One of the biggest failures since India’s independence has been the inability and unwillingness of the privileged class to spread education in an egalitarian fashion. The failure has been at two levels – first, the content of education and, secondly, its reach to the last child. The result is being experienced in many ways – be it lack of the sophistication necessary to function as a ‘unit’ of a transforming democracy, or learning the skills required to cope with a developing economy. All the talk of Bharat versus India flows from this learning divide. It would matter little where and in what economic strata a child is born if the quality of education provided matched her specific needs and abilities.
The impact is also felt in the understanding of politics and the direction it should take, or in the attitude towards women, other castes and sections of society. This has become an impediment to bringing about the changes necessary to forge a modern society capable of competing with the rest of the world and meeting the challenges of social and environmental change. The character and thinking of these ‘left-behind’ sections is reflected at the decision making level, where ignorance of constitutional fundamentals becomes evident in many ways, particularly on crucial issues with long term impact.
This is why even in important problems such as rape, entire parties and leaders at the highest levels reveal a shocking level of ignorance of the issues at hand. In effect, they wish to ‘prevent’ violence against women by fortifying the very mindset that causes the problem in the first place. Sex and entertainment are considered ‘evils’ that others are expected to shun according to the whims and fancies of village yokels. At one time, the word ‘ganwar’ meant someone ignorant of the complexities of life; today, it is a badge of honour worn proudly by politicians milking the prejudices and phobias of the masses that have been kept deliberately ignorant and disempowered.
The privileged classes are now paying the price for their neglect, as the change necessary for India to become a front ranked nation on all parameters is being thwarted by the inertia of a large section of society, and its cynical exploitation by vested political interests. Yet, all is not lost. The rural youth, at least, is more than aware of the need to acquire skills and knowledge. It has an instinctive understanding of the direction to take if opportunities are provided. The modern means of communication can be used to interact directly with them and a world of diversity opened to explore and understand. The privileged and educated few must, at least now, focus on communicating information and knowledge to this section if it does not wish for things to go from bad to worse. If they are smart, it can also be turned into an economic opportunity to earn even more millions.