देश में 34 साल बाद एक बार फिर से शिक्षा नीति में बदलाव होने जा रहा है। अच्छी बात यह है कि यह बदलाव प्राथमिक स्तर पर भी हुआ है। यानि बच्चों के बुनियादी ढांचे को मज़बूत करने पर भी ज़ोर दिया गया है।

नई नीति के तहत इस बात पर फोकस किया गया है कि प्राथमिक लेवेल से ही बच्चे का रुझान सीखने की तरफ बना रहे। यह एक अच्छी सोच है। साइंस और कंप्यूटर के इस दौर में पढ़ने के साथ-साथ सीखने पर भी ज़ोर दिया जाना ज़रूरी है। 

कोरोना काल में ‘सब पढ़ें-सब बढ़ें’ की दुनिया ही बदल गई

जब हम पढ़ा करते थे, तो प्राइमरी स्कूल की दीवार पर एक बड़ी पेंसिल के ऊपर स्कूल का झोला लटकाए दो बच्चे बैठे हुए छपे रहते थे, जिनके नीचे बड़े-बड़े अक्षरों में लिखा होता था, “सब पढ़ें-सब बढ़ें।” आज भी अधिकतर स्कूलों की दीवारों पर ऐसे ही स्लोगन मिटे हुए, घिसे हुए नज़र आते हैं। शिक्षा नीति से अलग यदि कोरोना महामारी में इस स्लोगन का अर्थ समझें तो यही काफी अलग नज़र आता है।

कोरोना काल से पहले तक “सब पढ़ें-सब बढ़ें” की दुनिया बहुत अलग थी। मैं यह नहीं कहता कि उस समय भी ना सब पढ़ रहे थे या ना सब बढ़ रहे थे। दिक्कतें उस समय भी थीं लेकिन हमें समझना होगा कि यह महामारी सिर्फ आर्थिक संकट लेकर नहीं आई है।

यह जो अपने साथ लेकर आई है, उसके बहुत सारे दूरगामी परिणाम होने वाले हैं जिसमें से एक है भारतीय शिक्षा व्यवस्था की डांवाडोल स्थिति। बस इसी स्थिति को हम दिल्ली से 650 किमी दूर उत्तर प्रदेश के सुल्तानपुर ज़िले के आसपास के गाँव से समझने की कोशिश करेंगे।

क्या बच्चे अब अनुशासनहीनता नहीं करेंगे?

ज़िले के तिरहुत बाज़ार में एक छोटा सा कोचिंग सेंटर है, जिसे अनुज कुमार अग्रहरि चलाते हैं। जब हम उनसे बात करने पहुंचे तो उनके पिता ने बताया, “लॉकडाउन के बाद से उनकी पोती साक्षी अग्रहरी भारी डिप्रेशन में है। वह अभी-अभी दसवीं कक्षा में आई है। उसे पढ़ने का बहुत शौक है लेकिन स्कूल बंद होने से बेहद निराशा में चली गई है।”

बातचीत के दौरान जब हमने उनसे पूछा कि क्या स्कूल को करोना की वजह से अब फोन पर चलाए जा रहे हैं? तो उनका तर्क था कि पहले तो स्कूल, बच्चों को मोबाइल से दूर रखने पर ज़ोर दिया करते थे। स्कूल में पढ़ाई के दौरान जिन बच्चों के पास मोबाइल पाया जाता था, उन्हें अनुशासनहीनता के लिए सस्पेंड कर दिया जाता था। अब वही स्कूल के लोग बोल रहे हैं मोबाइल पर पढ़ाई होगी। 

क्या बच्चे अब अनुशासनहीनता नहीं करेंगे? अब हम कैसे तय करेंगे कि बच्चा फोन का इस्तेमाल पढ़ने में ही कर रहा है? वे ऐसे बहुत से सवाल उठाते हैं लेकिन जब हम उनके बेटे अनुज से बात करते हैं तो वह अपने पिता की बात से बिलकुल अलग तर्क देते हैं। उनका मानना था कि परिस्थिति के साथ इंसान को बदलते रहना चाहिए। सरकार किसी भी तरह से यदि बच्चों को मौका दे रही है, तो सबको आगे आकर उसका साथ देना चाहिए।

समाज में बहुत ही असमानता है

इसी बीच अनुज एक ज़रूरी बात यह भी कहते हैं कि समाज में बहुत ही असमानता है। जिस समाज में दो जून की रोटी का जुगाड़ करना मुश्किल हो, वहां किस तरह से बच्चों को डिजिटल क्लास रूम या मोबाइल से पढ़ाया जा सकेगा?” अनुज के अनुसार ग्रामीण समाज आज भी बहुत पिछड़ा हुआ है। वह इतना ज़रूरतमंद है कि ऐसे मौके काफी होते है बच्चों को काम पर लगाने के लिए। सरकारें चाहे जो भी कोशिश करें लेकिन लोग शिक्षा के महत्व से आज भी अनजान हैं। 

यही कारण है कि अपने बच्चों को मज़दूरी में धकेल देते हैं। अनुज की बात से बिलकुल अलग दलित समाज की एक किसान महिला सुनीता देवी जिनकी उम्र करीब तीस साल है, अपने दो बेटे और एक बेटी का स्कूल में नामांकन करा रखा है। उनकी चिंता है कि घर में टच वाला फोन नहीं है। ऐसे में अब वह अपने बच्चों को कैसे पढ़ाएंगी? उन्हें इस बात का मलाल है कि लॉकडाउन में दिल्ली और लखनऊ में पढ़ने वाले बच्चे तो आगे निकल जायेंगे और हमारे बच्चे घास छिलते रह जायेंगे।

सुनीता की चिंता सिर्फ़ उनके बच्चे तक सीमित नहीं है बल्कि वह ऑनलाइन शिक्षा के तरीके पर भी सवाल खड़ा कर रही हैं। “घास छिलते रह जाएंगे हमारे बच्चे।” यह वह शब्द हैं जो दिल्ली जैसे अत्यंत आधुनिक सुख सुविधाओं से लैस महानगर और अति पिछड़े उनके गांव की हकीक़त बयान करता है। हकीकत तो यह है कि ऊपर से बराबर दिखने वाला हमारा यह समाज असल में एक चौड़ी खाई में बंटा हुआ है। ऐसे में यह प्रश्न उठता है कि क्या हम इस कोरोना काल में एक ऐसी पीढ़ी तैयार करने वाले हैं। जहां मज़दूर का बच्चा मज़दूर बनने को मज़बूर हो जायेगा?

सरकारी मास्टर अपने सरकारी अंदाज़ से ड्यूटी निभा रहे हैं

इसी क्षेत्र में स्थित सुखपाल इंटर कॉलेज में हिंदी के अध्यापक शिव चंदर मौर्य मानते हैं कि देहात के अस्सी प्रतिशत इलाकों में बच्चे गरीब हैं। इनके पास या तो मोबाइल नहीं है या है भी तो बटन वाला छोटा फोन है। उनके अनुसार हम अपने सभी छात्रों से फोन पर लगातार जुड़े हुए हैं। हम मैसेज के ज़रिए उन्हें पढ़ाते हैं। अगर कोई शंका किसी को हो तो वह हमें बेझिझक कभी भी फोन कर सकते हैं। हम सरकार के सभी आदेशों का पालन भी कर रहे हैं।

मौर्य जी सरकारी मास्टर हैं तो अपने सरकारी अंदाज़ में जवाब दे रहे थे लेकिन उनकी बात की हमने पड़ताल की। मैंने उसी गांव के एक छात्र दिनेश से बात की तो उसका कहना था कि उसे तो अभी तक कोई फोन नहीं आया है। उसने भी पहले यह सुना था कि फोन से पढ़ाई होगी लेकिन एक महीने इंतज़ार के बाद भी उसके पास कोई फोन नहीं आया। दिनेश ने बताया कि फिर घर बैठ कर भी क्या करता? उसने लॉकडाउन में सब्ज़ी बेचना शुरु कर दी। जिससे वह घर वालों की आर्थिक मदद कर रहा है। 

हालांकि उसे आज भी स्कूल खुलने का इंतज़ार है लेकिन अगर नहीं खुले तो वह सब्ज़ी बेचने का काम ज़ारी रखेगा। दिनेश ग्यारह साल का है लेकिन मोल भाव में ब़ड़े बड़ों को पछाड़ देता है। वह रोज़ सुबह अपना ठेला लेकर जाता है और शाम को वापस लौटता है। वह भी उसी प्राइमरी स्कूल के सामने से, जिसकी दीवार पर लिखा हुआ है “सब पढ़ें-सब बढ़ें।”

अब देखना यह है कि नई शिक्षा नीति से सभी बच्चों को समान रूप से पढ़ने और देश के विकास में भागीदार बनने का कितना अवसर प्राप्त होगा? या फिर एक बार फिर से यह नारा सरकारी फाइलों और दीवारों तक ही महज़ सीमित होकर रह जायेगा।

आपने अक्सर कुछ घुमक्कड़ टाइप के लोगों को कहते सुना होगा, “घूमने के पैसे नहीं लगते।” या फिर ऐसे किसी व्यक्ति से मिले होंगे जिन्होंने बताया होगा कि वो पिछले 3 या 4 सालों से दुनियां की सैर पर निकले हैं। ऐसे में मन में सवाल आता है कि आखिर ये कितने अमीर लोग हैं कि लगातार घूमते रहते हैं या फिर यह कैसे कमाई करते हुए घूमते रहते हैं?

पहले मैं अपना एक निजी अनुभव बताता हूं। पिछले साल विपश्यना (A form of Meditation) के दौरान मैं ऐसे ही एक मलेशियाई व्यक्ति से मिला जिसने बताया कि वो पिछले 6 साल से पूरी दुनिया घूम रहे हैं। जिसमें उन्होंने सबसे ज़्यादा वक्त यूरोप के देशों में बिताया।

सफर करने के लिए उन्होंने “हिचहाइकिंग” किया और वहां खाने और कभी-कभी ठहरने के लिए वो स्ट्रीट सिंगिंग के ज़रिये पैसों का इंतज़ाम कर लेते थे। आपको बता दें कि यूरोप के देशों में यह विधा काफी प्रचलित है जिसका इस्तेमाल अक्सर ट्रैवलर्स करते हैं।

हिचहाइकिंग क्या है?

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर। फोटो साभार- Flickr

यह कोई रॉकेट साइंस नहीं है। हम भारतीय भी अक्सर कहीं पर ट्रांसपोर्ट की सुविधा ना होने पर आने-जाने वाले दुपहिया या चार पहिया वाहनों से लिफ्ट लेकर अपने नियत स्थान तक जाते हैं। घूमने के परिपेक्ष्य में एक-जगह से दूसरी जगह जाने का यही तरीका “हिचहाइकिंग” कहलाता है।

और पढ़ें: ईको साउंड सिस्टम और इत्रदान महल से लैस MP के रायसेन किले की हो रही है उपेक्षा

अब सवाल यह उठता है कि यह शब्द कहां से आया? दरअसल, रास्ते से गुज़रने वाले लोगों से अनुरोध करके लिफ्ट लेकर यात्रा करने का यह तरीका यानी हिचहाइकिंग 1920 के आसपास अमेरिका के प्रांतों में समृद्ध हुआ।

अपने देश में कितना सफल है हिचहाइकिंग

फोटो साभार- सोशल मीडिया

सभी देशों में हिचहाइकिंग के अपने-अपने लाभ और चुनौतियां हैं। भारत में हिचहाइकिंग के लिहाज़ से सबसे उपयोगी प्राइवेट वाहन है। दरअसल, लम्बी दूरी तय करने वाले ट्रक के अलावा जैसे-जैसे चार-पहिया वाहन बढ़ रहे हैं, वैसे-वैसे लोग हिचहाइकिंग को लेकर पॉज़िटिव हो रहे हैं। इस प्रकार अब यात्रा तय करने और घूमने का तरीका आसान होता जा रहा।

और पढ़ें: दिल्ली की इन 5 बेहतरीन जगहों पर पहुंचना है बेहद आसान और सस्ता

इंटरनेट पर आपको हिचहाइकिंग की तमाम कहानियां मिल जाएंगी, जो आपको प्रभावित कर सकती हैं और साथ ही चुनौतियों से कैसे निपटना है, इसकी जानकारी भी आपको मिल जाएंगी। इन्हें सर्च करने का तरीका आसान है। आपको सर्च करना है “Hitchhiking in India” जिसके बाद कई सारे ब्लॉग्स और आर्टिकल्स के लिंक आपको मिल जाएंगे। ऐसे में इसके बारे में आप अपनी समझ बना सकते हैं।

इसके साथ ही आप Hitchwiki.org पर जाकर इससे सम्बंधित जानकारियां हासिल कर सकते हैं। तो अब अगर आप भी बिना पैसे के दुनियां घूमने का सपना देख रहे हैं, तो यह तरीका आपके काम आने वाला है।


संदर्भ- An Informal History of Hitchhiking. By John T. Schlebecker

आंगनवाड़ी कार्यकर्ता और आशा वर्कर्स कोरोना वायरस के रोकथाम से जुड़े कामों में जुटी हुई हैं। लिहाजा, गरीब बच्चों का टीकाकरण और पोषण का बुनियादी काम प्रभावित हो रहा है। लॉकडाउन की वजह से आंगनवाड़ी केंद्र कुछ समय से बंद हैं।

विशेषज्ञों का कहना है कि लंबे समय तक यही स्थिति रही, तो आगे चलकर छोटे बच्चों और गर्भवती महिलाओं की सेहत को लेकर नतीजे़ खराब मिल सकते हैं। देश की शिशु मृत्यु दर भी प्रभावित हो सकती है।

टीकाकरण का अभियान हुआ है प्रभावित

महिला एवं बाल विकास मंत्रालय के अधिकारियों के मुताबिक, लॉकडाउन के दौरान आंगनवाड़ी कार्यकर्ता घर-घर जाकर आईसीडीएस लाभार्थियों के घर पर सूखा राशन दाल, गेहूं आदि पहुंचाने की कोशिश कर रही हैं लेकिन टीकाकरण अभियान प्रमुख प्राइमरी स्वास्थ्य केंद्र तक सिमट गया है।

स्वास्थ्य के मुद्दों पर राजस्थान के सभी ज़िलों में काम कर रहे गैर-सरकारी संगठन एसआरकेपीएस की प्रोग्राम अधिकारी ज्योति चौधरी ने बताया कि यहां आंगनवाड़ी केंद्रों में टीकाकरण महीने के हर चौथे सोमवार और गुरुवार को होता था।

Asha Workers working in the time of corona
काम करती हुई आशा वर्कर्स, तस्वीर साभार: YKA यूज़र

इसके अलावा कार्यकर्ता भी घर-घर जाती थी लेकिन अब प्रमुख स्वास्थ्य केंद्रों में टीकाकरण हो रहा है। वह मानती हैं कि बच्चों को साथ लेकर दूर तक आना ग्रामीणों के लिए मुश्किल है।

दिल्ली, नोएडा और फरीबाद में आंगनवाड़ी कार्यकर्ताओं के साथ काम कर रहे संगठन मातृ सुधा के प्रमुख अरविंद सिंह ने कहा कि आंगनवाड़ी केंद्रों का रूटीन काम ठप हो गया है। सूखे राशन की आपूर्ति संतोषजनक नहीं है। समय पर टीकाकरण नहीं होने से आगे चलकर बच्चों की सेहत पर खराब असर हो सकता है।

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर

वह बताते हैं कि सूखे राशन के नाम पर कई जगह पंजीरी और मूंगफली भी बांटी जा रही हैं। इसे लेकर सरकार से शिकायत भी की गई है।
उधर देश में शिशु मृत्यु दर के ताज़ा आंकड़े भी इतने अच्छे नहीं है।

क्या कहते हैं शिशु मृत्यु दर के आंकड़े?

महारजिस्ट्रार एवं जनगणना आयुक्त की ओर से मई, 2020 में जारी सैम्पल रजिस्ट्रेशन सिस्टम (एसआरएस) बुलेटिन के मुताबिक, साल 2018 की शिशु मृत्यु दर (आईएमआर) प्रति एक हज़ार जन्मे बच्चों में 32 शिशुओं की मृत्यु है।

भले ही 10 सालों में शिशु मृत्यु दर में काफी कमी आई है लेकिन इसके बावजूद राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर हर 31 शिशुओं में से एक शिशु की जीवन के पहले पांच साल में ही मौत जाती है।

गाँव में हर 28 शिशुओं में एक और शहरों में हर 43 शिशुओं में एक शिशु की मृत्य जन्म लेने से एक साल के अंदर हो जाती है। वहीं, ताज़ा आंकड़ों के मुताबिक मध्य प्रदेश में आईएमआर का यह आंकड़ा सबसे ज़्यादा 48, राजस्थान में 37 और छत्तीसगढ़ में 41 है।

केंद्र सरकार ने पिछले हफ्ते राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति को मंजूरी दे दी। जून 2019 में डॉ. के. कस्तूरीरंगन (इस्रो के भूतपूर्व अध्यक्ष) समिति का मसौदा सरकार ने जारी किया था। तभी से राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति पूरे देश भर में भारी चर्चा का विषय बनी हुई थी। सरकार के मुताबिक, इस पर जनता की ओर से करीब 2 लाख 25 हज़ार सुझाव आए थे।

सरकार की किसी प्रस्तावित नीति को लेकर शायद ही जनता में कभी इतनी उत्सुकता रही हो लेकिन राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति-2019 का मसौदा था ही कुछ अलग। वह सरकारी नीति-निर्देश का दस्तावेज कम और कोई रोमांचक उपन्यास ज़्यादा लग रही थी।

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर

हिन्दी में करीब 650 पन्नों का यह दस्तावेज कपोल-कल्पनाओं से भरा पड़ा है लेकिन शिक्षा नीति को लेकर इस दस्तावेज में वर्तमान शिक्षा व्यवस्था का कहीं कोई अभ्यासपूर्ण विश्लेषण नहीं है।

बच्चों के लिए घर से स्कूल की दूरी कितनी हो नहीं है इस बात का ज़िक्र

प्रारम्भिक बाल्यावस्था में देखभाल और शिक्षा (Early Childhood Care and Education/ECCE) का महत्व बताने में कई पन्ने घिस डाले लेकिन बच्चों के लिए घर से स्कूल की दूरी कितनी हो इसका कहीं कोई ज़िक्र नहीं है। यह बात इसलिए अहम हो जाती है, क्योंकि आर्थिक व्यवहार्यता के नाम पर स्कूलों को बंद करके स्कूल कॉम्प्लेक्स नाम की नई संकल्पना विकसित करने का प्रस्ताव मसौदा नीति में था।

सरकार ने अब राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति 2020 में अंतिम रूप से स्कूल कॉम्प्लेक्स की संकल्पना को मंजूरी तो दे दी है लेकिन ईसीसीई (ECCE) के तहत बच्चों के लिए घर से स्कूल की दूरी कितनी हो इस बात का अब भी कोई ज़िक्र नहीं किया है। स्कूल कॉम्प्लेक्स और ईसीसीई (ECCE) कैसे शिक्षा क्षेत्र में क्रांति लाएगी, इस पर उपन्यास की तर्ज़ पर लफ्फाजी ज़रूर है।

school children playing in a classroom
प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर

एनईपी 2019 के मसौदा नीति में कोई भी अनुभवजन्य साक्ष्य नहीं थे। वर्तमान शिक्षण व्यवस्था में जो व्यापक संशोधन और सुधार उसमें सुझाए गए हैं उसका कोई भी कारण नहीं दिया गया था। विभिन्न क्षेत्रों में वर्तमान प्रणाली के साथ क्या गलत है?

सामाजिक और शैक्षिक रूप से वंचित समूह की बात क्यों नहीं है?

इसके विस्तृत अध्ययन और विश्लेषण की पेशकश करने में वह मसौदा पूर्ण रूप से विफल था। राष्ट्र के लिए नीति निर्माण में तर्क और वैज्ञानिक सोच की संवैधानिक भावना को ही इस मसौदे ने नकार दिया था।

जो शिक्षा नीति अब 29 जुलाई 2020 को केंद्रीय मंत्री मण्डल ने मंजूर की है वह 2019 के मसौदे के तर्ज़ पर ही है। उस में सामाजिक और शैक्षिक रूप से पिछड़े वर्गों की आवश्यकताओं को देखते हुए कोई ईमानदार प्रावधान नहीं है।

संविधान के अनुच्छेद 15 और 16 में सामाजिक और शैक्षणिक रूप से पिछड़े वर्गों के हित की बात की गई है लेकिन सरकार द्वारा मंजूर शिक्षा नीति में इससे किनारा करते हुए एक नई संकल्पना ईज़ाद कर दी।

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर

2019 के मसौदे में उसे अल्प प्रतिनिधित्व वाले समूह (Under Represented Groups/URG) कहा गया था। अंतिम स्वीकृत शिक्षा नीति में उन्हें सामाजिक और आर्थिक रूप से वंचित समूह (Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups/SEDG) नाम दे दिया गया है। आप कह ही नहीं सकते कि ‘नाम में क्या रखा है?’

URG हो या अब नया नाम SEDG हो, यह परिभाषा सामाजिक-आर्थिक पिछड़ेपन की संकल्पना पर निर्भर करती है जो कि संवैधानिक परिभाषा के विपरीत है।

विडंबना यह है कि शिक्षा पर नीति के मसौदे में ना तो देश में प्रचलित शैक्षणिक पिछड़ेपन के बारे में कोई आंकड़ा है, ना ही कोई विश्लेषण। राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति में संविधान मान्य सामाजिक और शैक्षिक रूप से वंचित समूह की बात क्यों नहीं है, यह एक गूढ़ प्रश्न है।

राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति में ‘आरक्षण’ शब्द का नहीं है उल्लेख

सरकार द्वारा मंजूर शिक्षा नीति, संवैधानिक मूल्य जैसे की समता, स्वातंत्र्य, न्याय और बंधुभाव की बात तो करती है लेकिन उन्हें वास्तविक रूप देने के लिए जो संवैधानिक उपाय हैं, उनका ज़िक्र तक नहीं करती है।

इसीलिए पूरी राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति में ‘आरक्षण’ शब्द का उल्लेख ही नहीं है। आरक्षण को लेकर मोदी सरकार कि नियत तो सभी को पता है। ऐसे में, राष्ट्रीय नीति नियोजन में संविधान में दिए गए स्पष्ट दिशा-निर्देशों को इस तरह पूर्णतः नज़रअंदाज़ करना कहां तक उचित है?

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर

सरकार को यह बात समझ लेनी चाहिए कि सामाजिक-शैक्षणिक रूप से पिछड़े परिवार के बच्चों को शिक्षा का वह माहौल कभी नहीं मिल सकता जो गरीब लेकिन शिक्षित परिवार के बच्चों को मिलता है।

ऐसे में, शैक्षणिक रूप से पिछड़े परिवार के बच्चों की प्रतिभा को पहचानने के लिए ‘आरक्षण’ के माध्यम से संतुलन-समभाव (माडरेशन) साधना ही होगा। सरकार को चाहिए कि वह राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति में ‘आरक्षण’ व्यवस्था बहाल करें और वैसा स्पष्ट उल्लेख उसमे आने दे।

Relationships are just as fragile as silk threads, aren’t they? The moment you lose the thread, all of the relationships you hold dear, run the risk of getting hampered. Also, the fact that relationships can, at times, turn toxic cannot be taken out of the picture either. ‘Raat Akeli Hai’, which marks the directorial debut of Honey Trehan, seeks to familiarize you with the complexities associated with running a family.

Raat Akeli Hai Review
Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays a cop in the film.

An Overview Of The Movie

A rich patriarch dies on the day of his wedding, and a small-town cop is assigned to the case. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays a no-nonsense cop named Jatil Yadav and will surpass all barriers to deliver justice. Believe it when he says: ‘Yeh jo kaand hua hai na, hum karenge uski jaanch‘ (The mishap that has taken place, I am going to investigate it.) Interestingly, the patriarch was supposed to marry his mistress the night he died. Each of the family members seems to be hiding a secret.

To complicate the matter, the patriarch’s mistress shares a history with Jatil. The story line ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ is a crime drama based in Uttar Pradesh. Inspector Jatil Yadav is summoned to investigate a murder and goes about his business rather quickly. He prances across the house and realizes that there’s more to the case than what meets the eye. In all fairness, Honey Trehan’s directorial debut is a murder mystery straight out of the textbook: A pompous wedding, a rich (but old) bridegroom, a young mistress, and a murder.

As the story progresses, a few interesting, and somewhat shocking, revelations come to the fore. The story keeps swinging between the past and the present. Also, quite a few lighter moments have been added into the narrative (at various junctures). Take this for an example: Jatil’s mother, played by the ever-dependable Ila Arun, is on the lookout for a bride. She wants her son to marry, but the only ‘dosh’ (flaw) in him is that his ‘rang’ is not ‘saaf’ (fair).

Power games begin when Jatil confronts Munna Raja, a local politician. All in all, the movie’s storyline has enough thrills and spills to keep you hooked. Radhika Apte plays a mistress in the movie.

The Performances

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the rudder of a ship stuck in troubled waters and doesn’t take long to get into his stride. He has been donning the gangster’s garb for so long that it was indeed refreshing to see him on the other side. The vulnerabilities engulfing his character are brought to light at various junctures during the course of the film. The best part is: he throws caution to the winds and goes about his job with utmost sincerity.

Also, pairing him alongside Radhika Apte was quite a smart move as the pair looks formidable on screen. Moreover, Siddiqui knows what he’s doing and does so with prowess. Radhika Apte, just as Nawazuddin Siddiqui, looks convincing right from the word go. Her character (Radha) has been carved out with a lot of care and precision. Also, her eyes are mysterious, and you can sense that she’s troubled.

Apte makes her presence felt despite having limited dialogues at her disposal. The likes of Tigmanshu Dhulia, Ila Arun, Shweta Tripathi, and Aditya Shrivastav have all done their bit.

Direction

Honey Trehan does a reasonably good job behind the camera as he succeeds in putting together a gripping narrative. The fact that toxic masculinity can (more often than not) contribute to the putrefaction of the household has been brought to light with great skill and prowess. The first half of the movie deals with toxic masculinity and all of the characters showcased in the movie have been provided with enough depth.

The surroundings and the aesthetics add a significant amount of believability to the setup. All in all, the movie should definitely make it to your watchlist. Watch it for Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s stellar act.

Rating: 4/5

Also read: Opinion: ‘Baahubali’ Is A Critic’s Delight For Its Multifaceted Characters

Many ask this question and sometimes, most of the people unanimously think that Sachin Pilot will join BJP. Will he join BJP? I don’t think so. Sachin Pilot has no future in BJP or in Congress. Why? Read On.

Since the first assembly election in 1952 to the 1985 eight assembly election, it was Congress ruling Rajasthan except for a brief period of 1977-1980 when Janata Party ruled Rajasthan. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was the CM on behalf of the Janata Party. In 1990, BJP along with Janata Dal (both were emerged out of Janata Party) got the majority. In 1993, BJP became the largest party with 95 seats and formed a coalition government led by Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

In the 1998 assembly elections, Congress got 153 seats with the three-fourth majority while BJP got just 33 seats. That was the only time when Congress got a majority of its own. Since then although governments were changed alternatively, Congress never got the majority of its own, rather whenever BJP won, it got the majority of its own. For example, in 2003 and 2013, BJP got 120 and 163 against Congress’ 56 and 21 respectively. On the other hand, in 2008 and 2018 Congress got 96 and 100 seats against BJP’s 78 and 73 seats.

Even if we consider Parliament elections since 1989, BJP was getting more seats than Congress, except in 1998 and 2009. In 2014 and 2019, BJP got all the Loksabha seats. All these data above shows that Rajasthan is a BJP dominated state where anti-incumbency gave some advantage to Congress to be the single largest party in the last two decades. After Narendra Modi entered into the national polity, Rajasthan is wholeheartedly rallying behind Narendra Modi.

Let’s come to Sachin Pilot. If he joins BJP, will he get CM post? The answer is a clear no. He can’t supersede many veterans like Vasundhara Raje, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and others. Does he stand any chance in BJP’s central government? Well, at best, he can be an MoS. He was already Deputy CM in Rajasthan and in Congress culture, his maximum position is to be the CM of the state. With Congress, he wasn’t given the CM post, in BJP he would never get the CM post, then what’s his gambit?

Here you can ask an expert, had there been no Sachin Pilot, Vasundhara Raje would have retained power through the charisma of Narendra Modi. In the 2018 assembly election, BJP had a vote share of 38.8%, which is just 0.5% less than the vote share of Congress (39.3%). One can gauge Sachin Pilot’s contribution from 2013 to 2018. It’s him who mobilized votes for Congress to counter Narendra Modi’s charisma. It was a fact that Vasundhra Raje was facing huge anti-incumbency, but Narendra Modi’s campaign almost made BJP the winner, but it’s Sachin Pilot who takes away many votes, even from people who are fans of Narendra Modi.

Congress did a blunder in denying Sachin Pilot his due. Maybe the Congress high command depended on old guard or didn’t want to give chance to Sachin Pilot to emerge as a mass leader who could be a threat to the dynasty. Whatever might have happened, Sachin Pilot knows that he doesn’t have any future in Congress.

Here we must realize that the Sachin Pilot case is very different from Jyotoraditya Scindia and Hemant Biswasarma. Scindia influenced a part of MP and was cornered by both Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh. So, he had no future in Congress nor he is considered as a leader of the whole of MP. Similarly, in the presence of Tarun Gogoi and his son Gourav Gogoi, Hemant had no future in Assam and he alone can’t sustain a party.

But Sachin Pilot can float an independent regional party. He was the face of Congress for the last six years. If he floats a party, he could add many Congress leaders and ground workers of the state. His regional party can occupy the entire Congress space in Rajasthan. Just see the example of Andhra Pradesh! The Congress high command denied Jagan Ready his due and YSRCP simply occupied entire Congress space in Andhra Pradesh.

Sachin pilot may not succeed in the 2023 assembly election (although anything can happen in politics) but he can expand his party nationally accommodating many youth Congress leaders like Jatin Prasad, Milind Deora, Kuldip Bishnoi and many others from the pan-India-Congress space. He could be a better challenger to the Narendra Modi led BJP within the national space rather than the Rahul Gandhi led Congress.

Thus, I won’t be surprised if Sachin pilot floats his regional party post expelling/quitting/disqualification from Congress party. Those who think he will join BJP, I think they need to understand the real politics and ambition of youth leaders.

Will the Congress government topple in Rajasthan? I have my doubts. However, I won’t be surprised if there would be a mid-term election in 2021.

Also read: Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot’s Tussle For Power Will Be A Defining Moment For The Congress

Translated from Kokborok by Manisha Debbarma

Tripura’s tribal food is enjoyed by people across the state and even in other states. The food is so tasty that people are seldom satisfied with just one helping. Tripura has 19 tribes, and each tribe’s food culture is different from the other, so Tripura gets to enjoy a wide variety of food. In some of the tribes, every vegetable that is used in cooking is obtained from jhum cultivation, which tribals in Tripura have been practicing for a long time now. During jhum cultivation, no chemical fertilizers are used, and people depend on natural fertilizers to produce fresh and organic vegetables.

Among the beloved dishes of the tribals in Tripura is Bugini curry. What makes this dish unique is that the curry is cooked without any oil or masala—as is usually done in many parts of India. Therefore, the tribals call this curry the “pure curry”.

Ingredients needed to cook Bugini curry

Cooking Bugini Curry

To cook the Bugini curry, we use the white portion inside the banana tree, potato, salt, chilli, dry fish, beans, cauliflower stem and flour. Sometimes, even potatoes are added to the curry.

The water is first boiled in a pot for about 5-10 minutes. The dry fish, salt, chilly and turmeric are then put in the water. After five minutes, the vegetables are added. A paste is made with 10 tablespoons of flour mixed with water, and that paste is added to the curry. The curry is stirred and mixed properly and cooked for five minutes, and the Bugini curry is ready to consume! Bugini curry can be consumed with rice or roti.

Bugini curry

This curry is considered to be very healthy since it is oil-free and made of fresh vegetables and nothing more. Although this is a very old recipe passed down from generation to generation in the tribes of Tripura, people still cook and eat it today. I hope the next generation of tribals continues to cook this tasty dish, preserving the tradition of eating fresh and healthy food from organic vegetables.

Also read: With A Rise In Demand For Pork, Tribals In Tripura Are Turning To Pig Farming

This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.

On freeing bandhan (bond) from Raksha (protection)

Rakshan Bandhan, a beautiful bond between a brother and sister, a festival of love among siblings, right?

Then where does Raksha fit in? The moment a brother is expected to ‘protect’ his sister, isn’t the girl automatically assumed to be weaker?

I remember countless evenings when, after a late college programme, a well-meaning teacher would ask one of the classmates, “Will you accompany her home?” I used to always wonder how this thin, lanky boy of the same age as mine, not any stronger, was really going to ‘protect’ me, especially when I was the one trained in martial arts.

Then, one may ask, whom are they protecting you from? Other men? Then isn’t it better for the boy to promise to respect every woman instead, so he doesn’t need to ‘protect’ her?

We usually don’t see the root problem every time the hero’s sister gets kidnapped or raped because of a fight between two men. The brother swore to protect her on Raksha Bandhan, so if the enemy succeeds in raping her, the brother has failed. Do we even note the toxicity of this thought that gets perpetrated in our movies and serials, and lives everywhere?

The moment a brother is expected to ‘protect’ his sister, isn’t the girl automatically assumed to be weaker?

In many homes with economic troubles, the daughters help in the kitchen, sacrifice their education and go to work much earlier, just so that the male members can get an education, get a job and uplift their families. Maybe Raksha Bandhan in those homes is a promise from the brother to not forget the love of the sister. In homes where there are no sons, the girl is often encouraged to tie a rakhi to a cousin or even a friend or neighbour. If it is just sibling love, why not just tie a rakhi to your sister?

Think more about who is truly protecting you then — our soldiers, policemen, the school security guards, the helper who takes care of the child when the family is away. Maybe this is a time to say thanks to them for keeping a watch, so we can breathe safe, and share a gift with them?

When you retell the great brother-sister bond between Draupadi and Krishna, rather than focusing on the piece of sari she tied on Krishna’s hand because of which the Lord saved her from her vastraharan, perhaps we should go deeper and look at the meaning of faith and surrender to the Lord in devotion. She called everyone in the court to see the injustice of her situation, but when nothing was working out, she turned to a greater power that gave her the solution to overcome the situation. If Draupadi had not tied that piece of her sari (the rakhi) around his finger, wouldn’t Krishna have answered her call?

Festivals are absolutely brilliant occasions for the families to come together and celebrate. Let us celebrate love, togetherness, and promises of shared memories that should not get lost in the ravages of time. If we bring Raksha into this, it better well be for those who truly protect us, and then it has to be a brother and sister tying a rakhi to our building watchman, who makes sure they are safe when we sleep.

Incorporating changes doesn’t rob our culture of its essence. Customs and rituals need to progress with the times, so they remain relevant and help the culture thrive. Then that will become a part of religion, a festival one wants to embrace, because it shapes the person you want to be, in a world you want to make.

Note: The article was originally published here

Also read: A Message For My Daughter, On Raksha Bandhan

The world across, Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms have gained immense popularity. The audiences have appreciated the concept, and look forward to quality content on them. BigFLIX was the first dependent Indian OTT platform, which was launched by Reliance Entertainment in 2008. 12 years down the line, we notice immense growth in the OTT industry. Various other apps and platforms have ventured into it, some of them being – Netflix (introduced in 2016 in India), Amazon Prime, Hotstar, SonyLiv, Voot, ALT Balaji. The growth can be credited to various factors.

OTT platforms are easily accessible to the audience. The increasing penetration of internet services has facilitated this easy accessibility more than anything else. This has helped to explode the consumption of digital content in India. Data consumption is what is needed, and each telecom service provider is ready to offer a cheaper and better data plan to defeat its competitor.

Unlike the traditional forms of media which were restricted to radio and television, OTT platforms offer services on various devices. The technology foundation that backs this industry is constantly evolving. Smartphones, tablets, and many more connected devices have grown at a significant rate. Not just data, these devices also come in affordable to luxurious price ranges. Players in the market attract customers with impressive discounts and premium plans of OTT platforms, on the purchase of a device. This is a double-win situation for any OTT platform being promoted in such schemes. More business is expected here since the younger audience spends more time on digital rather than the old, traditional forms of entertainment and media.

OTT platforms break the unsaid monopoly of channels which is often complained about in the television industry. More apps are entering the market. As the number of these platforms increase, so does the content on them. Some of their shows and originally released movies are extremely unconventional. They give us a break from the mainstream media and give way to fresh ideas and concepts.

The storylines are very different, and topics that have never possibly been touched in our Bollywood movies and shows, are discussed. Bulbbul on Netflix and Paatal Lok on Amazon Prime have gained the entire cast and crew immense applause from the audiences. Nepotism and the hatred towards it have been a hot topic for debate in the last few weeks. It is said that since Bollywood is run by the who’s who, survival without a godfather is very difficult.

OTT platforms come as a respite, and a hope of justice, as the shows and movies give space for new talents to prove their metal. There are so many underrated actors and actresses, who have not gotten their due credit and recognition. Pankaj Tripathi, Richa Chaddha, Manoj Bajpayee, Shweta Tripathi (to name just a few from the many) have thankfully been getting the appreciation they are worthy of. The shows and movies of these platforms are raved upon on social media.

A commendable point here is that regional content is made available too. For instance, Hoichoi offers a lot of original shows and movies in Bengali. So we know, the OTT platforms are proving to be a good fit for all sections of the audience. Nobody, but the consumers are the deal breakers or deal makers of how well they do.

With a plethora of new genres to offer, the future OTT platforms look fresh and promising. The consumers are the boss, they are homebound and they want fine content for their entertainment. An intuitive understanding of the liking and taste of the consumers is needed. The auto-app recommendations play a huge role in what the audience is going to watch. The binge-watchers and cravers of new concepts have accepted these platforms welcomingly.

The change of habits that the COVID-19 pandemic forced upon us, has helped in spiking subscriptions of these platforms. From the looks of it, what is definite is, that OTT platforms are here to stay. And it is a possibility, with an optimistic future and business ahead, people may entirely shift from cinema halls to these digital platforms. Though they deprive the viewers of a ‘community-watching’ experience, yet they guarantee more comfort and safety. ‘Netflix & Chill’ is now more than just a phrase. It is an emotion for so many.

Also read: Love Aaj Kal: It’s 2020 But The Trope Of Masculinity Persists In Bollywood

Once upon a time, I was a boy

Little, shabby and full of joy.

I rode the kingdom of my dreams

With my dear in my team.

 

We rode, we sang, we jumped afar

To catch the fame of a shining star;

But when we lost our glorious heist

She cried over my shoulders; her hands held tight.

 

“What’s the pain, oh! My dear?”
Because losing her was all, I fear.

 

“All I wanted, was the shinning fame

But I realized that was in vain”

 

 

Like a noble King of kings

I vowed to fulfill her every dream;

I worked for days, I worked for nights

I forfeited my every delight.

 

I squashed my dreams, I drowned my boats

With an everlasting and only hope,

That one day, when I return to my dear

Her eyes would be filled with joys of tear.

 

I grew up into a strong young mold,

With the fame which I could ever hold.

The fame which the star finally gave

Once I conquered the mighty and the braves.

 

So, I galloped back into my dear’s kingdom,

Who remembered me only a seldom.

I craved to see my dear queen

Who was by now sweet Seventeen.

 

Dressed in tiara and a silver white robe

There she was, my beautiful dove;

I dropped my knees and bowed in regard

But what I saw next slashed my heart.

 

There she was, with a charming new Prince

The evil Casanova, Martin Luther Vince.

He hadn’t conquered any fierce battles

But all he knew was how to babble.

 

I turned my back and walked away with my honor;

Crying out loud, like a loner.

All these battles and all these pain

Was all in absolute vain. 

 

I questioned my soul, I questioned my heart

That why did it tore apart?

And all it said was simple and plain

Which all of you can understand:

 

I dream of fame and I dream of stars

And all in the end I got was a brutal scar.

The scar would remind me of my tears,

To choose wisely, My dear, Oh! My dear

It makes me sad to see what you have become.

Seems like the table now has turned.

From disparity, to delusion,

To this outcome,

It makes me sad to see what you have become.

From preaching and teaching, to being reprimanded,

From being once loved, to being one frayed,

From being the player, to being one played,

From being the hater, to being one hated,

It makes me sad to see what you have become.

 

Questioning one’s infatuation, as confusion.

Asking for their non-existence, death, tyrannical ending;

Were the prayers you used to make once.

Seems cynical but craving now for a ‘one’,

It makes me sad to see what you have become.

 

Immaturity, Vulgarity and Emotional-ity,

Where the labels once used to justify your practicality.

From backstabbing, hurting, to humiliation under the sun;

Feelings with which you connect now as the only ‘one’,

It makes me sad to see what you have become.

 

Listening to Coldplay, to Winehouse, to James freaking Blunt

Screaming hard to hide your heart’s inner grunt.

Drinking to escape, pushing drugs to become junk,

Trying to prove to the people, that you are having fun,

It makes me sad to see what you have become.

 

Bloating high on my incinerating pride,

I try hard to not despise.

But it’s my stupid heart that still cries,

That Oh! Dear God!

Please hear this prayer of mine:

 

That thou shall not be the person, in any more pain.

That karma can be a bitch, but please abstain.

That they are too weak, to hold up in this rain.

Oh! Dear God!

Please refrain.

 

Oh! Dear God! Please give them respite.

That all their pain, shall hence forward, be transferred to mite.

That yes, I was the Joker, that yes, I was the Dreamer,

But yes, I am the person,

Who still cares for the’ir.

 

That if it’s not their love, then it shall be their share of pain;

That I deserve as a parting gift, metaphorically in vain.

So, they hence live, happily ever after,

And say to me one day again:

It makes me sad to see what you became…

The National Education Policy, 2020 is the first comprehensive vision document on the much-needed reforms in the education sector in India. It aims to propel India into higher trajectories of Global Knowledge Superpower. The standout feature if the NEP 2020 includes its keen focus on bringing reforms in the education apparatus in India. It seeks to do away with the archaic colonial-era apparatus by integrating the education system in India from the school level to all the way to the higher education institutions and beyond.

For example, the NEP 2020 seeks to integrate the regulating institutions which were responsible to oversee the higher education like UGC, AICTE, etc., by breaking the artificial silos that were separating the various streams of higher education. In their place, it aims to create a single regulator in the shape of the Higher Education Commission of India to streamline the plethora of courses that are being taught in numerous universities across India.

It seeks to integrate the system of entrance examinations across the Central, State and Deemed Universities of India. By doing so it will become easy for the students to seek admission in universities and break up the islands of universities by creating a confluence of the mighty river of higher education in India. NEP 2020 is bringing the Gandhian vision of making Hindi a pan Indian language to life. The three-language formula proposed by Kothari Commission aims to provide a judicious balance between Hindi and regional languages at the same time giving a necessary impetus to the National Linguistic integration and nationalism itself.

school children playing in a classroom
Representational image.

National Education Policy: A Chronology

First National Education Policy, 1968

Based on the recommendations of the Kothari Committee it called for restructuring the educational system in India while providing an equal and equitable distribution of education among all strata of society, with compulsory education for children up to the age of 14 years. It also sought to promote the regional languages and originally gave the ‘three-language formula’. It promoted the studies in the ancient language Sanskrit and proposed to spend 6% of national income in the area of Education.

Barring the Right to Education, the subsequent governments failed to implement the remaining provisions of the Kothari Committee. The NEP 2020 is a significant concrete step to realize these important aspects of integrated national education.

Second National Education Policy 1986

The new policy called for “special emphasis on the removal of disparities and to equalize educational opportunity,” especially for Indian women, Scheduled Tribes (ST), and the Scheduled Caste (SC) communities. The NPE called for a “child-centred approach” in primary education and launched “Operation Blackboard” to improve primary schools nationwide. The policy expanded the open university system with the Indira Gandhi National Open University, which had been created in 1985. The policy also called for the creation of the “rural university” model, based on the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.

Also read: The Lockdown Brought India’s Digital Divide To Light But Can NEP Solve The Problem?

Third National Education Policy, 2020

The main points of NEP include the following.

New Education Policy 2020 aims for the universalisation of education from pre-school to secondary level with 100 % GER in school education by 2030. It seeks to bring 2 crores out of school children back into the mainstream of education. It augurs a new 5+3+3+4 school curriculum with 12 years of schooling and 3 years of Anganwadi/pre-schooling. The emphasis will be on foundational literacy and numeracy with no rigid separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in the schools.

Teaching up to at least Grade 5 will be in mother tongue/ regional language to address the concerns of regional language pluralism. Students will be assessed with a 360-degree holistic Progress Card, tracking their progress for achieving learning outcomes.

The NEP 2020 aims to increase GER in higher education to 50% by the year 2035 with 3.5 crore additional seats added in various higher education institutions. The higher education institutions have been given flexibility in the curriculum of Subjects. Importantly, there will be multiple entry/exit to be allowed with appropriate certification to allow students to join/leave their respective education suited to their individual needs.

A national-level academic Bank of credits will be established to facilitate the transfer of credits. A National Research Foundation will be established to foster a strong research culture. With the motto of ‘Light but Tight Regulation’, an integrated higher education single regulator with four separate verticals for distinct functions will be created which would subsume institutions like UGC, AICTE, etc.

While fixing the eye on the future, the visionary document of NEP 2020 advocates a more proactive use of technology with equity. It seeks to promote equality in terms of education of the various segments of society including women, weaker sections of society, differently-abled segments of society by advocating the establishment of Gender Inclusion Fund, Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions, and groups.

Representational image.

An Afterthought

The National Education Policy, the first education policy of the 21st century India, aims to usher India into the League of Global Superpower on account of her vast base of the young and energetic populace. It aims to train the younger generation in the streams apt to suit the needs of the present and the future and propel India as the Global Knowledge Super Power.

The policy is a comprehensive document that covers various fields of the educational arena including school education, technical education, higher education, financial and regulatory aspects of the education sectors as well. By making education multi-disciplinary, it aims to create holistic human beings. It hits at the rote learning and aspires to make education organic.

The critics argue that the National Education Policy has opened the floodgates of privatization upon the fragile sector of pedagogy. However, the NEP instead aims the create scope for individual excellence by providing quality faculty as well as infrastructural apparatus for academic excellence in the shape of Institutions of Excellence. The global precedence for private investment in education has come from academic leaders like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. If we aim to make India a knowledge powerhouse in the company of Ivy League Universities, then we should also be open to accepting the talent from whichever segment of the society it is coming from.

Secondly, the NEP aims to create an institution for training the trainer, which is bringing transparency, quality checks, and value enhancement for the teachers as well. This aspect is applicable to teachers at all levels. For far too long India and the Indian education system have suffered from the practice of rote and stagnant learning which comes with substandard teaching practices and pedagogy.

The 21st century implores us to look beyond the colonial era methods of pedagogy. It asks us to innovate how we teach our young minds and to keep a cautious look at what we teach them and in what manner. The aim of the policy is to give a standardized scale for recruiting the teachers so that the quality of education remains the same across India.

Thirdly, the argument that the three-language policy will diminish the value of the regional languages vis a vis Hindi, and in fact will be an imposition of Hindi on the linguistic diversity is but a sham. It is so essential because the children up to class 5 will be given education in their regional language medium. Hindi will be only added subsequently. By doing so, twin objects are sought to be achieved.

One is that the child is well versed in his/her mother tongue and he/she can pursue regional language in subsequent classes as well. Two, it aims to create national integration by making people across India at least familiar with the language that is spoken by the majority of Indians, that is Hindi. The fixation with English but repulsion with Hindi betrays a sort of colonial mentality of those who profess to the dominance of regional languages. In effect, it goes against the spirit of our great nation and its nationalism.

NEP 2020 has been brought to life after a considerable consultation process involving a vast array of stakeholders from various education-related fields. The aim of the government has been to not only create a vision document for the education system in India in the 21st century but also to make the policy document a true representative of the diversity of our country.

At the same time, the age-old desire to integrate India into a cohesive linguistic nationalism over regionalism has also been achieved.

The NEP 2020 is truly the preamble of the future of India as the knowledge superpower of the world.

Also read: What NEP 2020 Promises And What It Could Have Promised

For some people, home is the safest place. While for some, in their homes, lies the darkest of horrors and fear. There are children in homes which are not safe for them. Which are vulnerable at a stage that they can be abused by a known person. The roar of their abuser overpowers their voices and makes them mute.

As parents, the time has come to start the talk with your children to tell them their superpowers. Teach them about body safety and ensure that their power of voice is ignited against any kind of abuse. Aware children about their power over their body, the power to judge the touch, the power to trust, power of voice, etc.

We can have a mask to protect ourselves from coronavirus. However, a mask won’t protect children from sexual abuse but knowledge will. We urge all the parents to build a safe space for your children where they can share their hearts out with you. This is your time to have a conversation with your children in a child-friendly manner.

In July 2019, I attended a workshop conducted by Javed Abidi Foundation (JAF) on disability rights. I felt like a huge bubble that I was living in had just been popped through this workshop, as until then I had been completely oblivious to the ‘invisible minority’, i.e. people with disabilities and how they lead their lives.

Group photo of RTI workshop conducted by JAF in Bangalore, in partnership with CHRI & DRIF
Group photo of RTI workshop conducted by JAF in Bangalore, in partnership with CHRI & DRIF. Image provided by the author.

The Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005 is a great tool to hold people in power responsible for their duties, and to begin a journey of advocacy. I, along with other participants who were predominantly from the disabled community, learnt how to draft and file RTI applications on different issues, analyse the response, and further take steps to advocate change so that the issues faced by persons with disabilities can be reconciled.

By working with people with disabilities, I realized how inaccessible the society I lived in was. A majority of the conversations about movies, news, art, websites, built environment, and something as basic as the entrance into a park, are inaccessible to people with disabilities, in one form or the other.

In order to draft RTIs, I was tasked to hold meetings with a cross-disability group. For this, as an organiser, I needed to ensure that the locations were wheelchair-accessible and easy to get to for people with orthopaedic disabilities, and further, to make the meeting completely accessible and inclusive, a sign language interpreter was present.

Sign language interpreters are just as important to a deaf person as a cane or screen readers are to the blind or ramps to wheelchair users. When there isn’t an ISL interpreter they would have to resort to lip-reading, only catching bits and pieces of the conversation around them or just straight up being completely left out.

Samah and a Sign Language interpreter working together to draft RTI applications with a group of people with disabilities
Samah and a Sign Language interpreter working together to draft RTI applications with a group of people with disabilities. Image provided by the author.

Before 1995, until the signing of the Proclamation of Equality and Full Participation of People with Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Region and the Persons With Disabilities (PWD) Act was enacted by Parliament, people with disabilities were not treated like human beings.

To quote an article by Martand Jha that traces the history of India’s disability rights movement – “Most of these people were either seen as beggars or in better cases they were associated with the field of music. Even the system thought of them as a liability; these people were considered to be of little use to society and hence their concerns were severely disregarded. Many people thought of disability as the result of someone’s previous life’s sins and thus held them responsible for their present condition. This absurdity led to various forms of injustices in India.”

The next big step in the Disability Rights movement was when the Indian parliament passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD) of 2016. The Act stands as a powerful tool to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities are met and they can live a life of dignity with equal access to opportunities and replaced the PWD Act, 1995. It has provisions relating to accessibility, reservations and protection while seeking to empower persons with disabilities. Like the RTI Act, the RPWD act also helps in advocacy measures.

The movement to establish the rights of persons with disabilities has been ongoing for over 40 years. It is baffling that they are still not treated or seen as equals in our country and as a person without a disability, I too in the past have contributed to the community’s invisibleness. Until I was sensitized, these issues were never a part of my understanding.

Samah and a Sign Language interpreter working together to draft RTI applications with a group of people with disabilities
Samah and a Sign Language interpreter working together to draft RTI applications with a group of people with disabilities. Image provided by the author.

A WHO report says that there are 15% of people with disabilities in India. Disability rights activists also say that 10% to 15% of the Indian population is disabled. But, since the Census data says 2.21% of people constitute people with disabilities in India, the government does not seem to take the disabled community seriously. We choose not to see people with disabilities.

Also, since they are one of the most marginalized section of society they are never in the circles that we have our interactions in and really drives home the point as to why we only see a few persons with disabilities out and about in our daily lives. Some of the factors leading to this are discrimination at the workplace, unequal employment opportunities, no access to education, lack of accessible surroundings, and the ableist society we are a part of.

Today, in these trying times of a global pandemic, people with disabilities are left out yet again. Through the meetings held by JAF with various people with disabilities a lot of issues they were facing have come to light. To name a few issues, beginning with the information that was circulated about COVID-19 back in March being inaccessible to them, caregivers not being provided with passes during the long periods of complete lockdowns which left the persons receiving care completely at their own mercy.

The news given by the PM was not interpreted in sign language except for in one channel which had an extremely small display of the sign language interpretation. Online classes are still non-inclusive. For example, notes were not provided in accessible formats. PWDs were further not given preference at grocery stores and ill-treated.

JAF had launched a webinar series which started in April. It focused on issues of Taking Stock of Disability Rights Advocacy in India & Steps Ahead, Disability Perspective on Art and Poetry as tools of Advocacy, Data and Disability,  The Role of Youth as Key Stakeholders,  Political Participation and Accessible Elections, The Meaning of Accessibility: Then and Now, Using Media and Social Media to do Effective Advocacy, Grassroots Perspective on Disability Rights covered by exceptional speakers like Rama Krishnamachari, Nipun Malhotra, Abhishek Anicca, Dr Malvika Iyer, and so many others. Their stories were truly inspiring and yet again, an eye-opener.

I used to be apprehensive about approaching and talking to people with disabilities but only by doing so, I have broken this barrier that I had as a person without a disability. We need to understand disability as a part of human diversity. As diverse individuals, it is true that they do face a lot of barriers.

Many of these barriers are due to the perceptions and attitudes of society and the physical inaccessible environment. I feel that rather than turning away from them or ‘outcasting’ them we need to be more inclusive. Society needs to value people with disability and start perceiving them as a human resource capable of doing both ordinary and extraordinary things.

A person in a wheel chair in front of an inaccessible entryway.
Representational image.

Some small steps that we can do to be more mindful, are, for example, when attending a webinar let’s ask ourselves, is there a sign language interpreter available? or are there transcriptions being provided? Does the movie I’m currently watching have subtitles? Does my college/institution have a ramp? Do my online classes have a sign language interpreter and are the notes being distributed in accessible formats?

I’m still on the path of being sensitized and learning how to further support the movement, and there is a lot that I still don’t know but hope to learn and bring awareness to in the coming years.

This article is written by JAF volunteer Ayesha Samah, who is a student of fine arts. You can reach the Convenor of JAF Shameer Rishad on Twitter.

From 1941 to 1981, the gap in literacy rates between men and women in India grew from 17.6% to 26.62%, after which it, fortunately, began to decrease and was at 16.68% as of 2011. The next decennial census report for our country occurs next year. While we can hope that the gap has nearly closed by now, the gendered implications of the pandemic are many. Apart from the rise in domestic violence during the lockdown as reported by the National Commission of Women (NCW), the lockdown has also caused a shift of responsibilities for girls towards unpaid household and caretaking work.

As a consequence of the strained economic conditions on families, it is also predicted that many girls would be forced to drop out of school, fall prey to violence, and forced into marriage. The pandemic has made it a great possibility that the gap between literacy rates will increase once again. India, do you want your performance to drop to a 1950’s standard?

Representational image.

‘Internet For All’

Some of the major challenges that we will be facing in terms of education for girls during and after the lockdown include technology, now that digitization is on the rise. First and foremost, state and central education boards could direct all schools to communicate with students and submit a report to calculate how many households require assistance, and what kind of assistance they need.

Any student whose attendance drops for online classes should be checked in personally by the school’s administration. For instance, a lot of families might not be able to afford the internet, which would adversely affect education for all, regardless of gender, as schools are going online. Telecommunication companies could offer subsidies on data packages and provide internet free of cost to families that cannot afford them.

Of course, this would mean that private companies like Jio and Airtel must participate, but we do have companies like BSNL that are owned by the Government of India itself which can easily begin the scheme and make ‘Internet for All’ a possibility. 

Innovate And Use Resources

Another challenge is the digital divide itself. Since resources and funds would not be necessary for the building and maintenance of schools and for printing textbooks this year, those funds could probably be redirected towards providing tablets or laptops to households that require them. Even if a family owns a single device, if the classes are live and not recorded, it is likely to create problems where the son’s education is given more preference, and the daughter would have to miss out on classes.

To prevent this, recorded lectures and flexible schedules for assignment submissions might come handy, and this would also make it easier for teachers. Practically, however, most of this may not be possible, and even if it were, execution is very difficult. There have been innumerable projects to tackle this, such as ERNET’s ‘Vidya Vahini’ in 2001 that aimed to connect 60,000 senior secondary schools at an estimated cost of INR 6,500 Crores, but nearly two decades later, we are still fighting the same fight.

In 2014, when Sierra Leone, a low-income West African country, was hit by Ebola, low-tech devices like solar-powered radios were used to broadcast classes to all students. Once the epidemic ended, hygiene kits were distributed and infrared thermometers were used on a daily basis to check for high temperatures among students. India can definitely learn a thing or two from such cases and formulate a suitable solution.

Another important aspect of online classes is ensuring that educators themselves have access to all the necessary resources and tools to continue imparting education in this new format. Free workshops and training should be provided to help faculty, as well as students, navigate and optimize digital schooling. While each of these solutions would have some challenges of their own in terms of implementation and financial crunches, a solution is essential, no matter how difficult it may prove to be.

If even the smallest percentage of citizens that tune into the Prime Minister’s Mann ki Baat is enlightened and change routines in their house to accommodate for all, it is still a win.

The Government Can Do A Lot Too

Even post-COVID, steps will have to be taken to ensure that India will never face the same problems again in the event of another pandemic or calamity. The importance of eliminating the digital divide has been amplified by the challenges faced during the lockdown, and once the pandemic ends, every possible action must be taken to accommodate every citizen. 

Combating the gender roles imposed within homes, from burdening girls with household chores to other worse forms of abuse, which consequently impacts their education is a different challenge altogether. Even if the battling coronavirus is the primary concern of the government, raising awareness and addressing these issues publicly is extremely important.

If even the smallest percentage of citizens that tune into the Prime Minister’s Mann ki Baat is enlightened and change routines in their house to accommodate for all, it is still a win. The Beti Bachao, Beti Padao campaign should not stop because of a pandemic, it should be optimized to suit the current needs and be implemented with an even higher drive. Government policies that recognize and award families that encourage education of girls and committees that survey and draw solutions for the same are all necessary and need to be stipulated and executed immediately.

The Right to Education was made a Fundamental Right in the Constitution in 2009. It is imperative that the government do everything in its power to ensure that education is accessible to all children, regardless of gender or socioeconomic status. As the youth of India, we advocate for the same and expect immediate action to be taken, pandemic or not.

Also read: Farmers, Entrepreneurs And Homemakers: India’s Rural Women Are Unsung Heroines

It’s been five years since the first of the franchise of the magnum opus Baahubali got released. It was an ambitious project and a lot of hard work and money that went into its making paid off, perhaps more than what was bargained for. Baahubali went on to become a national sensation. The movie admittedly appealed to the masses and regular moviegoers who were on a lookout for a paisa vasool experience.

It have ticked every box when it comes to watching a typical Tollywood masala movie with the success formula of a macho hero, a beautiful heroine, a villain, a sidekick and a wronged mother to avenge for. Taking a cue from the immensely popular Game of Thrones, director S S Rajamouli also created a whole new language in the movie.

Rather ironically for the same reason, the movie held little appeal for a niche kind of movie lovers — the Ayushmann Khurrana-Irrfan Khan ones. For them, Baahubali was loud, dramatic, unoriginal and sexist, with belief-in-hierarchy overtones, not to mention an unendurable show of masculinity porn (a term coined by feminist online magazine Ladies Finger to define hyper-masculine portrayal of heroes to gratify the crowd) of its leading star Prabhas.

Considering myself to be a part of the same self-proclaimed liberal and feminist social circles, I nevertheless fell head over heels in love with the film. I don’t (and can’t) disagree with the criticism levelled against the movie, especially the first part. Indeed, it was difficult to forgive Mahendra Baahubali when he practically steals the crown from the warrior Avantika (Tamanna), decreeing that her mission of overthrowing the tyrannical King Bhalladeva is now his life’s mission.

A little before this, he ‘tames her aggression down’ with the display of his all-powerful machismo. The Ladies Finger captures it in the following words:

And then – and fucking then – as Avantika struggles with him, Baahubali proceeds to tear her clothes off, and he has this goofy my-mother-loved-me-too-much smile on his face while the flirty, lighthearted score continues in the background. Baahubali strips Avantika, a kickass warrior, down to her red underwear, and paints her face (in lieu of makeup) with some berries and coal. She fights back until he pushes her towards a waterfall, where she sees her reflection (plus Prabhas’s creepy leer in the background) and has an epiphany: she never knew how beautiful she was until he stripped her of agency and painted her face with makeup.

The message here is clear: Dudes, if you harass a woman long enough, she will fall in love with you, and you will probably get laid; and ladies, if you choose to deviate from traditional female roles, you’ll always be inherently unhappy, and secretly, you’ll be waiting for a hero to save you from empowerment.

baahubali

Later in the movie, we have our beloved Kattappa, declaring how he has vowed to remain bound as a slave to the throne as part of a promise his forefathers had made to the Kings. In a country like India, where caste-based hierarchy and discrimination is a living reality, where some people are made to believe that they are not ‘entitled’ to certain privileges, the glorification of Kattappa’s loyalty to his benefactors, more so as they are oppressive to him, leaves you uncomfortable.

I don’t know if this criticism reached Rajmouli in the process of making Baahubali: The Conclusion, because an attempt was made to rework on a lot of character portrayals. Let us take the example of the female protagonists. The failure to give justice to Avantika was rectified up to a certain extent in the portrayal of the other two leading ladies in the movie — Queen Mother Shivgami (Ramya) and Devasena (Anushka Shetty).

Shivgami refuses to be the Queen of the Mahishmati Kingdom, even when her subjects desired it at a point of political vacuum in the Kingdom, choosing instead to govern as the de-facto ruler till her sons come of age. As a ‘woman’, she wants to abide by the state policy of allowing only male heirs to inherit the throne. However, just because she doesn’t sit on the throne legally doesn’t make her any less powerful. Till her sons can claim the throne, it is her choice and decision, sometimes taken for misjudgment and ego, that determines the destiny of the Kingdom.

Nobody is able to stop her from taking her decisions  — not her husband, not her sons, and certainly not her loyal servant Kattappa. Her relationship with her husband is also one of its kind to be portrayed in Indian movies. It’s uneasy because she doesn’t share even a minuscule of her power, and is totally unapologetic; if not unmindful of it.

Neither her motherhood nor her status as a wife could come in the way of her position as a Queen. When her son, Bhalladeva, plots to kill Amarendra Bahubali, he still needs her validation and fears unleashing her wrath if he takes direct steps against his brother. And this is after he was crowned the King of Mahismati. Clearly, she held a lot of power even after her son became the King.

Also read: Relevance Of Netflix Series ‘Ertugrul’ To Turkey’s Current Politics

Devasena is a princess in her own right, but belonging to a less powerful kingdom, she is slightly less powerful when it comes to her sphere of influence. This does not stop her from asserting the little agency she has. She wants to remain in control of her fate when it comes to the man she wants to marry, and on various occasions, speaks her mind on consent and sexual harassment, even at the cost of dire consequences. She loves her husband, but does not worship him and does not expect to be saved by him when she takes on the mighty Queen Shivgami on these occasions.

 

Both these women, thus, have a strength of character that is their very own, and not necessarily drawn from the royal families they were born into. However, because of their ‘high born’ status, it is relatively easier for them to normalise holding power even as women, something which Avantika was not able to do.

Strong as she was, Avantika also had to suffer from the ‘ruling class’ complex and had to subjugate herself to the ‘true rulers’, the male heirs of Mahishmati, at the end of the first film. It is thus a movie with strong female characters, and not feminist ones.

Why does Kattappa kill Bahubali? A million-dollar question answered in the second movie, and we realise how deeply our caste fault line runs in the film. He was a slave, tied down to the throne. When Shivgami commands him to kill Baahubali, he had to comply.  However, here, it should also be noted that he is willing to overthrow his vows and stand by the side of truth when Shivgami first asks him to kill Baahubali.

It was only when she emotionally beleaguers him with ‘You kill or I will’ that he takes the step. His loyalty for the throne flinches for a moment, but his love for Baahubali and Shivgami does make him commit the act. Kattappa may have been weighed down by oppressive systems, he may have been dominated by powerful personalities such as Shivgami, but he is not a flat character. He has an understanding of what is right and wrong. He has opinions. And for the very same reasons, he ends up becoming more than a loyal sidekick.

Finally, let us talk about Amarendra and Mahendra Baahubali (the father-son duo who are the rightful heirs of the kingdom, both played by Prabhas).

baahubali
Both Amarendra and Mahendra Baahubali are strong, muscular, talented warriors and blue-eyed boys with blue blood, a typical case of hegemonic masculinity.

Both are strong, muscular, talented warriors and blue-eyed boys with blue blood, a typical case of hegemonic masculinity. Naturally, everybody around them was hell-bent on making them kings — their mothers, girlfriends, wives, friends as well as the masses of Mashimati. And then there are some who are equally hell-bent on removing them from their inheritance.

But what do they want? The truth is that neither of them ever desired power and the throne in the first place. Or any power for that matter. Patriarchy certainly does not ask women, but also does not ask men before chalking out their roles for them.

Amarendra Bahubali gambles with his love, with his life, for something he did want, and the saddest part is that his fans still glorify his dying as heroic, rather than questioning whether this could have been avoided had he been simply left alone with his own choices.

The movie, thus, unknowingly, makes interesting case studies for gender and caste representations, vis-a-vis their application in real life. All the characters have so many sides to them that it is a critic’s delight to study and analyse them. And this is when I began to like the movie, seeing its myriad and thought-provoking dynamics that fitted in the gamut of a regular revenge tale.

Also, it has some awe-inspiring cinematography — just think of Mahendra Baahubali lifting the shivlinga on his shoulders and placing it under the waterfall, the first big war with the Kalkeya dynasty that sealed the fate of the Kingdom, the three arrow trick that Amarendra teaches Devasena, Kattappa dragging the blood-stained sword to Shivgami after killing Baahubali, and the ‘lion king’ moment when Shivgami holds the baby high above her head in the balcony. These are  such priceless scenes!

And yes, I also like the movie because of the delicacy with which the filmmaker created the character Amarendra Bahubali, who goes so much deeper than his warrior moves and royal status. I remember the way he did not hate his rival (Kumar Verma) for trying to woo his love interest Devasena, and for humiliating him many times. Also, for the way he stood for his wife twice before his mother, and sided with the truth after hearing both of them out.

How did you make this match without knowing what lies in the heart of the woman,” he questions his mother, a simple gesture of how consent matters without making a fuss. I like his easy camaraderie with Kattappa (it is not condescending) and his love for his wife and mother that is all-encompassing and yet, not blind. He is genuine, open-minded, simple and trusting, devoid of cunning, and anti-war really, created as if from a ‘female gaze’ in a hyper-masculine movie.

I know I have a tendency to lose my objectivity and go overboard when building an argument for the things I feel passionately about, and maybe this is just one of those things. I would thus recommend everyone to watch and decide for themselves, if it is even worth writing a three and half piece article on it. What I guarantee though, is entertainment and Prabhas.

Also read: ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui Spearheads A Gripping Murder Mystery

The New Education Policy (2020) is like a donut—it has a layer of ‘eclectic’ words on the outside, but it is empty on the inside.

Launched on July 29, 2020, by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, it aims to ‘modernize’ primary and higher education in India, but not necessarily to better it. It would be wrong to not throw light on some of its positive aspects, like the extending free education to the age of 18, and supplementary funds for women’s education.

Unfortunately, the rest of the policy is a walking example of ‘majority privilege’ and it worsens with the current socio-economic backdrop of India. A deeper assessment of the NEP reveals it to be a classist, casteist, and discriminatory policy, perpetuating damage to our fundamental right to education.

Representational image.

Let’s start with the issue of the usage of regional languages till class 5. The lack of English education among students of the marginalised sections would open doors to further discrimination in employment opportunities.

Some international companies are known for their prejudiced behaviour towards people from Dalit communities. And, with the lack of grasp over English they might not even have a workplace, to begin with.

On the other hand, it is obvious that ‘renowned’ schools would never give up on English, and thus, the income gap would only become more pronounced.

This ‘deficiency’ of English learning would also be detrimental to students from marginalised communities, including economically disadvantaged groups, and even LGBTQ groups. They constitute one of the most victimized communities in India, especially in workplaces where they have to navigate multiple layers of brutality. The language imposition would only catapult their suppression to newer heights.

Now coming to the issue of e-learning, as mentioned in the policy. With the start of online teaching due to COVID-19, there have been numerous instances of lower-income group students missing out classes due to a lack of technological infrastructure. With around 46% of the population losing out on internet connectivity, the introduction of e-learning in the school curriculum shows the myopic view of the incumbent. Thus, the gap increases more and more.

Next is the issue of schools providing vocational training for students. This may look like a window for those students who are not very academically inclined, but unfortunately, the circumstances of this training are seemingly exploitative. Not learning English would automatically out students of disadvantaged class opting white-collar jobs at a loss. Thus, they might have to fall back on this vocational and polytechnic training to make ends meet.

Once again, the caste system deepens its roots with birth-determining professions. LGBTQ persons, from lower-income families, would face a similar deadlock, ultimately resulting in further marginalisation of the already marginalised.

Mainstreaming Sanskrit is another clause in the new education system. Sanskrit is considered the mother of all languages, but the document neither guides us on how to update the language for modern needs, nor does it recognize the lack of availability of teachers to teach Sanskrit as a mainstream subject. Not to mention the communal undercurrents that Sanskrit has been attributed by the right-wing nationalists of the country, it might further be projected inside or outside classrooms.

Girl students in a class sit facing a teacher who is writing on the backboard
Representational image.

In the New Education Policy, there is no emphasis on the training of children with disabilities and e-learning which has now been integrated into school curriculums. The concept of continuous examination also hasn’t been very inclusive as the policy fails to reflect on the use of scribes by students with disabilities. Under the new system, teachers also need adequate training to help students with disabilities, which the education policy once again fails to elaborate on.

Two of the most heavily debated issues in the NEP 2020 are the internship provisions and the setting up of foreign universities in India. The NEP talks about unpaid internships from class 6 in local businesses. Sadly, this can only benefit corporate interests because it extracts free/cheap labour from students and exploits the marginalised.

Hence, words like “skill” do not hash out the fact that unpaid internships only allow the moneyed to move forward and become more privileged than the ones who need to be paid to afford necessities. It also doesn’t say that the NEP perpetuates this trend by turning students into ‘servitors’.

Coming to the subject of setting up of overseas universities and colleges in India, the NEP neither namedrops any of these universities nor does it elaborate on the fee structure these universities would have.

Now, as we know from experience that some Indian private colleges are extremely expensive, which is why many students opt for student loans. Considering this, it can be assumed that these foreign institutions might have a ‘sky-rocketing’ fee structure. Thus, it goes without saying that students from marginalised communities would not only able to afford them, they wouldn’t even have any kind of representation as well because there will probably be no reservation, which is a constitutional right.

Representational image.

The flexibility offered in classes 11 and 12 have been rejoiced by many, and rightly so. But, the concept of common entrance examinations will perpetuate the lack of specialisation, which happens to be one of the reasons for opting higher education in the first place.

The cancellation of M.Phil, the reduced tenure for Masters degrees, and the lack of independent research goes on to prove that NEP 2020 pushes for an unscientific and a reduced academic agenda. Students will be trained to be semi-skilled ‘slaves’ for big corporates rather then being encouraged to develop scientific and rational temperament.

As pointed out by Communist Party of India(Marxist) or CPI(M), the Draft New Education Policy (DNEP) 2019 transgressed the federal system of the country by robbing the states of their right to keep education under their own wing in order to cater to its regional interests, as correctly pointed by the

In conclusion, I feel the New Education Policy is a visionless, regressive attempt at westernising Indian education at the cost of notorious attacks on the minorities of the country.

It does nothing to abolish the systematic and structural exploitation of the so-called ‘lower’ class and instead simply serves as a smokescreen to make the education and economic system a privilege. One where the members of the working class are meant to be exploited for cheap labour with no chance of ‘social mobility’.

Also read: What Will Happen To Us, M.Phil Students, After The NEP 2020? 
Featured image for representation only.

I would like to begin by thanking the person who read my article from last year and reduced the NEP policy document to 187 pages and a very good looking summary presentation. Someone in the team has great PowerPoint skills! I am so glad I don’t have to sit through the night counting the hours for a second time.

Somewhere in the past year, the policy committee went through the multiple criticisms of their policy draft and figured out how they could improve. However, through the past year, the country’s youth went through dramatic changes too. Everywhere the conversations on campuses transformed. Students spoke about the discrimination faced on campuses with regards to their sexual orientation, gender and caste. We read incredible reports of abuse and harassment of students from their faculties. We have also seen an alarming rise in self-harm, which has increased the debate around mental health and its effect on a student’s performance.

During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, we have come across a multitude of issues on the sides of both the student and the teacher. Access to digital equipment is now posing a serious challenge for many young people in India. Online education has transformed over the years globally to become an alternative to institutional education. Students are now opting for online courses instead of enrolling into full-time degrees or diplomas around the world, however, India is a little slow in adapting to these because of infrastructural and awareness issues.

Also read: YKA Weekly Quiz: How Well Do You Understand The New Education Policy 2020?

Therefore, to my confusion, the policy does not address any “real concerns” of Indian students or teachers with regards to education. The two main points of assertion are to create equivalence for students returning after studying abroad and making high school students more at-par for giving admission tests abroad. And for an administration which insists on building locally for the locals, it seems the policy is made with an Oxbridge-Ivy, IIT-IIM student in mind. Their credentials are anyway superior in the perceptions of the average Indian, I don’t think they are the ones struggling to get further education or employment.

The restructuring of the governing bodies into a centralised body may seem like a good idea until you ask any government college student who has done their own paperwork for applications and examinations from an existing central university. Most Indian parents don’t get involved with the daily intricacies of higher education after admissions. The rest of the journey is for the student to take, whether it is submitting forms for exams or re-checking etc. And any student from a government college in India can explain to you how centralisation has helped them have access to a wider resource structure but has not helped in reducing the hassles to access these resources. We put up with it anyway because affordable education is an invaluable gift in this country.

A classroom of college students, with serious faces, attending a lecture.
Any student from a government college in India can explain to you how centralisation has helped them have access to a wider resource structure but has not helped in reducing the hassles to access these resources

It has also been suggested that this policy will help to provide an impetus to the current economic downturn by inviting foreign institutes to open branches in India. Here again, I think the administration is not clearly aware of the condition of the average Indian student. We already get openly mocked by the people who graduated from these top colleges for putting up distance learning or part-time online courses from those colleges on our LinkedIn. Are we ready to now get mocked for graduating from say, Yale, Nasik? Where else could they build a big enough campus?

The policymakers have totally overlooked the need for affordable education for Indian students pursuing higher education in India. Creating a “financing” column is just not enough. Generation after generation, we are opting for government colleges for that one reason alone – affordability. Yet the central university system is being made unaffordable and inaccessible, thanks to impossible cut-offs. And with privatisation, the number of options for affordable education has become negligible.

But it seems approvals have already been done and there is not much one can say. The changes in curriculum are not new and it has been in the process of editing for a while. The history of changes in the curriculum is a rather long one under this government and in-fact can be traced back to the current administration’s rule in the state of Gujarat. This insistence on “Knowledge of India” is neither new nor surprising. The textbooks of Gujarati language students were being altered for a long time before anyone became aware of it. Ask a Gujarat Board student about the quality of their chapters. A policy document claiming to achieve “high-quality” education doesn’t mean they disclose their ideas of ‘quality’.

Which brings me to the most contentious aspect of this policy – culture. All Indians are multi-lingual from birth by default. Almost all Indians learn 3 languages, to begin with, this may or may not include Hindi. But the normal living circumstances of our multi-lingual Indian society means that anyone who does have access to education becomes literate in many languages from the start, whether their schooling provides them with that assistance or not.

The same goes for “critical thinking” and developing “soft skills”. These are ancillary aspects of any education system and do not need to be called out for it to be imbibed by a student. These ideas only seem like red herrings in this document to divert from the fact that the only reason this entire policy has been written is to reimagine the idea of India in the way our central government will deem fit. Otherwise, ask yourself, are you currently less cultured, having been raised in a different education system? Culture is not dogmatic. It is a thriving language of people’s real-world interactions with inter-linked communities. And it surely is learnt only through lessons outside of the classroom.

So whether it is the restructuring of schooling to help facilitate entry into global schools or the emphasis on pedagogy and teacher training, I believe this entire policy has been written by someone whose understanding of India’s education system is from the 90s. This is a policy made from internalised beliefs of institutional superiority of the job markets and colleges abroad. If they had done an actual survey of today’s youth in India, they would understand the needs of the youth are dramatically different from whatever this policy hopes to address.

Eventually, I think this policy is the work of a lazy student who is attempting to get a tick mark on this core activity. Using the word “New” may fool some people on the novelty of this policy, there is nothing transformative about it. The teacher education programs and curriculum interventions to facilitate multi-disciplinary learnings have existed in our country for decades. Instead of calling out sex education explicitly, a desperate need in India, there are vague mentions of “health and wellness” and “gender inclusion”.

Also read: National Education Policy – A Step Towards National Reconstruction

This policy is therefore just a re-education policy for the creation of an indoctrinated Indian. The view of India’s current modernity is completely lost on our policymakers.

Oddly enough the average Indian student has shown how they are more adaptable than any policy or government-led program can aim to be. They explore their options and learn things on their own because their aspirations are not just world-class but sky-high. Maybe the administration will look good in front of the parents after passing this policy, as they present their glossy report cards. But the kids don’t like to be told what to do, they will go out and do whatever they want. You can take away their TikTok, they’ll replace them with Reels. Ultimately, you can not curb the spirit of the youth in India and whatever they hope to achieve. And to quote Alice Cooper, “School’s out Forever”.

बात मेरे बचपन की है। हर साल घर पर अखंड रामायण का पाठ किया जाता था। उसी दौरान मेरी नानी ने मुझे बताया कि श्री राम चरितमानस में एक चीज़ छुपी है। मुझे अचरज हुआ कि भला पूजा की पुस्तक में क्या छुपा हो हो सकता है?

उन्होंने बताया कि उसमें श्री राम प्रश्नावली हैं, जो कि तुलसीदास जी ने बनाई है। अपने इष्ट का मनन कर श्री राम से जो पूछो वो उत्तर ज़रूर देते हैं।

मैंने कहा वाह फिर बात ही क्या है! सुच कहूं तो उस रहस्यमयी पहेली ने मेरे बहुत से संदेह दूर किए। मैं उन दिनों कोई भी काम श्री राम से पूछे बिना नहीं करती थी। आज अचानक रामचरित मानस पर नज़र पड़ते ही ज़हन में उठते हुए सवालों ने मुझे उत्तर मांगने पर मजबूर कर दिया।

और पढ़ें: “क्या हम राफेल और राम मंदिर की खुशी में 35000 मौतें और बाढ़ का गम भूल जाएं?”

मेरे सवाल तो बहुत थे मगर इस लेख को लिखते वक्त तक मैंने केवल एक सवाल पूछा है, जो पूरे भारत को पूछना चाहिए।
सवाल मेरा इतना था कि हे श्री राम, क्या इस संकट की घड़ी में जहां पूरे संसार में लाखों लोग एक विपदा में फसे हुए हैं, लोगों की नौकरियां जा रही हैं, बच्चे भूखे मर रहे हैं, कहीं बाढ़ घरों को डुबो रही है, क्या आपको उचित लगता है कि आपका भव्य मंदिर बनना चाहिए? यदि आपको मंदिर बनाने का कार्य दिया जाता तो आप क्या करते?

प्रश्नावली के आधार पर यह चौपाई उत्तर के रूप में आती है-

बिधि बस सुजन कुसंगत परहिं। फनी मन सम निज गन अनुसरहीं।

अर्थात खोटे मनुष्यों का संग छोड़ दो, कार्य पूर्ण होने में संदेह है।

उक्त चौपाई बालकाण्ड के शुरू में आपको मिल जाएगी। खैर, आती हूं सरकार की ज़िम्मेदारियों पर! भगवान राम से तो जो प्रश्न पूछने थे, उन प्रश्नों को सूचिबद्ध तरीके से मैंने पूछ लिए मगर सत्ता को भी यह बताना बेहद ज़रूरी है कि देश जब भयानक संक्रमण से जूझ रहा है, ऐसे में राम मंदिर निर्माण के लिए ज़ोर आज़माइश क्यों?

क्या राम मंदिर निर्माण होने के बाद श्री राम, हम सबके महामारी को खत्म कर देंगे? क्या गरीबी, बेरोज़गारी वगैरह से हमें मुक्ति मिल जाएगी? एक स्वस्थ्य लोकतंत्र में सत्ता से और देश में हो रही गलत चीज़ों पर मुखर होकर सवाल पूछना बेदह ज़रूरी है।

राखी का त्योहार ऐसा त्योहार है, जब बहनें अपने भाई की कलाई पर राखी बांधकर अपनी रक्षा करने का वादा लेती है। लॉकडाउन की वजह से भले ही बहनें बाहर जाकर अपनी पसंद की राखी नहीं ले पा रही हैं लेकिन अपनी पसंद की राखी को ऑनलाइन ऑर्डर कर अपने भाईयों के पास ज़रूर भेज रही हैं।

कई ऐसे लोग हैं जो हैंडमेड राखी बनाकर उन्हें पोस्ट भी कर रहे हैं। इस बार राखियों की वैराइटी में ‘सीड राखी’ काफी ट्रेंड कर रहा है। सीड राखी ऐसी राखी है जिसमें फूलों के बीजों को डाल कर तैयार किया जा रहा है।

जहां पहले भाईयों के कलाई से उतारकर राखी संभाल कर रखी जाती थी लेकिन अब इन राखियों की खास बात यह है कि रक्षाबंधन के बाद आप इन राखियों को गमले में लगा देंगे, तो इसमें मौजूद बीज (सीड) आगे जाकर पौधे के रूप में विकसित हो जाएंगे। इस तरह आप पर्यावरण को हरा-भरा रखने के साथ-साथ पर्यावरण संरक्षण में भी अपना योगदान देंगे।

‘सीड राखी’ की तस्वीर

कौन लोग बना रहे हैं सीड राखियां?

कंकड़बाग की रहने वाली दो बहनें स्नेहा और नीरू गौर साल 2013 से भारतीय संस्कृति को लोगों तक पहुंचाने के लिए टेराकोटा की जूलरी और राखियां बना रही हैं। इस साल इन्होंने राखियों के साथ ट्वीस्ट क्रिएट किया है।

दोनों बहनों ने टेराकोटा से अलग-अलग आकृतियों की राखियां तैयार की है और आकृतियों के अंदर फूलों के बीज को ऐसे डाला है कि जैसे ही वे धरती में समाहित होंगे बीजों से पौधें निकल आएंगे।

उनका कहना हैं, “भाई-बहन और पर्यावरण का रिश्ता एक जैसा है। जैसे भाई बहनों की रक्षा करते हैं, ठीक वैसे ही पर्यावरण हमें खूबसूरत ज़िंदगी जीने का मौका देता है।”

आप इन राखियों को इनके इंस्टाग्राम हैंडल @snehacreation7 पर ऑर्डर कर सकते हैं। इन राखियों की कीमत 120 रुपए से शुरु होकर 500 रुपये तक है। आप चाहें तो अपनी पसंद का भी डिजाइन क्रिएट करवा सकते हैं। नीरू बताती हैं कि जितनी भी आकृतियां राखी के लिए वे बनाती हैं सब हैडमेड हैं और लोगों को काफी पसंद आ रही है।

‘सीड राखी’ की तस्वीर

अंकिता राज, अभिषेक, तान्या परवीन, पूजा तिजिया और राजा रवि ला पिंटुरा ग्रुप नाम से सीड राखियां तैयार कर रहे हैं। अंकिता बताती हैं कि आज जहां एक ओर कोविड-19 का खतरा है, वहीं पर्यावरण का संरक्षण करना हमारा कर्तव्य।

ऐसे में जहां राखियां बंध जाने के बाद संभाल कर रख दी जाती है, हमने सोचा कि क्यों ना हम राखियों में सूरजमुखी का बीज डाल कर तैयार करें। ऐसा करने एक तरफ इन राखियों से भाई-बहन का रिश्ता मजबूत होगा, वहीं बीज से उपजे पौधे भी उनके आपसी बॉन्डिंग के गवाह बनेंगे।

एक राखी को बनाने में 15 मिनट लग जाते हैं और इनकी कीमत 149 रुपये हैं। अभी फिलहाल वे इन राखियों का ऑर्डर लोकल जगहों के लिए ही ले रहे हैं। इन्हें सारे ऑर्डर इनके वाट्सएप और इंस्टाग्राम के ज़रिए ऑनलाइन ही मिल रहे हैं। वे सारी राखियों को स्पीड पोस्ट के ज़रिए भेज रहे हैं। ये सारी राखियां हैंडमेड हैं और लोगों को काफी पसंद भी आ रही हैं।

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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