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'We are not politicising science'

T. Radhamani talks about her term as president of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad.

From being a member of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) in 1978 to becoming its president, T. Radhamani has remained in the forefront of social activism.

She describes the Parishad's objectives and activities so: "Whatever we do should be for the betterment of the people of the State. We're doing our bit in various fields such as welfare, education, agriculture and industry."

Radhamani denies the allegations made by the Parishad's critics that the institution is `politicising science'. "Science has only one truth. Whatever is untrue will be proved so. We expect our members from the science community to promote science for the general good," she says.

One of the commendable activities of the KSSP, in recent times, has been the formation of the `School Samrakshana Samithy', to prevent the closure of the schools as per the Government's notification. "The present Government had prepared a list of 3,248 schools. The reasons cited included "being uneconomic" and "few students" among others. Most of these schools were those that had tribal children and children from backward communities on the rolls. Our concerted efforts led to the withdrawal of the Government decision. So far, only 48 schools have been closed down," she explains.

The unit members were entrusted with the duty to evaluate the need for these schools to continue functioning.

During the course of the project, it was found that certain schools had just "one teacher" and "hardly 25 students".

But these "were the only ones in the area wherein children from backward communities could pursue their studies."

The Parishad Bhavan had formulated a set of instructions to facilitate the gathering of data. Members were instructed to take note of the mode of management of the schools (whether they were run by the Government or not), the distance from the school to that of the nearest one in the area, the number of students in each educational institution and the number of divisions it had, the financial status of the school, the religion of the students and various communities they belonged to, the number of staff, existing facilities in the school and so on. "Members from all the 14 districts sent us the reports, which we handed over to the MLAs concerned. Some of these MLAs were hard to trace. During the Assembly session, we went to the MLA quarters and handed over the reports personally. Not one of them refused to help us in our endeavour. The public support too was overwhelming in this regard. This was one of our biggest endeavours and we have completed it satisfactorily. It is heard that the new list for closure of "uneconomic" schools has been drawn up," she says.

According to Radhamani, her associates, members and activists of the Parishad have been her strength.

"We have over 45,000 members but only about 4,000 of them were active members. Over the past few years, all of them have become active participants. Our members took the initiative to conduct the study on the river, Pampa, and the extent of pollution," she points out.

The KSSP has a State Committee, which coordinates the activities of the sub-committees at the district, area and unit levels. "All the unit members are good facilitators now. We conduct camps regularly. Promoting performing arts has also been part of our activities," she adds.

The `Kerala Jatha', promotes theatre, while the `Kilikootam', for children, keeps itself busy with programmes for children.

On the cards now, is a `Balavedi', to be convened during the summer vacation. The Parishad would lay emphasis on preventing child labour and creating an awareness of children's rights, "especially their right to education."

The Parishad has plans to conduct a study on `How Kerala lives and thinks'. The study is to be conducted on a mammoth scale with a "wider sample."

"This is a study, the first of its kind till date. We intend to divide the houses in each area into groups and initiate group discussions on various topics. The Parishad also intends to conduct special meetings for this purpose. An expert committee is being formed and will comprise people from the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), a few of our former general secretaries, doctors, scientists, educationists and many others. We are now reviewing the secondary data collected by the unit members," she adds.

March 8 is being observed as the International Women's Day and the KSSP is conducting talks and discussions on "the need to empower women, privatisation and its effect on society and lives, the consequences of globalisation."

Radhamani, who is a senior accounts officer at the AG's office here, is handing over the reins of the KSSP to Prof K. Paputty this week at a convention in Thrissur. She has two unfulfilled dreams. "I wanted more women researchers and scientists to join our forum, but somehow this didn't happen. Perhaps, it is because our forum insists on the use of science only for human benefit. And then again it could be because these women are concentrating on their family and career alone. I see it as my failure. I was the president of the KSSP, where 80 per cent of the members are men. I wanted a woman to succeed me, but I was unable to find one," she says.


Photo: S. Gopakumar

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