Wednesday, 13 January 2010
My association with Pardarshita
I have known Rajivji since about five years now. That time, I was working with The Times of India and wanted to write a story on the utility of RTI in the life of common man. Travelling to Seemapuri (East Delhi) was a difficult proposition that time because there was no connectivity through metro, unlike today. So a long bus ride from ITO, followed by enquiries here and there, got me straight to Parivartan's small but famous one-room office. I remember there was one computer tucked away in a corner of a big room. About 4-5 people worked around it, sometimes in notebooks, sometimes on the desktop. I distinctly remember one of them as a young girl, who later told me someone had put a blade in her neck because she wouldn't stop venturing out and working for the community... These were some of the first impressions of the people I was going to associate with a lot more in the future.
So, after interviewing some people who benefitted from RTIs that Parivartan helped them file, like someone got their voter I-card, someone could afford to get their kid in school, that story did finally come out. It was hugely appreciated and became my first, and most memorable byline (http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=Q0FQLzIwMDUvMDgvMTcjQXIwMDIwMA==&Mode=Gif&Locale=english-skin-custom).
Since then, whenever possible, we have collaborated on many occasions, even though Rajivji and few others now call themselves members of an offshoot organisation- Pardarshita. No matter what they call themselves, these people and their relentless fight against a corrupt system remains unwavered.
One time, we went for a survey of schools run by the Delhi Government in the South Delhi Zone to contrast ground realities there with government schools of East Delhi, more specifically, to inspect whether the school notice boards displayed information about money due to students of EWS quota, whether they were getting free books and uniforms as per the Central Information Commission (CIC) order etc. In East Delhi, I was told, there may not even be a concrete school building, even through papers would indicate a properly running school! 'Many times,' my friend Ritu added, 'a panic attack would grip school administration a day before inspection by some higher-ups. School staff would ensure that flower pots appeared outside the main gate, descrepit roofs got a fan or two, maybe a light bulb if lucky, to pass off as a 'fully' functional government school!' In South Delhi, the state of government schools was much better than in East Delhi, at least at a cursory glance. Of the 4-5 schools we inspected that day, most children said they were getting free uniforms and books or at least partly, while the rest 'was due' in future. As far as display of information was concerned, at least three schools displayed some information, though not all of it and that too, scribbled on a blackboard with chalk instead of beign displayed on hard boards as per the CIC order.
Anyway, what also struck me most, other than the scope for corruption worth crores of rupees by school administrations, in one school, the principal authoritatively called out to few senior girls, probably the class monitors, to serve us biscuits and tea, almost like it was part of their job as a student. I was left wondering what they were teaching their girls anyway. That hypothetically, even if all schools, everywhere, get every piece of physical infrastructure in place, what if every poor student got his/her due towards attaining a school degree, what if teachers start attending school and teaching delligently, does it mean they’ll churn out ‘thinkers’ of tomorrow? Agreed, it’s important to have a room to teach in, benches to sit on and blackboards to write on, water, electricity etc, besides children who can afford to sit in those classes, with books to read, but all this for what? In the Indian education system, Indians are being ‘trained’, not ‘educated,’ a big lesson from 3-Idiots, if you have seen the film.