I’ll do corruption to educate my kids

Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you surely had watched the interview between Barkha Dutt and Arvind Kejriwal or at least have heard about it from different media sources. I guess the question that stood out for me was from a common man (Aam Admi) from Bihar who is I guess a parent and had genuine concerns about the education reform and how it relates to anti-corruption.

I am paraphrasing. “Forget Jan Lok Pal bill tell us what you are doing to fix the education system? I want my kids to go to private school and if they can’t then I will do corruption in order to get them in. Why can’t govt schools be at the same standard as the private school?” (For actual quotes please watch the video)
“They are eager to know what’s in it for them.”

I guess there are several things here. Firstly, AK and AAP ran on the promise that since ‘nothing’ has been done for the last 65 years to improve the conditions of the common man we need to do something. This is why I can understand why people are asking questions. They are eager to know what’s in it for them. AAP doesn’t provide a ‘time table’ (you may read magic wand here) on when and how to achieve all of their promises. They need to be reassured (especially the ones who voted for him) that they made the right choice. What some label as ‘skepticism’ I call being ‘cautious’ or even ‘cautiously optimistic’. And ‘no’ just because you ask a question you don’t fall under the pre-defined three categories of a) Congress Stooge b) BJP Stooge c) Corrupt. In our democracy one should be able to voice their opinions and ‘ask’ of their politicians questions.

Even president Obama when he first took office had to go through such scrutiny, why should AK or AAP be any different (Obama too promised people that he will take them out of the economic mess that the previous administration had left them with). I remember CNN or other media outlets used to post ‘100 days report card’ on Obama’s administration.

“Rome wasn’t built in one day”

A very common argument from AAP supporters I hear is that “Rome wasn’t built in one day”. Yes, they would be correct and it took careful planning and execution to get it to an empire with senate members, a parliament, and an emperor. Has AAP gone through this ‘careful planning’ stage? Or are they making changes on the fly? What are the long term consequences of their actions? What are the risks involved and what checks and balances are in place to mitigate them? Will the next govt. be blaming AAP for all the mess they would have left behind for them to clean up? With time will AK and his team of ‘honest’ party workers also become the very thing they have been campaigning against?

I don’t think the parent from Bihar who was questioning AK was hoping for an immediate fix to the ‘education problem’. I think he wanted to know ‘what’ his plans are regarding the ‘education reforms’ for the state and for the country (should he wins the big chair). If you recall from AAPs manifesto (which they are quite eager to display) there was a plan for ‘education reform’. However what it lacks is the timing or the ways to achieve the plan or in lay man’s term clarity.

From AAP’s manifesto:

“Aam Aadmi Party is committed to the provision of high quality education to every child in Delhi, irrespective of their ability to pay. Towards this end it shall make all possible efforts to substantially improve the standard of education in government schools, and bring them on par with high quality private schools. At least 500 new schools would be opened.”

“However, then the new issue (and a welcome one) would be that they will need a lot more schools”

The question that the parent asked is the reflection of the issues for the Aam Admi’s in the country. What are these “all possible efforts” they promised? The focus thus far has been to tackle the corruption issues, which is great but how can you tell people to stop giving ‘donations’ to the schools in efforts to give their children a better education system, when the govt. run schools aren’t up to par with the private schools? If you make the govt. run schools the same ‘quality’ as the private schools then who would want to pay enormous amounts of money to send their kids to a private school? You would automatically solve the corruption problem (at least in the education system). However, then the new issue (and a welcome one) would be that they will need a lot more schools (than 500) to house these students. That would be part of the ‘infrastructure plan’ for the education system, which again we haven’t heard much about.

“What they ‘are’ doing or have done since taking office is making headlines around the globe. It’s what they are ‘not’ doing that needs to be questioned.”

Another common argument that gets pushed around is what they (AAP) have done in a month no other govt. has done in years. So to that I would say as far is their ‘work’ is concerned (or by extension work ethics), I don’t think running protests in the streets of Delhi by the ruling govt. is the kind of work the citizens of Delhi voted for. What they ‘are’ doing or have done since taking office is making headlines around the globe. It’s what they are ‘not’ doing that needs to be questioned. Is that not fair?
Arguments can be made that the previous govt. didn’t have a clear majority and so they couldn’t get any agreements from the collective at least on the national level. If AAP doesn’t have a majority and knew this going into this role then I am curious as to why did they? After all, AK has repeatedly made clear that he isn’t after the CM’s position or into forming a govt. his ‘sole’ reason for doing this was to clean Delhi from corruption.

“It’s not as black and white as it seems”

As for their ‘track’ record there are many questions. It’s not as black and white as it seems. Like for example “An anti-corruption helpline was created”: Great initiative and it is yielding results in suspension of the four officers. However, during the interview AK throws out the number of 15%, 20%, 25% of reduction in corruption state wide. Sounds unimaginable, but doesn’t share how he got to that stat? Or what mechanism he has in place to measure ‘corruption’ in the first place? Or that how does he plan to deal with the back log in prisons cells once these criminals are put behind bars? Now, having an anti-corruption phone line isn’t unique to the state of Delhi. Other places in India also have them. So it’s hardly the “innovative” thinking that everyone is attributing to AK/AAP.

“If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions.”

More questions can be raised on the other tasks that they have listed as completed on their site, but one thing that is glaringly missing is the ‘education reform’. If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions. All of the ‘solutions’ such as corruption line, Swaraj bill, ending of VIP culture, electricity, water, social justice, etc. on their site have a question mark in my mind. The only thing I saw for education is the Delhi Nursery Admission Help Line. This help line is to deal with any form of harassment including demands for donation while applying for admissions to nursery sections in PRIVATE schools. So how does it help the common man like the parent from Bihar? I would say that if it is too early to have AAP fulfill all their promises (and clarified them), then it is also too early to say that they have “started moving in the right direction”. But that’s just me.

“Something is better than nothing”

I guess then there are those who think that ‘something is better than nothing’. I just hope that it isn’t all a gimmick to enter the PM’s seat or it isn’t to have Congress pull their support from them, so they don’t appear incompetent, just betrayed. I guess I also realized that people are automatically harsh of the previous govt. since they had more time in the chair, and are willing to give AAP benefit of the doubt (or be softer) since they are new. I guess time (5 years) will tell at the end of it all what all positive moves did AAP/AK really made. Promises are what wins election be it, rice at 2/- kg or ‘free water for everyone’. Let’s hope AAP is better at keeping their promises than the previous govt. What more I hope is that they carefully vet their promises and do a feasibility study along with the risk analysis to figure out whether these actually makes sense for a greater good and the future.

“If you keep asking others to give you the benefit of the doubt, they’ll eventually start to doubt your benefit”

We need to give AAP a newly formed party with a new Chief Minister at the helm some benefit of the doubt, but If you keep asking others to give you the benefit of the doubt, they’ll eventually start to doubt your benefit.

 

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2 Comments

  1. says: Srinivas

    A very pertinent question being raised by the author. Quality and affordable education for all in a well defined time frame. A very good suggestion but impractical and unreasonable. Why?

    1. Have we bestowed the AAP with full majority for them to be able to pass any legislation to this effect?

    2. Do we have a responsible and reasonable opposition which will be willing to co-operate with the ruling government on quintessential reforms? Let alone support the idea, will they allow the assembly to function and have a meaningful debate on the said matter or will they play politics citing trifling technicalities?

    3. We always focus on the Ruling party but we are very lenient when it comes to the opposition. We fail to see that the ruling party as well as the Opposition are elected and sent to the assembly/parliament to ably represent the needs of its electorate and fulfil the promises made in their manifesto’s. They are both equally responsible. Why single out only the ruling party (which in this case is in a minority)

    4. If a chain smoker, who has abused his lungs, goes to a hospital with cancer and says “You claim to be the best hospital in the country, so I demand you cure me within the next one week”, I ask, Is he being reasonable? Our Education system is on a ventilator. Just as a doctor can never predict when a patient will come out of coma, I guess it would be unreasonable to expect change in a fixed time frame for a severely abused system.

    5. Supreme Court of India has passed some judgements favouring Private Education lobbies either because the governments of the day either did not fight the cases prudently or because the lobbies were too strong or well connected for the government to take them head on. Can a newly formed government overrule a Supreme Court Judgement? They can challenge it, but we all know how fast our judicial system is.

    6. Many if not most private educational institutions have politicians or their family members as trustees. Is it practical to expect them to incorporate changes demanded by leaders of an alternative political party. On the contrary they will go to any extent to stall any reforms. Private tuitions have added to the problem. In my opinion private tuition is another manifestation of Corruption.

    7. Like I mentioned earlier, the education system is on Ventilator. To even maintain status quo, is a very expensive proposition. Taking it out of the ventilator and restoring a semblance of order is even more expensive. The government will need a lot of money to revamp the educational system. Where will the money come from? One proposition is to stop pilferages in Government spending and redirect the savings to improve the educational system. This is what AAP has done. They have cut all extravagance and thus reduced pilferage to some extent.

    8. Corruption can manifest itself in many forms. Recruitments which are not based on merit has led to infiltration of inept teachers into the education system, thanks to the wrong doings of several political parties. How do we cleanse the system of such teachers. Does it not require a reasonable amount of time. If these inept teachers take the matter to court, they can drag on till they retire. A classic example is what happened in the Chidambaram’s case. He completed his 5 year tenure as Home Minister and Finance Minister, despite a case pending in the SC pertaining to the very validity of his election.

    Though I entirely agree with the author that education should be priority, setting a time frame is unreasonable. And if other political parties have failed to do so in 6 decades, it would be unfair to expect AAP to do so in 2 months given the limited mandate we have bestowed upon them.

    1. says: Skeptic

      1) Similar arguments could be made for previous govts as well. At least on the national level.

      2) I would say Education reform would be far more popular in nature then some of the other agenda items tabled by AAP. The issue is not the lack of intent in this, but rather the lack of awareness from the ruling govt. AAP didn’t even attempt to address this.

      3) Agreed, but the ruling party made several accusations and allegations and postured that they are above them all and are in more ways than one, different. We know that both ruling and opposition are to work together for the betterment of their electorate. If that was happening already, why would we need AAP?

      4) No, the way you phrase the question, it’s definitely unfair for anyone to demand a ‘fix’ to their health related problems in a given time frame. However, if the patient asks “What “is” the course of action?, What treatment options do I have? How long approximately it will take? What are the side-effects of treatment 1,2, 3?” Then it is completely fair. We know corruption can’t be uprooted overnight. We know that! (we get it) Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. Change is not the issue, the planning (or the lack thereof) for change is. What are the risks involved with the ‘changes’ being proposed? Any careful planner would take into consideration the repercussions of the proposed changes before implementing (or advocating) them. By that I don’t mean SMS polls. Just like, you wouldn’t ask the janitor in the hospital what they think of the course treatment doctors are thinking of administering to your hypothetical patient, you wouldn’t ask general population of the changes/reversals of laws.

      5) Sure, they can’t overrule SC judgment. To do so, would be unconstitutional. But AAP saw no issues in protesting over 4 cops which crippled the state for two days. But AAP had no issues going after Ambani’s over an issue with the electricity. If they (SC) didn’t fight the cases prudently then perhaps that’s where they should start. Let’s be honest, who isn’t well-connected these days. CM would also be well-connected should he have though to create alliances in the 49 days he was in power. Instead of alienating the police machinery work with them and support them.

      6) So what does that have to do with government run educational institutions? How are we reforming them? If you elevate the standards of the govt. schools, who would want to put their kids into a private school? Believe me private tuition is the least of our worries when it comes of corruption. Although I disagree that it is an issue. Students have the right to seek extra help if they need it. However if the teacher isn’t teaching the kids in class and is demanding that they seek help outside then that has to be looked at and checked.

      7) Great question, where will the money come from? We need to ask such questions when we promise people “free water”, or “subsidized electricity”, or “calling for a re-election”. Yes, this will require a lot of money, but don’t just discard it because it isn’t popular the water and electricity. Give it a thought. Reducing pilferage (or what I call gravy train) is only effective if the funds are being channeled to a cause. But even if this was part of the ‘plan’ why wasn’t it made public by AAP? My guess is it wasn’t the plan. The plan only extends up to (and is limited to) Jan Lok Pal bill. Nothing more and nothing less. And what extravagance have they really cut? I am curious. What is the direct impact of the savings of that extravagance? Who is gathering this data? Hopefully it isn’t Transparency International.

      8) Let’s stick to teachers here. You’re suggesting that a FIR can be lodged against Ambani but not the ‘inept teachers’? Now, these very same ‘inept teachers’ can somehow keep the arm of justice at bay for years in a court case? Is that about it? How come sting operations are so popular in the cases of ministers and are admissible in courts as evidence, and we can’t explore this option with the people who are to be training our future generations? AAP made a pivotal statement when he told the people of Delhi to stop paying their bills for electricity. Or give the bribe and then report it. Why couldn’t we use the same tactic in exposing teachers? If these are govt. teachers then chance are they probably don’t have much funds to fight a court case anyways. In that case justice may not be as delayed as you are thinking. Merit based system! Wow! Now wouldn’t that be a sight for sore eyes. Students that have the merit, are often committing suicides making India the #1 killer for students. But I am not trying to repeat the problem but rather looking for answers from the AAP on how they plan to fix this. Surely, after Jan Lok Pal, they would allocate time to education reform.

      Final: – Setting a time frame isn’t unreasonable if you really want to propel change. As a matter of fact, I would argue that time frame is exactly what is needed in our country. Will we make the dead line? Perhaps, not, but our future generations should judge us based on the efforts we did in order to give them a fair chance and not on the lack of our resolve. Maybe seeing how they would have performed in this area within their 5 years of power people would have given them another chance to continue this great work.

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