Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Issues relating to development and management of Social sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Making our schools safe
The two recent incidents of attack on children inside their school premises in the national capital region of Delhi have sent shock waves across the country. Parents are up in arms asking the government and school managements to ensure that prescribed safety and security norms are followed by all schools, government as well as private. The media has been carrying versions and comments of anguished parents, school authorities, government officials and the police, all stakeholders offering their own explanations on how and why the task is beyond their competence.
These tragedies (and indeed, many more before them, reported and unreported), are only the symptoms of an entire educational system that has gone horribly wrong.
Who sets up most of the private schools in the country and why?
Barring exceptions, most private schools are set up by property dealers, liquor barons, politicians and the like.
Schools give them a fig leaf of respectability. And they are also a great avenue for the investment of dubiously acquired wealth. To impart education is very rarely the primary motive.
The driving force thus becomes the recovery of the capital invested and in order to achieve this, corners have to be cut. Among the softest targets for the axe are safety and security and teacher training. After all, parents grateful for admission are hardly likely to ask questions relating to safety and security measures.
Also, security measures go largely unnoticed, unlike swimming pools, air-conditioned buses and “smart” classrooms.
Lack of implementation of regulations required in order to secure affiliation:
Both the CBSE and ICSE have, on paper, very stringent norms governing the process. But the devil lies in the implementation.
Inspections” are manipulated.
The state of affairs in most government schools is pitiable. They are, for the most part, too starved for funds to make safety a priority, and are, by and large, manned by staff just intent on getting through the day.
No training of the head of the school:
The head of school is the person on the ground who is responsible for the implementation of safety norms.
Heads of schools do not have the requisite training for this responsibility. Heads have no training in safety and security as well.
Inefficient private security agency:
The management and head (both of whom are equally ignorant), are thus quite content to hand over the responsibility to some private security agency.
Most of these agencies (and more so, the ones at the lower end, which schools can afford), are quite content to have a hugely under-paid and untrained force, whose only claim to “security” is that they wear a uniform, practise marching in public view and salute the principal. And these are the people entrusted with not only guarding the premises but also responding to emergencies.
All this while when even simple safety procedures are not followed.
No regular audit in safety:
The problem is further compounded by the fact that there is no way in which a regular audit in safety measures can be conducted.
None of the school boards (although they have comprehensive manuals) have either the resources or the expertise to ensure conformity with safety measures.
Neither the school managements nor the directorates of education have the wherewithal to carry out the requisite security audits and surveys.
Teachers also not playing their role:
If the head of the school and the security agency entrusted with the well-being and safety of the students are both questionable in their level of competence, it is hardly likely that the teachers, who should really be the ones with their ears to the ground, will have any clue about spotting likely danger areas. Teachers also seek refuge in the fact that they are overburdened anyway and have to rush off for their private tuitions.
What this effectively means is that those closest to the students are, in reality, quite far removed from a critical area of concern in more ways that one.
Thus, the issue runs much deeper. It goes back to the very way in which we view school education, the priorities that we accord in the hierarchy of “educational needs” and whether we are really interested in investing in a better and safer future.
Step taken by government:
The Delhi Education Minister and Directorate of Secondary Education has issued directives to all school managements to get all their staff verified by the police within one month.
What more needs to be done?
We must be “pro-active” in this area rather than “reactive”.
Securing a premises requires a complex multi-layered screening process with the help of technical gadgetry, manned by skilled and alert security personnel, to ensure that all potentially lethal objects and persons are kept out, to the extent possible.
Regular fire and other emergency drills must be conducted. Connectivity with the jurisdictional police and fire services should be failure-proof and tested.
Experts can be asked to prepare a panel of professionally manned and managed licensed private security companies, based on careful and objective evaluation of their capabilities and capacities.
On-the-spot audits and regular inspections by experienced security professionals is required. The Directorate of Education should ask all school managements to get the audits of their school premises conducted by any one of them, within a stipulated time frame to be followed up by regular and periodical reviews to ensure that the safety and security measures are made as foolproof as possible.
The school authorities have to be suitably cautioned that failure to do so shall entail punishment and even termination of NOCs.
The ministers for education of NCR Delhi should convene forthwith meetings of representatives of all bodies including the police and invite former police and security experts to serve as advisers to monitor progress.
The heat and dust arisen because of recent dust must not be let to settle down. The above outlined steps must be implemented if our schools and hence our future has to be made safe.
Connecting the dots:
These recent tragedies in Delhi-NCR schools are only the symptoms of an entire educational system that has gone horribly wrong. Discuss the reasons behing and also the way forward.
TOPIC: General Studies 3:
Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Jammu and Kashmir Issue: People’s movement is the need of the hour
Kashmir is today at a crossroads. Al Qaeda has raised its head in Kashmir. Thankfully, the footprint is small but the ideology is vicious and it could find some resonance among an alienated and radicalised youth. The separatists seem to have no strategy other than calling for bandhs and have almost completely forfeited their appeal.
Kashmir has also lost its international attention. The declaration of Hizbul Mujahideen as a foreign terrorist organisation has totally diluted the theme of the Kashmir problem as an internal struggle. Attempts by the separatists and Pakistan to internationalise the Kashmir problems find little hearing abroad.
Cause of concern:
There is a tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes. We must be clear that it is not only a section of the Kashmiri population which is getting radicalised, it is also a part of the population of India. And the effects of this radicalisation cannot be geographically isolated, as Europe has learned at great cost.
People’s movement is the need of the hour:
Many changes in society have taken place through people’s movements outside state intervention.
The civil society of Jammu and Kashmir can take a leading role to stem the slide of its youth towards radicalisation.
It could also perhaps provide the answer to the question which is invariably asked by the government: “With whom should we have a dialogue?”
With the vast majority of Indians seeing the problem as merely one of terrorism and radicalisation, and therefore to be tackled with a primarily military bias, the local citizen of the state has to take direct responsibility to arrest the downward spiral.
Issues with civil society in J&K:
For too long, civil society has been caught between the guns of security forces and the terrorists.
There are also sharp divisions between the three regions of the state which make the finding of a common solution difficult.
There are many successful examples of civil society movements.
In 1984, the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) was formed to fight the drug and alcohol menace in Nagaland. Subsequently, the NMA made “Shed No More Blood” its motto and took on the task of negotiating between various underground groups to check violence in the state.
In Manipur, the Meira Paibi (women torchbearers) was formed in 1977. One of the largest grassroots movements in the world, its initial focus of fighting alcoholism and drug abuse has now expanded to countering human rights violations and the development of society at large.
These stories go to show that civil society can play an important role in conflict areas.
What needs to be done?
As a start, the representatives of the three regions should sit together and find a cohesive way forward. While Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh may appear to have many differences, there are also many linkages. Disturbances in Kashmir also trouble Jammu. There is common ground which can be found for people who have lived together for centuries.
Reforming civil society: There already are civil society groups in Jammu and Kashmir like the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons and Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. These groups have taken a very strident anti-government and anti-army stance, and now seem unable to move beyond this narrative. They should look to reform themselves.
International examples: The civil rights movement in America, the Arab Spring and the Otpor organisation in Serbia succeeded because they also managed to attract the support of people in government and the security forces.
National example: The Naga Mothers’ Association and Meira Paeibis have a large measure of respect from the army because of their neutrality in dealing with violations, whether they are human rights or social evils.
The civil society thus must shake off its past fears and emerge as a force.
The armed and unarmed groups in the state must permit the emergence of a strong civil society movement.
The political class must also play its part, and the first step must be backward. The Centre’s current strategy seems to inhibit it from applying the healing touch. It must step back from this approach, as should the Opposition parties from exploiting the situation in Kashmir. Then all can step up to find genuine solutions.
Connecting the dots:
Kashmir is today at a crossroads. Al Qaeda has raised its head in Kashmir. The separatists seem to have no strategy other than calling for bandhs and have almost completely forfeited their appeal. The government’s strategy doesn’t seem to be working out. In such a scenario what is required is people’s movement. Analyze.
Civil society groups have played marvelous roles in bringing a change is society especially in conflict situations. We have both international and national examples for it. Discuss how civil society groups can help in solving the J&K crisis.