willing to take law into their own hands, sometimes with fatal results. No other mainstream political party in India has cadres of this nature. Maoists or Naxalites exist but most are associated with banned organizations.

A peculiar situation has been created in which people suspected of having consumed beef or expressing love in public could be beaten up but the people openly instigating violence could go scot free. The Chief Minister of UP has himself been involved in provoking violence in the past by his inflammatory speeches.

 Image Source: Internet

BJP government has been successful in deflecting attention from far pressing concerns. For example, lately farmers’ suicide has become a phenomenon in UP. BJP’s prominent election promise was to waive loans taken by farmers. But obviously it is not considered a priority issue. Is it because this issue would not result in any communal polarisation advantage? The actions of BJP government and the party are fast polarizing the communal divide throughout the country. This was probably the objective of making Yogi the Chief Minister. The politics of ban suits right wing parties like BJP and Shiv Sena because it has immediate polarization effects.

However, if the BJP governments want to indulge in ban politics, like they demonstrated by banning big denomination old notes and now slaughterhouses, they should choose to ban private schools and hospitals which have become a curse for their clients. The ban on alcohol in Bihar and other places has helped the poor but a ban on private education and health care institutions would be beneficial for all.

Rich parents are harassed because of high fee charging institutions where their children study which are ever ready to extract more money in the name of one activity or the other. The schools don’t follow the government prescribed norms when raising fees for the subsequent academic years. The children have to study in extremely competitive set ups which distort their personalities. Private coaching institutions have aggravated the problem. They are responsible for serious damage to the emotional wellbeing of our children and youth. In spite of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 in place the expensive private schools are averse to admitting children from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups under section 12(1)(c) of the Act and thereby are guilty of violation of law. The City Montessori School of Lucknow, which educates more than 50,000 children in its over 20 branches, brazenly refused admission to 58 children in 2016-17, whose admissions was ordered by the district level education officer, and remained unscathed. The very high fee charging private schools have become more powerful than the district or sometimes even state level officials and operate like mafia. Like all powerful businessmen they know how to influence the governments.

Private hospitals have flourished like private schools but have discarded the notion of medical practice being a service to humankind. Most of them are money making enterprises which are not guided by moral principles. Patients are burdened with unnecessary tests, medicines and treatment of inferior quality with no guarantee for cure. The patient could be held captive until the bills are cleared. There is a nexus of hospitals, ambulance services and middlemen which land unsuspecting patients in the hands of people who are zealous to fleece their clients. The government hospitals on the other hand may appear inefficient and unhygienic but still offer more genuine and honest services when compared with their private counterparts.

Why has the state adopted a policy of throwing common people to vultures in these two fields? After all, education and health care, are basic needs of human beings along with food, clothing and housing, which guarantee them a life of dignity. The deliberate deterioration in quality of government schools which has been allowed has been lamented by Justice Sudhir Agarwal of Allahabad High Court in his August, 2015 order in which he asked the UP government to make it compulsory for all receiving government salaries to send their children to government schools.

People are waiting for emancipation from the clutches of private education, including coaching, and health care institutions bent upon exploiting them. BJP governments would do some good if they are able to bring a ban on them into effect and nationalize all education and health care services.

Sandeep Pandey is an Indian social activist. Magsaysay Award recipient, Gandhian and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a co-founder of Asha for Education. He is a Former Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.

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