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Why deny education to the have-nots?

V.R. Krishna Iyer

The prospects are grim and the portent is a national education policy promotive of colonisation.

THE CONSTITUTION, in its Preamble and Fundamental Rights part, has inscribed the right to life with equality and social justice to every person who is a member of the grand collective, We, the People of India, as a guaranteed right and paramount value. The authoritative interpretation by the Supreme Court, which is final and binding on the country's institutions, holds that dignity and equality of status and opportunity are integral to the right to life. It also held that education is a cardinal component of human dignity and, therefore, of the basic structure of the Constitution.

It follows, as a fundamental state obligation that each Indian, be his socio-economic station high or humble, has a just right to a fair level of education irrespective of social, financial, regional, religious considerations. The `socialist' Republic inscribed in the Preamble is no idle adjective. So viewed, the right to education derives an ideational activism, which judicial construction cannot burke or jettison based on the subconscious impact of the dubious mantra of privatisation. An integrated value-vision obligates the court to measure the semantic dimensions of diction in paramount documents, taking care to remember that the Preamble, Articles 14 and 21 are inviolable, being part of the basic structure of our Founding Deed. I esteem the erudite brethren of the High Bench, which enjoys supremacy. But contradictory pronouncements land the rule of law in a jural imbroglio and consequent difficulties to the nation, which consists of daridra narayanas.

Courts have given unwitting currency and authority to counterfeit meaning to the right to education by holding de facto that education is an industry, a saleable commodity, a business — now Big Business — where possible future investment and reasonable profit are relevant in computing and inflating admission fees and disguised capitation fee from students. They seem to forget the fundamentals inspiring the economic justice concept writ into the Constitution. This alone gives judges power controlled by its humanist philosophy, which contradicts commercialising and colonialising of education. It is good that a college for judges has been started to refine and refresh them, inter alia, in the country's socio-economic condition and swaraj as people's educative emancipation.

Commercialisation of the right to education may tend towards cadaverisation of the constitutional right to life in dignity. Today the state is so indifferent to the lowest rising to the highest level of education that admission even to LKG is often possible only on payment of Rs.10,000 as a condition, covert or overt. Admission to the medical colleges involves concealed, disingenuously rationalised capitation fee, which can be a fancy sum of Rs.40 lakh, obviously beyond the reach of even ordinarily well-to-do Indians. Rs.30 lakh to Rs.40 lakh for admission to the MBBS is claimed to enjoy judicial sanction, according to private managements who demand monopoly of all seats.

Thus this century will be testimony to Bharat divided, the few rich with their children enjoying higher education and, on the other hand, the millions of minions and have-nots, bonded labour, jobless proletariat sans any education, employment slowly losing faith in Swaraj. Big Business will operate `higher education' colleges as a commercial adventure with money power over state institutions. Terrorism, corruption, and foreign exploitation will find fertile fresh woods and pastures new.

India that is Bharat will suffer from a dependency syndrome. The prospects are grim and the portent is a national educational policy promotive of colonisation.

The State is denigrating the public sector and advocating withdrawal from all fundamental activities, including education. Management of our nation is steadily but wilfully getting into the hands of a rich ruling class under foreign domination.

The State may revise its policy, the Court may, as it has done before, reverse its interpretation to save the nation, and the rich may realise the futility of estranging a vast populace. We must defend poorna swaraj. "It is a freedom we are in danger of losing without even knowing it. For when there is no longer anyone speaking out, who will be the last voice?" (John Pilger)

Deprivation and privation may drive a people into despair. Democracy, then, becomes barbaric. The root cause is negation of equal opportunity and social justice, and suppression of dignity and access to education.

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