The Literacy Mission Drama:

A government – “of the people, by the people and for the people” is governing us for the past 6 odd decades. Now, of the people –‘YES’, by the people – ‘YES to some extent (?)’ and for the people – I would say an emphatic ‘NO’. Then one may ask for whom is it working for and my answer is that it is working a bunch of vested individuals and their cronies. I put a question mark on the “by the people” is because (a) many do not know for whom they are voting (b) many more do not even vote and finally the few literate voters not likely to create much of a difference.

I am coming to literacy mission taken up by successive governments as well as many NGOs. They all call it “mission” but none of them have ever taken it up on “mission mode”. Because I believe that had it been taken on a mission mode, the impact would have been different and visible.

As one will always agree, the strongest link in the chain of issues in the society we live in is illiteracy. Illiteracy is the mother of all issues as it gives birth to many other issues like poverty, unemployment, child labour and female Foeticide, population burst and many more. Rather, literacy enables a person to think rationally, to understand, to be more responsible and to make his/her own firm decisions.

For an ordinary man like me, it is very hard to digest that the land of the Vedas, the country that claims civilization in excess of 5000 years etc., is one among the countries with the high illiteracy levels and more so it display the utter failure of our successive politicians / governments in achieving this. It is also intriguing to a normal mind that a large country with greater resources has failed where smaller countries surrounding us like made it good. Sri Lanka, Thailand or Vietnam have bettered on the subject.

Even when this is the overall situation, I’m sure there is some politician somewhere getting ready with a prepared speech on Illiteracy in India where they will promise the Moon with a 9 point / 5 point / 20 point programmes as if announcing programmes can take care of every illness of the country. I have never seen a different approach by the government other than announcing programmes after programmes and never a policy change.

The moment a super-intelligent HR minister opened his mouth few years back and uttered a programme of giving free tablet computers and revamping education system, I was taken aback. You are addressing the middle of the ladder rather than the bottom steps of the ladder that are not there at all. The predicted end-result was that of another hyped up programme soon to be revised or finished.

Enter NGOs to pick up some of the campaign like ‘Each One, Teach One’. Does it really do the magic it claims will? Without properly factoring in the motive, motto and efficiency it doesn’t give desired results; be it government with all its built-in inefficiencies or an NGO whose field resources are limited. They should know that those who are keen enough to alleviate poverty in India should also know that without education – proper and serious – it wouldn’t happen.

Don’t show me pictures of poverty eradication, literacy mission, adult education etc., if possible show me the results on ground. How many of those from the mission you undertook made or changed their lives, and what that number transforms into percentage. How much more will you tax the innocent salaried citizens to spend on these wasteful expenditures?

All this, when everyone who matters know that the biggest effect of illiteracy in India is poverty. Poverty also happens to be the single biggest cause of illiteracy in India and a precursor to all other evils and it is one that has been increasing with each generational shift and with each year added to the calendar.

And neither the political class nor the corporates or Samaritans has the balls to say ‘we as a country failed in our mission’ to drive literacy as a campaign to enlighten, empower and enrich the masses. I would say it is a gross failure of both government and NGOs who thought they could eradicate illiteracy and bring back Ram Rajya.

Madhu K. Nair [11th December 2009]





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