Monday, 8 August 2016

Why don’t NGOs bring Social change?

More the issues of society the higher the number and scope of Non Government Organisations (NGOs) remain a reality in India today. Comparatively the state like Kerala has fewer NGOs compared northern states of India as the nature of issues are more compact with the nature and scope NGO functioning in north Indian states. As northern states undergo multiple issues/deprivations states like Kerala experience complex issues that are more challenging for the intervention of NGOs in its present paradigm.

The origin of NGOs in India in its present form could be traced back to the spirit of Volunteer Organizations that emerged during the independent movement and post independent era until the declaration of emergency. Volunteer Organizations gradually transformed to NGOs as the world moved towards the dominance of global capital for economic growth and development. Thus they are known as development organizations working on various issues with diverse mission and objectives. Global capitalism brought foreign money to ‘developing’ countries like India and ‘under developed countries’ like Somalia.  It was time the State recognized the role and potential of NGOs that could fill the gaps that the government machinery could not do. Thus they could get wide spread endorsement and appreciation from various quarters of development sector. After emergency NGOs became popular in rural areas as they could bring lots of investments in infrastructure development as well as in Health and Education sector. In the initial stage many of the organizations worked with the spirit of charity that promoted the exchange of material benefits in the form of money and other material wants and needs of life. It was the time when Christianity too focused on improvement in health, education and various issues of poverty. With its religious belief in charity Christianity supported many NGOs to emerge in poor areas of India that created the masses of dependents on its charity. Gradually NGOs turned to right based development objectives that was envisioned to challenge the limitations of charity mode of functioning.

A lot could be written about the historical evolution of NGOs and its impact on life. One thing should be recognized that changes in its method and objectives should be analysed in connection with the changing nature of global capitalism, its strategies to ensure economic growth through market economy. It is also important to understand the emergence of micro credit as part of micro finance and its role in ‘empowerment’ of vulnerable communities.

Why don’t NGOs bring social change is a topic that can’t be dealt it a single article to examine the subject with its magnitude and extent that influenced the culture and scope of social change. Every organization enter into the arena of social work with its declared vision, mission and objectives that are either diluted or relegated into oblivion in the midst of organizational management, maintaining the fund flow and tackling the community issues during the intervention in the area. The expression ‘social work’ itself reveals its alienation from Nature or its failure to consider mankind as one of the species in the eco system. In other words with the promulgation of ‘scientific temper’ and faith in the man’s supremacy over Nature prompted individuals and organizations not to recognize the importance of treating man as part of Nature. The rational thinking, evidence based scientific approach and unquestioned faith in the separate existence of man from Nature with its reliance on rationality endowed with western theoretical support led social work in India towards its doom.

The fact remains that NGOs normally function in the domain of existing paradigm of nation state with its supremacy over communities through centralized system. Legally bound to the ethos of modern nation state NGOs are functioning as the extension of power mechanism endorsed by its authority. Thus organizations that seem to be radical in its stated objectives are destined to be a ‘refined’ version of the State apparatus that is obviously a tool for capitalism to expand its clutches of authority overtly and covertly over its people.

In addition to that Non Government Organizations are working with the paradigm of development envisioned by global capitalism based on GDP as an indication of positive change. Thus it is part of monetary economy that commercializes all the community resources and people’s willingness to extend their support with the spirit of community sharing. In other words the situation does not allow an organization to perpetuate a value of life beyond the existing frame work of socio-economic management. Besides that the whole operation of a Non Government Organization is built on the fund flow from a donor organization that prevents them to move away from the existing economic system based on growth for the sake of their survival.

Based on the perception of global agencies on development and backwardness, most of the communities including tribal groups are considered to be vulnerable groups that need to be mainstreamed. Mainstreaming of such ‘vulnerable’ communities is a declared agenda of NGOs with the observation that the indigenous culture, tradition and way of living are primitive and it is essential to modernize them. Thus standard means of social and cultural homogenization is implemented in various forms in the name of development. Traditional practices that have ecological significance and principles of sustainability are termed as unscientific and obsolete.  On the contrary if the values of such indigenous communities are asserted by somebody, for instance the symbiotic relationship of tribal communities with nature, it will be described religiousness or part of anti-development agenda.

Another interesting fact is the organizations that are formed with an objective of community development, a popular social work intervention strategy, work with people living in a particular location selected by the feasibility tools of a project plan where the actual Community is absent or invalid. Thus a development project is designed to fail with its formulation to work with community resources, its members and issues. The reasons for the absence of communities could be traced to multiple reasons such as caste discrimination, gender inequalities, other various forms of inequalities and the dominance of monetary economy over gift economy that strengthened and sustained the spirit of community living. The situation became worse with the absence of common assets with the growing privatization of land and other resources.

NGOs in India have valuable lessons from its past experience to move towards a new paradigm, yet they continue lingering in the field of ‘development’ for its capability to sustain a parallel economic system and attractive employment opportunity for some people in the sector along with the support of the state for its gap filling role. (the state act against them when they challenge its policy). It is a shock absorber for the existing gravity of inequality and oppression. Thus it becomes inevitable for the state as well as the oppressor to have a safety valve for resisting the rising people’s movements against the present system. In their struggle for survival most of the organizations do not recognize the absurdity of working for development as the global capitalism has reached its peak of natural resource extraction and thus heading towards economic crisis. They don’t even appreciate Ecology as the Science of 21st century.  Any way man cannot go on with their dream for their unlimited growth with limited natural resource even with the support of technology.

There are many people with their commitment towards a more just and fair society working as part of NGOs working on various critical issues. It’s time for them to decide whether to go on with a perished dream or choose a way of better understanding, contemplation and find a way forward. One thing is sure, the present paradigm of material well-being cannot be achieved with the designed system without letting a new system to emerge that is based on principles of Ecology, the Science of present times.  Being part of the present economic system and growth based on GDP social work in its effort fails to find the real cause of issues lurking in the space away from its domain. Otherwise with the dedication and commitment of some people working in the field, some of the NGOs may be able to cure the wound temporarily without healing real diseases permanently.

Monday, 7 March 2016

A Letter to Daya bai the Ordinary Woman

Dear Daya bai

After reading the narration of your experience in the form of a letter to Goi, I too felt it would be effective to narrate my experience in the same manner.

It was not just the curiosity to be a day with a well acclaimed personality that led me to visit and spend a day with you. After reading your biography ‘Pachaviral’ I was longing to meet you, that time I was carried away by the uncompromising battle that you waged against injustice and enormous strength in you to challenge all odds in life without an iota of fear. I had to wait few more years to realize my intense desire to visit you though I had met you earlier.

Today the world knows your long walk to the life that you wished to live, the lonely battles that you waged against the powerful, how you declassed and became one among the tribal community of rural village far away from your native place, how you lived a simple life as a symbol of peace, harmony and compassion in the midst of all fierce and destructive mainstream way of life. You have become an icon of gallant effort to walk the talk, firm struggle for justice, and liberation from all outward shackles that makes one victim of dualities/compromises in life. I am sure it’s not all about your life- the inner conflicts that you went through, the pain that shattered you, the moments that you wept as an ordinary woman, the moments of darkness that engulfed your being, vulnerability in the midst of chaos and confusion, your long journey through the dark tunnel in utter helplessness, the amount of tears that spilled over and myriads of other matters that disturbed you might not have enchanted the many who were thrilled and celebrated your marvelous life.

You called me several times over the phone after my departure from Bhopal although you had told me the details of location and how to reach there. I could feel the concern of a mother who could not relax until her son reaches an unknown destination safe. You were there at the gate with a warm smile that radiated love and compassion in the true sense. I was not surprised to see your simple home beside the hill that was not different from the shelter of an ordinary villager but for a circular space for group meeting with a bamboo top floor. I could really feel your ‘uncivilized’ life, no chair to sit (two chairs were there for Chandu and Ashuthosh, two pet dogs of Daya bai) no dining table, no equipments essential for modern life, one room full of equipment for agriculture, some books beside the bed made of mud, a clothe made almarah to keep your cotton sarees, all added to the poise to your real life. I could feel your potent fight against market economy, though you don’t claim so, that the urban middle class and upper middle class intellectuals fail to adopt or even recognize in their fight against globalization. Though you did not use any jargons from the dictionary of an intellectual or try to theorize and give ideological explanations for the meaningful way of life that you adopted and principles that you imbibed and practiced in your life, I could sense the depth of your vision and commitment. I realized people who live fully without contradictions or minimum inevitable contradictions do not theorize every act they engage and take credit for that. They live it without much sound and fury and that is the beauty of it. I could feel you were simply living a higher value of life just like an ordinary person in your neighborhood. Of course you must be conscious about your act but more were outcome of values internalized without complexity and thus reflected in action naturally.  The wrinkles on your face could not screen the reflections of straight forward life and elegance of your nature.

I am happy to know that the world recognizes you, individuals and organizations invite you for various programmes, give you awards, some of the enlightened beings support you and encourage you. However I am afraid if some of them were only showcasing the vivacious and meaningful life that you live courageously instead of making any attempt to imbibe the values in their own life first and spread out it in the society. I wish those who really share your views and appreciate your meaningful life should exhibit it by imbibing your values in their own life that would be a more valuable award for you. I wish if you were not just showcased but lived. I was not surprised when I heard from you how the students of elite private schools listen to you and sit like a ‘statue’ without evincing any response of a living human being. As you rightly said education system sucks the vitality and their intrinsic ability to be creative. I also wish the way you live is not conceived as something peculiar that could be emulated rarely by exceptional people.  I wish people see the ordinary in you than the extraordinary so that they appreciate you are just living with the sensitivity, compassion and sense of justice and equality that everyone is expected to live.

When you narrated how you started talking to Chandu and Ashuthosh over the phone when you go out, I could really feel your bonding with every living and nonliving things around you. I did not feel it as a mystic relationship with your pet dogs. I could really experience the pain that you went through when a hen died and you went fasting. I had no doubt when you narrated how you communicate with birds and animals. In fact you are inextricably connected with everything around you. So you could make the barren land fertile with your own effort, you could find your food from your land; you could find most of the resources from local surrounding itself. Shouldn’t we learn from you? Shouldn’t we start living your values and principles? You are another example how compassion is a higher value of life than mere sympathy, an essential ingredient of true love.
When you narrated how you were tortured in the police station and later you lost your teeth, as a routine incident in life I thought about many other people who create history out of mundane experience of life or unintentional ‘heroic’ actions. I could really see how you take up the fight against tyranny of the powerful and injustice towards the vulnerable as a normal course of life and its awful consequences as its normal outcome.

I did not try to see what I wanted in your life according to my perspective and wish. I did not try to approach your life and work with my own parameters and framework. I don’t want to see you as a solution for all the issues in the world. There are diverse ways and means to tackle the problems that the world faces today. One could easily point out better ways to your way of life and response towards injustice. One can ask myriads of questions on what you did in the past. Why couldn’t you form an organization? Why didn’t you try to organize the tribal women? Why didn’t you engage in other means to empower the marginalized? Does your single army fight bring radical change in society and existing system? I have answers for such questions. Let Daya bai find her own path. She is not the only woman in the world to find solution for all issues. Let us not see her as an incarnation of omnipotent God. Ultimately she is a human being, one among us who realized the value of living beyond her own life.

With Love

Thursday, 27 August 2015

There Are No Such Things As Failures, There Are Only Results.

(It was written in 2009 when I was teaching in Maldives while preparing for my assembly speech.Teachers used to speak in the morning assembly on various topic)

Today I would like to talk to you how our attitude towards success and failure influence the result of our action. At first I should like to share an experience I had this year. I am going to talk about a student very briefly. In the beginning of this academic year I found him passive and reluctant to complete the tasks in the classroom. This student had different excuses. Either he won’t bring the book, if he brings the book he won’t have the interest. On the other hand he was receptive at times. Finding his ability to communicate I consulted this matter with the leading teacher and he talked to him. 

Thus I could find changes in his response. He started participating actively. But after few weeks again his interest declined. My advice had no effect on him. Finally I got a chance to meet him with his mother. I discussed this matter with his mother and told her son is really skilled and could get through the exam if he worked hard. Before mother could say anything he spoke frankly. He told me “Sir actually I have decided not to study English. It is not my subject. Every year at the beginning itself I leave English.  Few weeks I worked in the class not for me, but to make you happy.” Then he explained the reason. He never passed in English exam and even if he passed it was only the first  unit test.  It never repeated. 

Dear students, there is no such thing as failure. There are only results.  To inspire this student, I told him about a man’ great success. There was a man who 
 Failed in business at age 21
Was defeated in legislative race at age 22
Failed again in business at age 24
Overcome the death of his sweetheart at age 26
Had a nervous breakdown at the age 27
Lost congressional race at age 36
Lost senatorial race at age 45
Failed in an effort to become vice-president at age 47
Lost a senatorial race at age 49
Who was selected president of US at age 52....Do you know who is this man. Abrham Lincoln who was the great president of United States of America.

Recently I happened to read an article in Readers digest about a boy of unusual vision.  It was about a boy named Calvin Stanley. It seems Calvin rides a bike, plays baseball ,goes to school and does just about everything else that a eleven year old can do except see.

How could this little boy do all these things while many people in the same situation just give up on life or live in sorrow. Calvin’s mother is a master reformer. She has turned every experience Calvin has experiences that others would have classified as ‘limitations’- into advantages in Calvin’s mind. Since that’s what he represents to himself, that’s what Calvin experiences.

Calvin’s mother remembers the day her son asked why he was blind. “I explained he was born that way and it was nobody’s fault.” She told him.  He asked “WHY me”, I don’t know why, Calvin. May be there is a special plan for you” Then she sat her son down and told him “You are seeing Calvin; you are just using hands instead of your eyes. And remember there is nothing that you can’t do”

One day Calvin was very sad because he realised h e would never see his mother’s face. She said “Calvin, you can it with your hand and by listening to my voice and you can tell more about me that way  than somebody who can use his eyes.” 

Calvin moves in the sighted world with trust and faith and the unshakable confidence of a child whose mother has always been there for him. Calvin wants to become computer programmer and somebody design programs for the blind.

Dear students, it’s your attitude, your decision, faith, confidence and determination and above all your interest that matters. No one can touch you if you are confident.  Once again I remind you, there are no such things as failures. There are only results.  

Thank you. Have wonderful day.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

On a Historical Verdict by Allahabad High Court to Save the Education System

“The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday took a serious note of the pathetic condition of primary schools in the state and directed the chief secretary to ensure that children/wards of government officials/servants, those serving in the local bodies, representatives of people and judiciary etc., send their wards to these schools. 

Only then would they be serious enough to look into the requirements of these schools and ensure that they are run in good condition, the court observed.

During the course of hearing, the court noticed the deplorable condition of these schools and observed that although they are catering to the needs of 90% population of children, their condition could be described as shabby.”
 -TIMES OF INDIA, August 19th 2015
There is no dearth of constitutional provisions to educate the children of our country. The below are some of the provisions that points towards the responsibility of the state to have the indispensable role in educating the young minds of our country.

Article 29(1) states “No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.”

The Fundamental Rights of the Indian Constitution has also adopted the four fold ideal of justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Our Constitution laid down that in the eyes of law, everyone should have an equal status, to no one the justice be denied, everyone should have liberty of thought, expression.

The fundamental right of equality clearly signifies that in the eyes of law no distinction can be made on the basis of any position, caste, class or creed. Side by side the right of equality of opportunities to all is also provided. The equality of opportunity is meaningless, unless there are equal opportunities for one’s education.

The well-known Kothari Commission, 1964-66 recommended that Central Government should undertake the responsibility in education for the equalization of educational opportunities with special reference to the reduction of inter-state differences and the advancement of the weaker section of the community.

Provisions under Article 45 of the Directive Principles of State Policy that, “The state shall endeavour to provide within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory Education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.”

Article 15, 17, 46 safeguard the educational interests of the weaker sections of the Indian Community, that is, socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

Under Article 46 of the Constitution, the federal government is responsible for the economic and educational development of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

All these years successive governments in Centre and various states have been running away from their prime responsibility to provide free and compulsory quality education to all children. Though several committees have been appointed on educational matters, no government accepted suggestions for democratic and equitable education system in our country. The state that always supported the interest of the elite class/caste sabotaged the idea of common school system. It thwarted all possibility for the emergence of a country that got equality, freedom from the tyranny of caste system, discrimination and all kind of oppression. 

What happened with the implementation of District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), which was continued with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), was the collusion of Indian state with World Bank and International Monitory Fund (IMF), the agents of Imperial forces.  It was aimed at confining the quality elementary education and higher education only for the minority elite class. Now Indian education is widely open for the market forces to implement their agenda of business and profiteering. It will force the children from the marginalized sections , if possible to be literate, to find livelihood in some unorganized sections, self employed sectors or some kind of laborers (skilled or unskilled) without any right to demand any job opportunities that require deep knowledge and sophisticated skills. 

The Allahabad High court verdict has serious implications and it could be the first step towards a common school system where every children of India will have equitable and quality free education if implemented without diluting. It is a crucial step to improve the education system in government schools and thus the entire education system in the country which would weaken and annihilate the private school lobby which has grown to a mafia now. Though this verdict does not have all the essential provisions for a strengthening the public school system, if implemented nationwide it would give hope for a society with relatively less disparity and oppression.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Children Deprived of Learning Experience.

It was during the journey to Madhya Pradesh, I could enjoy the company of a 4 year old girl Roshni. She belongs to a rural area of Gorakhpur district born to a farmer family. Just like any other girl of that age she explored all the opportunities for fun and excitement with fellow passengers. Gradually I turned my focus on reading a book and others slipped down to silence. She could observe the stillness and grabbed a notebook from her mother’s bag and started scribbling Hindi alphabet and drawing some pictures. No one advised her to do so and it was her own initiative. 

Teachers and parents who always attempt ‘creating interest’ in children to learn lessons, acquire knowledge and skills often are unmindful of the fact that children are self motivated and there is an inherent urge in them to learn new things and experience the joy of exploring the unknown. There is pure desire for development which is shaped in their own pace and nature. Disregarding this universal fact, we use coercive strategies and classroom and home give them undesirable moments of tyranny. What could have been realized just by creating conducive atmosphere and supplemented by some kind of stimuli turns to be hegemony of the elders over children to achieve certain results without considering the organic system of childhood. 

The situation in most of the  rural public schools  are different though they produce the same result of their semi urban/urban counterpart of private schools that practice non productive education which impart curriculum with information that are transmitted to children through conventional pedagogy. Different situation does not mean productive atmosphere, on the other hand it is rather free of pressure from parents, teachers, peers and community at large. Most of the rural Government schools are last shelter for vulnerable children who can’t afford private school expense. Public education system has not moved forward from rudimentary facilities of all weather building, black board, chalk and text books with few teachers, in most of the time inadequate to maintain the approved child teacher ratio, to run the show sponsored by the state. In the midst of this deplorable condition few children acquire the status of being literate that enable them to reproduce information (not knowledge) without understanding which is the beginning of rote learning. The other children remain drop out (actually they are pushed out as the eminent educationist Prof. Anil Sadgopal describes due to the discouraging and unproductive classroom experience) or continue attending class without learning anything substantial until they find a compelling situation to earn a living. 

It is important to investigate why children who have the instinct to learn, to enjoy the excitement of discovering new things and grow remain stunted in the schools. Every year Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) analysis by Pratham reminds us of the poor learning outcomes in the Government schools which promote the capable parents not to send their children to Government schools. Children at the age of 2 to 4 learn a language fails to learn anything more in the classrooms prove the dismal atmosphere they are made part of. It is important for every educator and responsible citizens of our nation to recognize why our schools fail to encouraging children to develop inquiring minds and ability to find answers to millions of questions through personal and collective investigations. 

It is hard to find any objects in the Govt. schools that stimulate the children to learn and attain knowledge through action. Even library and laboratories are luxurious and unimaginable amenities in Government schools. Children in these schools are denied every opportunity to work and gain knowledge which is beyond the conventional chalk and talk pedagogy. There is neither opportunities for them to acquire knowledge nor to be creators of new knowledge. The situation embarks on catastrophic end when the content of curriculum and pedagogy are completely disconnected from their reality. Children in the rural areas do not find a linkage between the lessons given in the prescribed textbook and their realities and finally withdraw themselves from the system. Most of the teachers who are burdened with responsibilities of maintaining records are discontented about their job for various reasons and they do not make any effort to contribute something of their own to improve the miserable state of affairs. 

It is obvious that children in every school should be given opportunity to work with equipments and experience knowledge through doing and observing rather than unreceptive storing information to reproduce to prove their competence. The aim of productive classroom should be to build conscious citizens for a truly democratic, egalitarian, secular and enlightened India. Therefore it is essential to create classrooms that foster creativity, innate desire in every child to learn and experience the joy of productive knowledge considering the diverse needs of young minds and socioe-conomic realities.