People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 11

March 11, 2012

Training For Life, to Die?


G Mamatha


IT is 2 pm. Time to watch Ninja Hattori. Addicted to the show and not satisfied with what is shown on TV, we shift to computer. We search for Ninja Hattori games. There is a game in which, the Ninja (supposed to be Hattori) swashes his sword and with a single stroke, beheads the opponent. A fountain of blood streams from the neck of the dead. We are happy to eliminate one and proceed to eliminate others.


This is the insensitivity we are feeding our children day-in and day-out, right from their childhood. (Or can I say, infanthood?) No wonder this insensitivity gets reflected in their behaviour as they grow and evolve in their lives. We are insensitive to poverty, deprivation, discrimination, exploitation, disadvantaged and, of course, to death.


In the past week, there were at least two instances where the deprived students were forced to end their lives. The first incident took place in the now notorious Haryana, where Pradeep Kumar, an engineering student was shot dead by his classmates, just because, he, from a backward caste, dared to top in the examinations. The ‘appeals’ of the ‘forward caste’ students to bunk the classes, fell on his deaf ears. He was punished, but his father thought he could work out a compromise with the rich upper caste students and help his son pursue his dream and train for becoming an engineer. The poor father did not realise that the bunkers really meant when they stated that a pistol would be waiting for his son, the next day of the results. He was two steps behind when the pistol, (sorry, the bullet) pierced his son’s heart. It was not just a case of murder due to jealousy; it was a case of trying to prove a point – a place – to the backward caste student. He should not dare to dream and pursue his dreams, lest stand at the top. For the media, society and the various well meaning candle light vigilantes, his death was just a number.


Yes, a number it is, only to be added with another one. This time – not in the fields of Haryana – but in the heart of Delhi. AIIMS, where our prime minister and many of our netas and babalog visit regularly to secure their health and lengthen their lives, was the theatre once again! Anil Meena, coming from the ravines of Rajasthan, dreamed of becoming a doctor. His family rejoiced to know their ward had secured a seat in such a prestigious institution. They were proud of him – he, a Hindi-medium educated child to have cracked the AIIMS entrance test, gaining an entry into it. Little did they know that AIIMS would turn out to be a monster where their ward was looked at as a gate crasher. The very achievement which they were proud of made them bemoan the day he committed suicide. They had wrongly harboured many expectations on him. More than on him, on the institution that they thought would train him. They never knew the reality of AIIMS. They only knew of it as a life saver, but didn’t know of it as a life sucker. Unfortunately, they don’t have an access to reports. That would have made them aware of this reality. They did not know that just exactly two years ago, Bal Mukund Bharati too was forced to commit suicide. Of course, for the many who knew, it was just another ‘bead’ to count. The thread running through all these 'beads', they refuse to see.


It is not just in AIIMS, the same incidents had happened in IIT Kanpur. There too, we find such ‘beads’. What ails these elite institutions in our country? What makes them so ‘Sacrosanct’? Are they a preserve of a select few? Why are there invisible doors barring the entry of students from unprivileged sections? What is the thread that connects these incidents?


A committee headed by the former UGC chairman, Sukhdeo Throat, was appointed to look into the prevailing discriminatory practices in the AIIMS in 2006. It had submitted its report, way back in 2007. Precious five years were lost, with little being done to remedy the situation as the recent incident points out yet again. The insensitivity of the AIIMS administration can be understood by noting a simple fact that it was forced to pay a symbolic fine of Rs 2,500 by the Delhi High Court due to its failure to submit the action taken report on the prevalent discriminatory practices on its campus. Thorat committee had come out with many startling revelations and recommendations. It had brought to light many facts like discrimination in hostel room allotments, in using the recreational facilities like sports – dalits and other backward caste students are barred from playing sports like basketball, cricket etc. The most serious of them all, is the discrimination practiced by the teachers. The committee had categorically stated that the faculty which should set an ideal among the students is not all CLEAN. Some sections among the faculty weigh the performance of the students not on the basis of what they write in the examinations, do in the laboratories or in the classrooms. They weigh them on the basis of their caste. Shamelessly they ask the students, mark the students on the basis of their birth and not on the basis of their performance. These so-called upper caste teachers are a stain on their noble profession. They use their leverage of internal marks to control the future of the students. In this prestigious institute, your caste decides whether you would be able to do your practicals or not. Your background decides whether you would pass or not. Your caste decides whether you would survive or not.


Five years since the report was placed, these institutes are not yet sensitised. They still rot. The price of all this is the loss of young lives, who would otherwise have been useful to the society.


The government which is responsible is just as insensitive. In spite of the myriad reports, it just refuses to wake up from its slumber. This insensitivity is, in a way, related to the neo-liberal ideology. Neo-liberalism preaches one to be selfish – think about yourself, the individual. It teaches one to 'excel' at whatever cost, even by pushing others out of the race. It asks one not to care about others, lest it distract one from their goal. It breeds insensitivity. It wants individuals to forget that they are social beings and they share social concerns. It is this insensitivity that made the government announce the sale of ONGC shares when only the previous day the entire working class in the country, cutting across their political affiliations struck work. It is the same insensitivity that breeds contempt for the working people, the socially underprivileged, the dalits, backward castes, tribals and other marginalised sections of the society. If they are discriminated, do not bother, do not ask, do not question. In fact neo-liberalism encourages discrimination.


Thus, it is no wonder that the government that is bent on implementing neo-liberal policies also does not want to act against acts of discrimination. The suicides of the students are not individual acts of frustration, but are forced murders – murders committed by the government and its policies.


Our fight should be not just against the neo-liberal policies, but should also be for a sensitive socio-cultural environment – sensitive to dalits, tribals, backward castes, poor, disadvantaged and marginalised people. Our fight should be for a sensitive educational system that also teaches students respect towards labour, manual labour in particular.


When you see violence on TV, or in computer games our kids play, do not just switch off them, think of the insensitivity it breeds in the society and sensitise them to stand not only for their rights but for others too. It should once again be, 'all for one, one for all'.