Sunday, June 21, 2009

Change syllabus every year to earn more!

Yesterday, I was travelling by train from Jhansi to Bhopal. There were two other co-passengers in my coupe and I happened to eavesdrop on their conversation. Normally, I would not prefer to do such eavesdropping but being seated opposite to each other and they having a very loud voice, I couldn't stop myself from listening to their conversation. One of the gentleman was the owner of a prominent newspaper in Uttar Pradesh and the other was a prominent surgeon based in Jhansi. Both of them were travelling to Jabalpur to attend a religious discourse.

The newspaper owner was talking about his family and the businesses that the family owns. One of the major businesses the family owns, apart from the newspaper, was a book publishing business. The family owns two printing presses - one in a place near Jhansi and the other in Raipur. The newspaper owner was mentioning that he was not fit to run the publishing business because he was a straight forward person and was incapable of running any business by feeding government officials under the table. Hence, the printing presses were run by his younger and elder brother respectively.

What caught my attention was the modus operandi of these presses. He mentioned that both the presses publish school text books for the government of UP & Chhatisgarh respectively. The value of the government order for each press runs into around 8 to 10 Crore Rupees every year. However, this deal can be secured only if the publisher is willing to give adequate kickbacks to the government officials responsible for clearing the order. Education, which is supposed to eradicate all evils, is actually the starting point of all evils in governance.

The orders are given out in the nth hour and the publishers have very little time, actually less than a month's time, to publish lakhs of books. In case the publisher fails to deliver on time, there is a huge penalty on the publisher. In order to deliver contracts on time, the publishers tend to compromise on the quality of the books thereby rendering the book unusable for more than a year.

What was more shocking was the way in which the entire education system was being taken for a ride to satisfy the interests of a few petty politicians and their loyal bureaucrats. In their greed to make more money for themselves, the politicians and bureaucrats change the syllabus every year forcing publication of new books. Thus, they make hefty kickbacks every year and grow richer than ever!

In all this bargain, the common man suffers the most! With the low income levels in Uttar Pradesh, not every family has the capacity to buy books every year. In earlier days, books used to be passed on from elder brothers to younger brothers since the syllabus used to change once in 5 years. Now, the poor man's family is forced to buy new books every year thereby stressing him even more. Many a times, kids are put out of school simply because they cannot afford education anymore, thanks to these money minded politicians and bureaucrats!

This conversation left me contemplating; does education pull people out of poverty or forces them deeper down the chasm?

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