One tends to take one’s own children for granted, and look at others with envy and awe. The youth of our country are second to none, despite the trying circumstances they are compelled to mature under or perhaps because of them.
Soulbowl buttonholed two students on the verge of completing their professional degrees in the city and quizzed them over a few matters. While some queries were to glean their views on nationalism and independence, some were to assess their awareness about life as it unrolls everyday.
We were impressed with the frankness and willingness to answer questions off the chest. But as none of them wanted to be named, it left us wondering whether this is the nation:
Where the mind is without fear,
and the head held high
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world is not broken up
Into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where come out from the depths of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear system of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee
Into ever widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom,
My Father, let my country awake
That was penned probably at the turn of the previous century, but as we begin to commemorate our own 70th year of that blessed freedom, we have the pleasure of unfolding some views of two students in our prestigious professional institutes in the city:
- On attaining Independence, we the people of this country gave ourselves certain Rights and Duties.Even though you may not be aware of all of them, do you think we are exercising those rights and duties better than ever before? Give me your general impressions.
Student A: India being the biggest democracy does give us a large number of rights. India in 2017 is definitely more aware and is exercising those rights. Duties are neglected though.
There is still a great scope of improvement. There is huge insecurity in some section of people regarding their religion or others religions. I haven’t been able to understand what is wrong with people. Till date I see the first page of newspaper packed with the Babri Masjid case, beef ban, riots, and even some celebrity (Sonu Nigam) accused of being anti-Muslim because he questioned the loud speakers used during the prayer at the time of Ramzan. People need to rise above the influence such religious hardliners, accept that everyone is equal, has the same rights and people are bound to have their own opinion.
The only solution I see to this is EDUCATION. Literacy rate needs a push in northern states!
Student B: We love our rights but resent our duties. That said, there is a lot of work to be done to improve the provisions of the fundamental rights. Countries in the world are considering the advent of Universal Basic Income. India cant even respect the privacy of an individual.
As for our duties, there is less actual work and more chest thumping. Making it mandatory to play the national anthem before movie screenings has no real value. Even the bribe-taker knows the lyrics to the national anthem, they literally beat it into you in school sometimes.
- Do you give much importance to secularism, democracy as hallmarks of freedom, or do you think we are better off without them?
Student A: Of course they are important. They are the backbone of freedom. Even though the growth rates of a non-democratic states are more as compared to democratic states. But the importance of freedom is way more.
Student B: I think secularism and democracy are the cornerstones of freedom. Freedom means many things. The freedom of choosing your own religious faith and system of beliefs, and even choosing not to subscribe to any such system, is only possible in a secular state. Persecution for not following a particular faith manages to create an echo chamber, with no tempering of thoughts or actions. Frightening people into following your personal beliefs is no different from terrorism.
A democracy means freedom when it provides real choice. I think we still have a long way to go in that aspect.
- Is the judiciary politically compliant? Is it Independent? Why is it perpetually short of Judges?
Student A: I don’t have a very firm point of view on this.
But from what I have observed, any case against a powerful person (be it financially or politically powerful) is not pursued with much dedication until it is brought to light by the media. This raises a lot of questions.
Student B: The judiciary manages to be really bipolar about its independence. There is the reversal of the cattle sale ban on one hand, while they’ve also made the national anthem mandatory in cinema halls. There have been poor judgments on individual rights to privacy and blanketing people into the Aadhar system, among other things. Definitely need more rational and educated judges, who do not believe that peacocks are asexual and that cow urine has healing properties.
I think the judiciary is perpetually short of judges because there are a lot many hurdles to cross rather than just merit. Right now, you don’t really become a judge for your legal acumen and foresight.
4.Do you really think merit is rewarded in India, or nepotism and favoritism still rule the day?
Student A: Merit is rewarded. A person deserving something eventually gets it, could be after a lot of struggle but he/she manages to get it. There is still a certain amount of influence in certain areas, some prominent posts like head of some sports organization.
Politics and Bollywood are mostly dominated by dynasty.
Student B: We’re stuck in a transition. The rewards for merit are not very significant, however. There is a subjectivity that lingers in many spheres, from education to politics. There is definitely a preference for keeping the business in the family (political dynasties come to mind).
Promotions are more about who you know and provide favors to, and less about how good you are at your job. But that’s a flaw that is present everywhere around the globe. We’re just doing a poorer job at making sure that merit counts most of the time.
5.Should there be reservations at the cost of merit in medicine, engineering, education bureaucracy etc.?
Student A: No there should be no reservations at the cost of merit. A person who is much more capable of learning medicine and saving lives should not be brought down by someone who is SC/ST.? Same implies in other fields also.
Student B: No. I feel reservation has been a crutch for a broken leg, and that crutch continues to be used even after the leg has healed. No one bothered to really fix the leg. Now its healed all wrong, and we’re still using the crutch.
Instead of providing actual, equal access to education and opportunities, we have reservations based on caste and (At least in medical) based on whether you’re a resident of the state. If a system cannot provide choice, it is not a good system.
We want the best of education and healthcare for ourselves and our kids, but we also want to go to the best colleges without admitting that there might be someone better out there. We’re in denial.
6.Should the cast system as practiced for centuries in this country be revived or abolished comprehensively?
Student A: Cast system officially does not exist in the country and it should remain that way.
But it still prevails in certain sections of the society which would take a lot of time and effort to eradicate. Every citizen has the right to equality by the constitution of the country.
Student B: I don’t think India will manage to get rid of the caste system any time soon. Its so deeply ingrained into the minds of the average Indian. The reservations and favors have only deepened the divide. The only change is that the caste system is now covert instead of overt.
I’d be really surprised if we managed to do away with the caste system in the next couple of decades.
7.Are you happy with the way the job scene is unfolding in India today. If not, what do you think is responsible for it?
Student A: The government is definitely trying to generate jobs. The point to be noted is that the rate at which students are graduating as professionals is way more than the jobs being generated. This is a crisis situation. Higher education has become a business where every second person is ready to invest and open a university but I have my doubts on the quality of education imparted. This gap would keep increasing with time and rising population.
Student B: Overpopulation, overpopulation, overpopulation. Supply is far outstripping demand. If there is too much of something, it no longer has value. Somehow this simple logic evades most of our citizens.
Also, if someone hates a field, they’re never going to achieve their full potential in it. We could do with less engineers and more economists and teachers.
Sadly, in India, teaching is a job reserved for someone who did not make it. Poor teachers are poor role models and yield poor students. Things will only go downhill from there.
8.Why is it that even after so many years of freedom, we have not been able to make our borders impervious? Or do you think reunification with our neighboring countries will reduce our burden on defense expenditure?
Student A: I feel in the 1990s India required a leader with determination to sort the border issues. After Kargil it could have been sorted to an extent. As of now nothing firm can be done. Every country is armed with nuclear weapons creating a stale mate sort of situation since no one wants to bow down and physical actions remain off the table.
Reunification is definitely not a sensible advice. You might end up saving a few millions on defense expenditure but would end up losing billions trying to step the country up on other fronts since it’s economy is in ruins.
Seeing the terror influence in the neighboring country, probably we might end up spending way more on defense.
Student B: Reunification would bring a lot of socio-economic pressure. We’d need major changes in things, from national budgeting to entrance examinations. Plus we’d need to be mature enough to understand, respect and accept the differences that have grown between us and our neighbors. I don’t believe India is capable of such maturity right now. We cant even handle our internal differences yet.
As for terrorism, we’ve (globally) managed to only make more terrorists. We’re not really making it lucrative to NOT be a terrorist. When you corner a particular group of people and make them feel alienated, they huddle together and lash back.
9.Do you think the people of the state of J&K have been exploited or pampered after so many years of partition?
Student A:?It is really tough to comment on this. Judging by what the media shows, they are a victim of terror and cross fire between India and Pakistan? Exploited would not be the right word but yes J&K has suffered a lot in my opinion and requires some stability.
Student B: Not very well versed with J&Ks history to comment.
10.Do you think our Police Services, Judiciary and Bureaucracy need reform today? Would you be inspired to join them, after your professional degrees?
Student A: Recently I was reading about the transfer of a cop for questioning facilities being provided to a politician in jail. It really pinches me when I see the level of influence the political parties have. Even if an honest officer wants to do something good he/she is brought down by the influential people.
Seeing the treatment an honest officer receives I wont be much inspired to join civil services.
Student B: Yes, they need reform. Unfortunately the probability of suddenly having a lot of key posts filled with honest, selfless people is slightly less than seeing the Halleys comet every year. (Halleys comet is only visible from Earth every 75 years or so.)
I wouldn’t join them, just not cut out for their particular style of functioning. Inefficient and boring, less action and more paperwork.
11.What do you think needs to be done to save the Sukhna Lake? Can it be done? If not, then what do you think this site could be transformed into?
Student A: Sukhna is taking the brunt of global warming. There is nothing much the government can do to save it. A good monsoon this year might help in the revival of Sukhna.
Sukhna Lake not being there would certainly create a void which is going to be impossible to fill. I don’t have many ideas on what could it be transformed to but I hope it is not commercialized.
Student B: I don’t think there’s any real effort to save the Sukhna. We need intelligent and creative environmentalists and scientists. We have bureaucrats.
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