A state of disquiet.

Three incidents in the past few weeks have left me in disquietude. I am not a big news person – I don’t devour each line of the newspaper every day or watch the news channels obsessively. A glance through the headlines online on BBC and NDTV on intermittent days is all I do. However, these three reports progressively added to my mental unrest.

The first was the death of Anitha, the student from Tamil Nadu who took her own life when the Supreme Court refused to exempt Tamil Nadu from NEET. A student coming from an economically challenged background, Anitha scored extremely well in her Class XII exams scoring 196.75/200 and would have been eligible for a medical school admission if NEET had not been imposed on the state. NEET, a common entrance examination for aspiring medical/dental students was created to present a level playing field for all aspirants. But the undeniable fact is that it has failed to do that. The NEET is heavily skewed towards the CBSE syllabus and barring the very exceptional, most students will need intensive coaching to crack these exams. Coaching classes are expensive ranging from 1 to 2 lakhs depending on their reputation! Most of these classes are available only in urban areas. Therefore a non-CBSE candidate coming from a rural area (like Anitha) has virtually no chance of cracking the test in spite of getting excellent marks in their XIIth exams. This is purely because of lack of training –  I do not doubt for a moment that if she had access to these coaching classes Anitha would have qualified for a medical seat in a premier institute. Add to this fact, that students from Tamil Nadu did not have time to prepare for this changed scenario. Those coaching classes were simply out of access for this young girl and plunged her in despair. Seeing no recourse, she took her own life. A tragedy, and one that will be buried as a meaningless statistic in the course of time because it seems that no one cares.

Entrance examinations for professional courses like medicine rely on purely multiple choice questions. This was introduced to do away with rampant corruption and the sale of medical seats when admissions were based on XIIth standard marks where the institution management had a significant ‘say’. MCQ based question papers aren’t fool proof. It tests a limited type of knowledge and does not even attempt to assess aptitude for the course. All it takes is a certain level of intelligence and focused training to crack the test. Case in point are the entrance boot camps which have sprung up which stuff this kind of training down students’ throats – and I may add, with excellent results! However, the all-important qualifying characteristic of aptitude is simply ignored.

With the Supreme Court fixing tuition fees in Medical Colleges at 11 lakhs, private colleges could very well be on the Himalayas for most of the students writing the NEET. Thousands of students with reasonable ranks who couldn’t afford spending 11 lakhs annually watched haplessly as the seats were given to others who were literally hundreds of thousands ranks below them. Naïve of them to think that money didn’t matter. It’s the only thing which does… Surprised that young students feel suicidal? I wonder when they will turn homicidal…

The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893

The second was the statement by the Indian minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju on Aug 9th which sought to deport the Rohingya refugees from India. Frankly, the situation in Myanmar is one step removed from my mind. Events happening in another country, news which I read, and commiserate shaking my head and move on. But when my own country becomes directly involved then I can’t sustain the denial. Deporting the so called illegal immigrant Rohingyas would be like a death sentence for them, at the very least we are condemning them to extreme suffering and trauma. Mani Shankar Aiyar in an article on NDTV wrote, “…The first signpost of our march towards a Hindutva India was Modi’s promise during the Assam elections that any Hindu from Bangladesh would have an automatic right of residence in India, but certainly not any Bangladeshi Muslim. This was a manifest contradiction of our millennial traditions……the Home Ministry’s September 2015 notification under the Passports Act and the Foreigners Act exempts from usual entry and residential procedures “Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists” facing persecution in neighbouring countries – but, specifically, not Muslims……Moreover, the Supreme Court has made clear, in their 1996 judgement in NHRC v/s Arunachal Pradesh, that the expression “any person” applies not only to bona fide Indian citizens, but anyone for the moment residing in India, Indian or not: “the State”, the court has decreed, “is bound to protect the life and liberty of every human being, be he a citizen or otherwise.””

What adds to my sense of disquiet is the fact that this has not come from a rabid Hindutva fanatic – Kiran Rijiju has a reputation of being a “gentle and civilized person. What chance does the country have when the educated and seemingly rational become mouth pieces of non-inclusive fanaticism?  How can anyone deny the pluralistic identity of India? And yet it is happening.

The third was the murder of Gauri Lankesh. Chilling in its ruthlessness. A cold-blooded transition from rhetoric to actual execution. This is just a couple of steps away from ethnic cleansing. All it takes is some time and fuel for the cascade to grow and this is what we will end up with. The systematic murder of all those who dissent, of all those who don’t fit in, of all those who eat wrong, pray wrong, love wrong…

Gauri Lankesh

The only way to prevent this is by a wave of righteous indignation. This is the time when every rational person in the country needs to react, for apathy is the worst kind of sin that can happen. And the condemnation has to start from the highest authority. However, the silence from Him, is deafening. Does the PM really care about a dead journalist? And a troublesome one at that? Apparently not…

And so my country becomes a state of disquiet…

 

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~ by inmyneed on September 9, 2017.

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