Ram Rattan Sharma
Indian Society is known for its unity in diversity, but it lacks quality in education, employment, and income based on caste and ethnicity despite India being economic country. The Indian Government does not provide free education as most of the schools were private schools, weaker sections could not afford higher education. As result, weaker section suffers from low educational attainment. Even if they are able to afford, they are discriminated. Language poses another challenge for tribals education. Tribals normally speak local dialect rather than the main language of the state in which they reside, and tribal students feel alienated, when the teachers are not well trained to communicate in their tribal dialects.
The Indian Government has started providing scholarships and other forms of financial aid to reduce the cost of education, special schools and remedial tutoring increase college preparedness and reserved quotas in competitive colleges are encouraging parents to educate their children, thereby reducing middle and secondary school dropout, Reservations in Govt. employment enhance returns to educate weaker sections, even primary education can substantially enhance the earning potential for weaker section because they become eligible for lower level Govt. Jobs instead of relying on sporadically available manual labour in private sectors.
Children from the disadvantaged sections of society will now have access to private schools as the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutional validity of the right of children to free and compulsory education Act, 2009. The Act makes it mandatory for all schools, except minority unaided, to reserve 25 percent of seats for children from the disadvantaged sections, the burden of which will be brone by the Government. Many private schools had opposed the move saying that since they did not take grants from the Government they could not be legally bound to reserve and also the per-child cost as suggested by the Government was very low the Government spends between Rs.6,000 and Rs.18,000 a child annually on elementary education and this will form the broad basis for reimbursement under the RTE, though the final amount will vary from state to state. However, the Supreme Court up held all provisions of the Act and this will now help the Government in enforcing the law effectively so that disadvantaged students can also have access to good quality education at the elementary level.
Education is one primary area that needs focus as it is crucial to the development of a country. A higher percentage of educated individuals contribute more towards the economy of the country that in turn leads to blossoming of the nation. Since it is a subject that has multiple dimensions attached to it, some aspects relating to it fall under the union list where as the rest under the concurrent list of the constitution of India. As a result, both the union and the state are empowered to make legislation with respect to it. Education was made fundamental right by the 86th constitutional amendment which introduced section 21-A in the constitution of India. India joined the list of 135 countries that have legislation in place to implement it as a fundamental right to education Act which finally came in to force in 2010. Education has now been made compulsory and free for children in the age bracket of 6 years to 14 years which is further stretched to 18 years for children with disabilities. In order to enforce the fundamental rights all the private and Government schools are required to reserve atleast 25 percent of their seats for the disadvantaged groups and the weaker sections. The Act provides a bulk of incentives to the under privileged group that results in unequal treatment of the children, but as the Govt. has emphasized there is a need to delink merit and talent from social and economic difference among different sections of society and the act calls for moving towards composite classrooms with children from diverse back grounds rather than homogeneous and exclusivist schools.
In order to uplift the society there should be a level playing field for all. The Government should work towards building infrastructure so as to train the underprivileged to have the expertise and skill so that they can also be a part of the healthy competition. Till the infrastructure is built some incentives will have to be given, but these schemes of carrot and sticks will not stand the test of time. A person belonging to an unreserved category has to put in lot of effort to get what he aspires where as the reserved class gets away with a little bit of hardwork. The saddest part about reservations is that the people who need to be targeted are still out of the picture and it is the elite in the disadvantaged groups, who are reaping the benefits generation after generation. The target groups still survive silently in the bushes of the deserted areas, which are still out of bound. So the Government will have to come up with some innovative measure to contain the resentment of the masses
(The author is former Dy Librarian University of Jammu)
Ram Rattan Sharma