Thursday, 1 January, 2009

Trying to Understand Kerala –An Attempt to Explore Trends and Mentalities

Kerala is today a thorn in the eyes of its own people who have managed to extract maximum mileage out of the above-average indices of progress that the state possesses. Despite a Gross Enrollment Ratio of almost 100%, social harmony, low incidence of poverty, and several other favorable indices of progress, the upper and upper middle classes of the state have been for long seething at the lack of opportunities for them in the State and have used the larger platform of India and the developed world as an avenue for their material growth. I can relate to this personally because after a private education in a good school, competence with English and technical education, the state was too small for my ambitions and I left. A quirk of destiny and a change in my aspirations brought me back to the country and some time in the future will bring me back to Kerala too. At some levels I have managed to de-class myself from my middle class interests and am able to look at issues in a more detached manner.

Everybody says the leftist policies of the state have ruined opportunities for its people. But let me ask, aren’t opportunities more tied to bourgeoisie aspirations? The upper-caste Nairs/Menons were the first to leave the state for a share of the bigger pie. The Syrian Christians soon followed. In the Gulf Boom, the middle and lower class of Muslims and Christians and a smaller but significant number of Hindus saw their big opportunity and jumped. Tea shops are a regular feature in Kerala and Malayali tea stalls and small hotels are a very obvious feature of urban India. It is natural for capable people to move towards the centre than stay on the fringes. But it is the really daring who stay in the fringes and fight. Kerala was and is a fringe state and very few capable people stayed back to fight and keep change a constant within the system. We haven’t had the agricultural land or industry to employ all our people. But they were among the first people to became aware of bigger lands and opportunities. In Kerala how much land, how much employment opportunities can be generated? Very few. Infact I am a staunch supporter of Achuthanandan when he says our natural resources should be exploited only in a manner that will help the local populace.

The cynicism which greets new policy initiatives of the CPM is a reflection of the sad state of the “revolutionary party”. Its decisions to go in for SEZs, private-public partnerships, etc are today seen as an unholy alliance that compromised party leaders are undertaking with big businesses. The role of land mafias continue from Smart City to every other City and SEZ planned. Whether it is the sincere wish to create new jobs or to bulge their own pockets that is prodding Pinarayi and co is not difficult to answer. In a recent talk show, poet Sugatha Kumari passionately pleaded with the communist comrades to withdraw from the path of destruction they were undertaking through rampant exploitation of the State’s natural resources and causing environmental degradation. She used Gandhi’s words – “there is enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed”. The CPM leader she was appealing to on the show, dismissed her as yet another alarmist.

Politics – Yes, the CPM is a vastly different organization today from 1957, 1967 or say as late as 1987. The ideological core is almost lost. They have made mistakes. They had to survive. They infiltrated every organization in the state. They incorporated every element of society into their party. This was a lesson they learnt from the 1959 Liberation Struggle. Recently declassified documents in the US show that the CIA actively sponsored it through contributions to the Church who distributed it to the various groups who opposed the Commies. Look at any of the path-breaking campaigns in the State – it all came through the left parties – the demand for statehood of Malayalam speakers, land reforms, education reforms, saving the Silent Valley, Literacy Movement, decentralization, etc. No one can deny that the cultural activities in the state receive a fillip whenever the LDF is in power – the IFFK, the recently concluded Book Festival, the ongoing international theatre festival, the regular talks by eminent intellectuals in the state, etc, etc. The immense support VS won during his tenure as opposition leader was because he was in tune with the pulse of the ordinary man. Their demoralization with his inaction and failures will cost the party dearly. The tied hands of VS are also an indication of the political winds blowing over the CPM as its leaders cosy upto private capital. Sadly for him he is a revolutionary whose good intentions worked well when he stood outside the system but found that his tough talk didn’t find resonance with the government machinery. If Shornur is an indication of VS’s support on the ground or alternately a rejection of CPM's neo-liberal agenda/misrule, the CPM is in for a split sooner or later. A split in leftist votes will help the UDF come back to power by a huge margin. As for the Congress even today it has a few leaders I still admire, but a few good men with no ideological or visionary moorings other than going with the tide, can change very few things for us.

Schools – Kerala had great government schools until 30 or 40 years back. The middle class enrolled their students in the schools and their children came up this ladder. Once the poor also started sending their children to these schools, the middle class in Kerala for whom social status is a primer, started withdrawing their wards from these schools and sending them to fancier private schools. No prizes for guessing what type of schools politicians, bureaucrats and salaried class preferred to send their children to. Since this is the class which frames policies what followed was a deliberate disregard for the needs of public education and it has languished for long in terms of facilities, curriculum and teacher training that was needed to modernize these schools and keep it on par with private education. Never mind. The poor in Kerala or for that matter in several parts of India today exhibit the same aspirations as their richer counterparts and started sending their wards to private schools(of course these schools are also below average) despite it costing more and doubts of affordability. And are these private schools providing anything that the government schools can’t if they are put an equal footing? I doubt it. So we still manage to send up to college a huge proportion of our children than the rest of the country. Well, don’t talk about quality here! That’s an entirely different debate.

Colleges – There used to be a good number of colleges across the State from where stalwarts of the State’s political, art and literary movement have sprung up. Studying at Delhi and Chennai I have doubts on the quality of education that some of the fancy colleges/universities in Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore or Delhi for that matter have given their alumni. Other than a natural confidence in social skills and proficiency in English which upper and middle class youth in big cities are endowed with as a birthright I really see no big difference in academic temperament with college goers in Kerala. Of course, for the last 20 years we have systemically damaged the arts and pure sciences colleges and universities in Kerala for a preference for engineering, medical and nursing colleges where all the jobs and money are. And why is the upper/middle class complaining? I see most of their kids studying in the best colleges in the country whether they have/havenot the aptitude for it. In a recent lecture I attended, I was surprised to hear that some of the young talents in Indian art today came from the Govt Fine Arts College in TVM and Calicut. Whenever I passed the "antiquated" tvm college, I used to wonder if they had a life, but how wrong I was!

Health – Kerala developed a good primary health facility on the backing of expansive state support and we saw life expectancy rise and diseases fall. Today Kerala is an anomaly in India that we see more lifestyle diseases than communicable diseases. The spurt in water-borne diseases we saw last year was a result of the huge amount of rainfall we saw last year and the resultant water-logging, or the health and sanitation system improved this year. But today primary health care centres have stagnated and private hospitals are the in-thing in Kerala. It has been proven that health related expenses are a crucial component of rural/poor indebtedness. Without the state government pushing its weight in the health sector I doubt if this scenario can change. In the developing world can it be a coincidence that two states with most state involvelment in health have matching indices with the developed world – Cuba and Kerala?

Industrialization – Most of our attempts at industrialization have failed. The obvious blame is on senseless trade unionism. Which is right to an extent. But look at industrialization in the context of our fragile ecosystem. EMS went out of his way to invite Birla and they set up the Mavoor Rayons. Some 30 years later the people shut it down because they polluted the Chaliyar river and wreaked havoc with diseases. Another 20 years later Coke was allowed to set up a bottling plant in Plachimada and they drained the ground water system and polluted it too. Travancore Titanium polluted the sea off the Kollam coast. My point is that we can only allow industrialization which doesn’t affect our environment or people in harmful ways. And Kerala is not Jharkand. Exploitation will not be taken for granted. People will resist. People will fight. Corporates will fish only tepidly in our waters, communism or no communism. In a state with small area and huge population density, small scale industries are the way to go, but in this age of globalization I doubt small businesses can fight big corporate giants or see cycles of boom and recession coming and plan accordingly.

Agriculture – Many blame the land reforms as sounding the death knell of agriculture in the state. They conveniently overlook how it destroyed the feudal structure and brought in equity. As farmers got their own land to till, there was a shortfall in labour and with it wage rise. Whenever prices rose, it did not benefit the farmer. Kerala also saw the affluence that cash crops gave to its proponents and paddy cultivation further suffered. But post-91 neo-lib reforms and the close linkage between cash crops and the global economy has only added to the farmers plight as they got caught in a consumption and debt trap. In Kerala the sight of agricultural land being left fallow to be turned later to residential plots or to cash crops is a common sight. It is already late but hopefully we can still turn the tide. This year the government has come out with several schemes for agriculture. Hope they bear fruit. The Kuttanad disaster and the crop loss is I believe a play of rural mindsets which fear mechanization will retrench the old feudal order and benefit the big farmer. Agriculture will continue to suffer because for the last several decades, the Malayali has found that education and its resultant fruits are a better investment than agriculture and children of farming households rarely follow the trade of their parents. I heard at a talk once that Kerala had a successful collecting farming experiment after the Land Reforms which was junked in the 80’s. Unlike Soviet Russia, collective farming cannot be enforced in Kerala. Socialism by force is a failed experiment, will Kerala’s farmers re-think how a collective can help them out?

Transportation – The argument for an express highway on the basis of the trans-shipment terminal coming up is fine. But people have two questions. Why can’t the existing national highways just be upgraded? How many trees and houses will have to be felled for this project? Mohanlal wrote in a weekly column of his dream to travel from Trivandrum to Kasargod in 5 hours. For a businessman like him time and money is most important, not the price others have to pay to help him realize his dream. Most of Kerala travels in buses and trains, not in cars. Why are more buses and trains not coming? It is a heart-rending sight to see women, children and elders standing on long-distance bus and train journeys. Privatization of mass transport has been a fair success. State involvement strengthening and simultaneously allowing the entry of private players will keep Kerala insulated from the next oil crisis and the people prepped up for junking private transport when the time comes. With excellent connectivity and high population density across the state, Kerala is a dream for mass transportation when the energy crisis hits.

Media – One thing Kerala can be proud of is the rich tradition of journalism that the State is host to. The two main Malayalam newspapers, Mathrubhumi and Manorama or the several other smaller newspapers and magazines and the half a dozen odd malayalam news channels compare far better than their regional counterparts or even the national big guns. The quality of reporting which is issue-based and done both at the micro- and macro levels is unmatched across the rest of the country. With meagre advertisement revenues, it continues to surprise me how such quality is maintained. It will come as no surprise that barring the Manorama, most journalists in the State maintain a leftist perspective which could be the reason for the activism, vigour and ceaseless questioning that the media exhibits here. If you are wondering why the newspaper culture hasn’t transformed to movements on the ground, look no further than the simple fact that governments alternate here every five years, that no legislator can afford to ignore his constituency, that every issue finds suffiecient debate in the media and from multiple perspectives. And if a new movement is to rise in Kerala I have no doubts that it will be with the significant backing and intellectual support of the media.

Environment – All over Kerala there are complaints of depleting water supply, power cuts, etc. Whatever we have now is the maximum that can be tapped. Inter-state agreements have diverted a lot of water that was due to us. Hydel projects cannot be constructed without further damaging rivers and forests and livelihoods. Tourism is well and good but creating an economy centred just around tourism is at crossroads with the ecological balance that threatens livelihoods of people.The energy requirement we see today is forcing the government to plunder the Silent Valley again to harness hydel. The Bharathapuzha river is dead, all our rivers are in danger. Most new constructions today are tailored for the rich and the tourist. Kerala needs to pursue goals of sustainable development and not go for the mad rush to promote development. Being close to the equator our lands are at greater risk to climate change than any other. Our ordinary people have stalled the destruction of the Silent Valley, threw Coke out of Plachimada, now are attempting to save Pathrakadavu. But a vast number have also brimmed with anger at these localized attempts to thwart development!

Labour – Once educated a person would prefer a white collar job; Kerala is no stranger to that. We used to have a higher unemployment rates than the rest of India because of the vast number of educated youth it produced. This also created a labour shortfall in the agriculture, construction and other sectors for both skilled and unskilled manual labour. Rich or poor, the malayali went outside Kerala looking for jobs. After 1991 the problem of urban unemployment has been addressed to an extent. Trade Unions are an expression of the interests of different categories of labour that our political parties created to further their political struggles. While organizing labour is a necessity especially in a country like India where 92% of the workforce is in the unorganized sector, the tragedy of Kerala is that the leading parties in the State especially the CPM co-opted the labour movement in a big way and thus has its hands tied while trying to bring about bureaucratic reforms. It is a rare sight to see the state and the labour unions ranged on the same side. Perhaps, a decoupling of trade unions from political parties will help the people of the state in a big way and pave the way for better governance. Migrant labour has stepped into the labour vacuum in Kerala and deservedly earns a better livelihood than they could afford in their home state. The current recession seems to have choked jobs in the service sector but hopefully the tens of thousands of fresh graduates will find work as soon as the economy is back on its knees.

Student Politics – I was once an opponent of campus politics. The SFI could not sell their ideology to me, then. I was not ready to listen either. What appealed to me from them was the fight they put up against the dominant ABVP in our college. In this age of globalization when students are increasingly getting depoliticized, increasingly getting hooked to market products and the consumption culture, increasingly getting sold the neo-liberal vision, I believe that campus politics will make a difference. Of course every young person in Kerala has an opinion on the Congress or BJP or CPM, on terrorism, on politics – but it is one of everything is screwed up and politicians are scoundrels. They can’t empathize with sections of the society they don’t belong to. Political thought and organization within campuses gives them a platform or an opening into the world of politics before they get sucked into the rigors of adult life. Of course like every other state, Kerala has also got a culture of violence in politics which has been effectively used to silence the youth from even making an effort to enter this arena. But what we are seeing sadly is the blame being put on campus politics for violence when the question that really should be asked is whether we really had a democratic culture to begin with? Bhagat Singh was 23, and what most of you can’t digest or is not told, is that he was a communist, when he was executed. I rest my case.

P.S - I am throwing open the comments for this post. I have been thinking of written this essay for long but got the inspiration only today. Will have to keep editing and refining this piece as I go along. I know none of you will bother to read a leftist’s blog. But I was one of you earlier. I hope I still have a voice that speaks to you, when I write. If you empathize with me, I will engage you. Otherwise I have no time to waste in arguments. I know there will be middle class angst thrown at me. It is natural. I don’t claim that my analysis is entirely correct. I know another perception will see all what I wrote as blatant stupidity. When you and I say we are patriots, I ask what have we given up for the country. It is the poor of this country who have given up their lands and livelihoods, knowingly or unknowingly for the industrial and economic development this country has seen. Accept it, we the middle class are plain selfish. We are forever looking to protect and further our interests, even at the expense of others. Gandhiji would not have been successful if he had not engaged the masses in his fight. The 91 Reforms gave us well-paying jobs and new lifestyles but there is another angle to the neo-liberal agenda that was unveiled which has screwed up the poor in this country. Every revolution began at the fringes of human existence, gathered force, coopted or consumed the middle class and succeeded or failed depending on how you see its implications. Kerala was lucky; it saw a non-violent social change through the communist movement, but other parts of India need not see the same. As resources get squeezed, and we continue to exploit the earth, the poor will unite; sharing will replace profit motive and socialism will ultimately win over capitalism. But my fear is that it will be a violent change. My intention was not to paint a rosy picture, but an attempt to try to understand the base sensitivities of the people through the changes our society has seen.

Well, this is me at this point in life. I am glad to be able to see things in this new light and at same time not disregarding what I believed earlier. There are solutions to all our problems. Our middle class don’t-get-my-hands-dirty attitude has to change first – we will have to engage with the state and the people at considerable sacrifice to our material prospects. Those who call for complete overhaul or even a change by being within the system are actually calling for a mini-revolution. A revolution doesn’t happen by writing blogs where the audience is your own class of people. The ordinary people of Kerala love it as it is – despite everything they feel they have a voice. It is their voice you are hearing when the LDF rules. It is their fathers and sons who form the cadres of the CPI(M), SFI, DYFI and CITU. They form about 40% of the state. They work in the government offices, run the political parties, student organizations and unorganized sectors. For them money didn’t come as a birthright. They have had to fight every bit of the way to get where they are. For us, they will indulge in corruption, stall work, hate the upper middle class and yet kow-tow with unscrupulous businessmen, etc because that is the way they see to come up in life. To appeal to them they need to be convinced that people who call for change are not working towards class or individual interest but for the good of all. The readers of this and the countless other blogs on Kerala are IT professionals, Executives, Engineering students, expatriates, etc, etc – we make no difference to the Kerala that is. The Kerala that travels on buses and trains to work, the Kerala that lives in lodges and budget hotels while travelling which are becoming fewer and not in resorts, the Kerala that shops with the small vendors and not in supermarkets does not read blogs – selling them a new vision also involves engaging with the politics and the system of the day. The changes in the neo-liberal pattern we are seeing today are a mimicking of the changes happening in other states. Whether it will lead to a better Kerala is the big question.


The Layman said...

Your portrait in my heart just became bigger :)

Anyways, since this comment forum was opened for sensible discussion.. I'll concentrate on the same.
My opinions might be naive and ill informed (and long) but here is my contribution.

1) Politics
Look at any of the path-breaking campaigns in the State – it all came through the left parties – the demand for statehood of Malayalam speakers, land reforms, education reforms, saving the Silent Valley, Literacy Movement, decentralization, etc.

A year back I was one of those anti commies. The foundation for my grudge was their "opposition" towards development. But lately, I have been wondering what development is all about. I think you nailed it when you quoted “there is enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed”. Development, as you said, have always been one sided. The middle and upper class got the benefits whereas the poor never benefited. Happened to see "vaippin kudi vella prashnam" again recently on TV. One of my uncles who was watching the news started lecturing us on the cost profit theories and how it is such a humongous burden on the treasury to reach drinking water to the residents of Vaippin.

I was shell shocked. On one hand we have crores of rupees allocated for more and more IT parks and govt. should not waste money in providing drinking water to the residents of Vaippin?

You were bang on when you criticized the selfish "I want everything; system will take care of the poor" attitude of the middle class.
Staying on the topic of politics it was refreshing to see Murali and co's victory in Shornur. For me it meant two things
1) The Indian/malayali voter has his head in the right place

2) However flawed/criticized our democracy is, the victory in Shornur (and in states like Rajasthan and Delhi) re affirms my faith in democracy and the electorate.

Bloggers across blogosphere (and sad to say, especially mallu bloggers) spew venom criticizing/ridiculing/mocking/judging the voters who vote the parties (especially the left parties) into power. To some extent they are right. We don't have the luxury of choice. But "change" has to start within the system and not outside it.

My prediction is that anti incumbency will bring congress back into power. The irony is every one I wanted to see in the CM's chair has been CM. Antony, Umman Chandy, VS.. and every one disappointed.

As you said,
a few good men with no ideological or visionary moorings other than going with the tide, can change very few things for us

I agree completely.

2) Schools
Nothing much to say here.. except that I believe private schools does a better job of imparting education (syllabus???)

I have studied in a govt. school in Thrissur. In fact I'm a hybrid (studied ICSE all my life and 5 years in a good school in Bangalore and then plus 1 and 2 in govt. school - Model Boys High School Thrissur)

In the school I studied, half the time classes are suspended due to strikes and other issues. Once a 10th standard boy beat up one of the 12 th standard boys and then there was no class due to the resultnat tension (the 10th std boy was a goonda accused in goonda cases and is now dead. he was murdered by someone from another gang)

Such instances are rare in private schools due to stricter admission processes and rules. The net product (children who come out of school) may not be far apart in calibre... nevertheless in current situations I'm inclined to believe that private schools does a better job of schooling than its govt. counterparts.

This was with reference to your statement And are these private schools providing anything that the government schools can’t if they are put an equal footing? I doubt it.

I'll continue in another comment

The Layman said...

3) Colleges

One of the regrets in my life is that I didn't study in a proper college. Well not an engineering college but a propers arts/humanities/social sciences college brimming with life, politics and vigour of the youth. I'm afraid to make the above statement cos the moment I say it the response is "how hypocritical... you engineer" :)

Anyways, I said this with reference to Other than a natural confidence in social skills and proficiency in English which upper and middle class youth in big cities are endowed with as a birthright I really see no big difference in academic temperament with college goers in Kerala.

You know what my opinion is? I have found students who did their schooling in Kerala to be better informed about politics, state and country. They know their leaders.. they are more aware of the issues and most of them by default are leftists :D

This is not mocking the city/urban/anyone who has studied outside. I'll tell you my personal case. I spent my 6th to 10th std in Bangalore and I guess those years detached me completely from ground reality. I had my own dreams, my own problems.. the problems of my people, the state or country were absolutely of no concern to me. When I came back to Kerala I got a new set of friends. Friends who would say "who all should we call for this program", "how many peons/workers will come" etc. In other words students who were totally conscious of the people around them. I used to wonder how come these guys of my age are so mature. I guess being and living in Kerala has that effect on you.

So I agree to your point that college level education in Kerala is not far behind at all. I always wonder what the situation of these colleges would have been had there been no brain drain to other states and countries. But that of course would be a utpian thought.

Two things I have to mention though.
1) The number of such colleges providing quality education is not at all at par with the number of calibre students seeking such education every year.
2) Opportunities are limited for other streams. Corporate jobs are the way to go. Unless this trend is reversed why would anyone go to arts and humanities college? Ultimately its the survival question. How wise would it be to throw away the safety of a corporate job and pursue one's own passion.

This was with reference to Of course, for the last 20 years we have systemically damaged the arts and pure sciences colleges and universities in Kerala for a preference for engineering, medical and nursing colleges where all the jobs and money are.

I was just trying to say unless the issue of opportunities is resolved the race for engg/medicine will continue until that reaches a saturation point. And then probably we will see a reverse trend. I'm waiting with anticipation to see what surprises 2009 has in store for us.

The Layman said...

I realise my comments are getting bigger than your post :)

Feel free to delete them after you read them so that other commenters are not frightned away.

I will come to your post script. Honestly speaking, I liked it more than your actual post.

As resources get squeezed, and we continue to exploit the earth, the poor will unite; sharing will replace profit motive and socialism will ultimately win over capitalism. But my fear is that it will be a violent change.

As I said in my previous comment, I think 2009 will be a landmark year. The loss of jobs might turn people back into public sector jobs. Demand for the non engineers and doctors might rise. One blogger I know used to say we need a revolution to wake us from our lazy asses. I think the revolution is coming. As you said it might be a very unpleasant revolution. But then what good has come without pain.

There are these pseudo revolutionists all over the net.
Those who call for complete overhaul or even a change by being within the system are actually calling for a mini-revolution. A revolution doesn’t happen by writing blogs where the audience is your own class of people. The ordinary people of Kerala love it as it is –

Brilliantly put maashe. This is my exact sentiments too.
I don't think I contributed anything useful to this discussion. So I'll end with a question for horrors sake. When there are so many youngsters keen on bringing change why are they lured away to corporate jobs and not civil services where they can make a change?? Selfishness? Hopelessness?

The Layman said...

Oh I have to disagree with you on politics.

I think campus politics is discouraged due to the violence that have crept into campus politics. One might argue that strikes and lathi charges are part and parcel of campus politics. But lately campus politics have reduced to goonda politics and the party with more no of goondas/man power will emerge as the stronger one in any campus.

Why would any parent want his/her son/daughter sacrifice their lives for the selfish motives of goondas and their protectors. Campus politics is not the idealistic, personality developing, vigorous politics of the sevenies or 80's (as shown in the movie classmates).

Goondas rule the day. In engineering I had a classmate who was area committee member of a prominent political party. Strong comrade, pakka leftist, die hard commie. Fancied becoming area committee president and all. Well... he was disillusioned by party politics, goonda vilayattom and all other evils we associate with campus politics.

I think the evils outweigh the good. Unless there is some move to end violence politics I think campus politics is not a good idea at all. The fear that the youngsters become "araashtriyar" is baseless. I studied in a very peaceful engg college. No politics.. no goondas... I'm still deep into politics.

I'm not against campus politics. But I'm very against the way it is conducted in today's campuses.

Karthik said...

As resources get squeezed, and we continue to exploit the earth, the poor will unite; sharing will replace profit motive and socialism will ultimately win over capitalism. But my fear is that it will be a violent change.

You disagreed with me when I also stated something similar about US feeding corn to cattle. :-)

Anyway your observations are very good. The greed in consuming earth's resources is the biggest sin. The very reason why we have negative impacts of those acts through rise of naxalism, terrorism etc..

In the above regard we should follow countries like Denmark, Sweden and Holland who use the resources optimally.

As for campus politics I am totally against it. It is just an exploitation of students by idiotic politicians. College unions are welcome but parties in educational institutions is a no-no. The reason we have campus politics in such colleges are because Govt. sponsored education comes so cheap. In European countries the colleges charge heavy fee for quality education which the students pay by doing part-time jobs and assistantship activities.

ursjina said...

wow..i didnt know this blog existed..thats indeed a newyear surprise...happy new year..and waiting to read all ur posts in here

Jiby said...

Deepak, thanks for the long and informative comments. no question of deleting them!

The reason I want government schools to be shaken up and improved is that the lower class of our population still goes to these schools. Without good schooling these children will never come up in life unlike say 30 years ago. the gap between the private unaided, private aided and government schools is widening every day. Almost 40% of our schools are still government run. For these youngsters in the lowest strata of our society to come up in life the government has to spend more money in education.

About a change in trend in colleges, I doubt if the recession can force this change. It will last at the most for two years and then the next boom will begin but I feel sorry for the fresh grads who have to pass out at this time with hopes of jobs and find none forthcoming. But the renewed attractiveness of a government job is very real especially after the pay commission. But again, not many jobs are there for the taking in the govt sector.

About why fewer youngsters take up the civil services exam - I think it is an end product of globalization. Leading a comfortable life free of hassles and leaving the other person to clean up the muck is an instilled mentality of most people today. Also from the guys who have gone for and cracked the civil services, it was either a burning ambition for power and position or a strong academic capability that made them pursue the path. Very few of the ones who went with a genuine desire to change the order cracked the exam. And of them, most change once inside the system.

Campus Politics :) ha, let me ask you how many of the politicians we know of today(excluding the rich kids with political legacies) took to politics after studies and while working. The campus is where the politicians of the future have to be bred. Look at Bill, Hillary, Obama...they were all campus politicians. Look at our own Chandy, Antony, Vayalar Ravi, Karthikeyan, Vishnunath, and almost all the young cpm mla's of today - they took to politics on campus. Banning campus politics because of violence is an excuse to keep deserving youth out of politics. Which is why union elections are so important - my friend, an alum of presidency college calcutta tells me that the sfi will never use violence in that campus because that will be used against them during campaigning. The discourse in college politics today should be about isolating violent elements and punishing them during elections. I am hoping to see the cpm split for the same reason as this would mean a split in the sfi too and what the fledgling unit should do is raise discussion on the violence in campus to fellow students instead of resorting to violence themselves. hope what i said makes sense.

Karthik, don't crucify me for earlier held beliefs man :) .

Very often we don't realize the greed in us has a chain which propogates through the production cycle and consumption cycle and damages someone elses livelihood. i have no other explanation for the rising maoism. denmark, sweden and holland are countries with less population - our greater population should be making us more aware and wary of resource wastage but sadly that doesn't happen. You are free to hold your views on campus politics but i hope a day will not come when you will have to raise your arm to shout slogans. Also please refer to my views above. Very few students get exploited. Students join it with the full knowledge of what they are getting into. The ones we see rise up to become MLA's and ministers are the more capable/shrewd of them. Even in UK there is campus politics and it is party based. So in US. So why should India not have campus politics and why should it not be party based? Are we not a democracy too? Is the indian student immature not to know his politics. A student politician is the larva of a senior politician. If we can spot the good politicans early on we can lay the foundation for a new political culture too. Blame the culture of violence and coercion - don't blame campus politics. And of course. Keep politics out of the school level. There you have a strong case for being under age!

Guys, Deepak and Karthik - thanks to you both for blogrolling me. Wanted to write to you both and say the thanks but idled.

Jina, it existed for a while but I opened it to public access only a month ago.

The Layman said...

It is now clear you are a staunch supporter of campus politics :)

Well you maybe right.. violence may only be an excuse.
my friend, an alum of presidency college calcutta tells me that the sfi will never use violence in that campus because that will be used against them during campaigning. The discourse in college politics today should be about isolating violent elements and punishing them during elections

That's a very refreshing take.
But what frightens me is news items like "police discovering 500 bombs in kannur form party office" etc. From my friend who was a comrade I came to know of the contacts these budding politicians kept with goondas and gangsters.

Discourse about isolating violent elements is an appreciable idea but is it feasible. It is only a known fact that politicians nurture goondas. Wouldn't they be only happy to oblige their younger supporters?

If we accept the fact that violence in student politics is the norm of the day then we have only one conclusion. If you want to be in politics have the guts to play the dirty game. And I think it is precisely this reason which turns away many "deserving youngsters" from campus politics.

Anyways your friends tale was compelling - using violence against the parties in elections.

Read in outlook this statement by Ashish Nandy
"In India the choice could never be between chaos and stability, but between manageable and unmanageable chaos, between humane and inhuman anarchy, and between tolerable and intolerable disorder"

I agree with him. This is with reference to the Denmark/Holland example. We are a continent of several nations, forged into a nation. Our languages, cultures, identities are different. An India without conflicts is out of the question. And India, I believe, cannot be like the european countries having homogenous culture and language.

Boban said...

See what another distinguished Loyolite (Cheru John '95) has got to say about the communists:

Jiby said...

Deepak, this friend of mine might write an article/blog/book about his experiences fighting the SFI in presidency college and i will definitely point you to it.

Boban, I am sure most MBA's would think on similar lines.

After all they recently banned selling Coke across the state alleging the presence of pesticides in it!
Check out or several other links online.

Someday if I get to meet him we might discuss his and my article. Maybe his views have changed over time like mine and today we might be aligned on the same lines! :) Of course when he says hartals are pointless i have to agree that the reasons hartals are called for and what happens then is of major discredit to the malayali, but again i know people of all sections who welcome a day to sit at home! And protesting against Bush on Iraq; leftists do it all over the world, don't they? And Citibank - don't you think several Americans would be tempted to throw a stone at them? :)

Santhanu Nair said...

Was waiting for a post in jiby216 for along time and got a link to this today.
One of the best posts I have read for along time. Congrats.

bhuji said...


I am new to this blog. I am a researcher working on education. I too believe like you Jiby that the government schools need to reformthat but I think the sections of the society avails this education needs to be aware of it, the tendency to privatise education out of belief that it ensures better quality is a big s threat. We should also think as to what education means. Is it just manufacturing automatons to society, Do you mean we wants some cogs in the wheel. The disparity between have's and have nots are evident in education. If you look at the IIT's and the hegemony of castes and class it's evident.

We need to strenghthen public delivery systems remind people one and half generations ago these schools had best teachers and best students.

The dynamics of consumer oriented market driven society is penetrating into the system it is not noticeable but we need to think over what could be done

Anonymous said...


I was reading ur blog posts and found some of them to be very good.. u write well.. Why don't you popularize it more.. ur posts on ur blog ‘Sanchari...’ took my particular attention as some of them are interesting topics of mine too;

BTW I help out some ex-IIMA guys who with another batch mate run where you can post links to your most loved blog-posts. Rambhai was the chaiwala at IIMA and it is a site where users can themselves share links to blog posts etc and other can find and vote on them. The best make it to the homepage!

This way you can reach out to rambhai readers some of whom could become your ardent fans.. who knows.. :)


Anand said...

Regarding campus politics, we have to look at ground realities.

An example - Universtiy College in Trivandrum is used by parties to get students for a rally, to show more numbers and activism. There are students, ex-students and party goondas who harass juniors and get money from them, in the name of party, for their daily expenses. I like to share a personal experience here. There is a daily wage labourer who comes to my house for house related work, the only earning member of the family. His son did graduation in the University college. He told me that these guys used to take money from him. He used to give him Rs 20 to Rs 50, daily, so that his son won't be troubled. Finally his son managed to finish studies. That's the reality.

Another instance - A neighbour of mine(from TVM city) joined the University College for doing a degree course. He faced the same situation. He was even taken to donate blood when he did not have money with him, so that they can get money to spend. He could not stand it and quit the class.

They pull out students from classes whenever they need people for any rallies.

This is the reality. This is happening even now, in 2009.

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