The great tradition of education in Maharashtra has been destroyed by politicians, Shikshan Samrats running institutions like overlords. They were exposed in a highly forthright manner by Sharad Jawadekar, a senior educationist from Pune. He walks with a serious limp and a walking stick but he speaks with such clarity and force, he ought to be heard often and be better known.
He spoke last week at the Mumbai Marathi Grantha Sangrahalaya (MMGS) in Dadar. The decline began with Vasantdada Patil, Former Chief Minister, freely granting permission to politicians to establish private colleges even when they had little infrastructure. Madhukarrao Chaudhari was the last good Education Minister in Mahaashtra and that was more than fifty years ago. Privatisation of education has proved to be disaster for the state.
Politicians, constantly invoking the names of social reformers Shahu, Phule and Ambedkar, had betrayed the state in the field of education. Jawdekar said the princely ruler Shahu of Kolhapur state spent as much six per cent of the state budget on education which was far more than the British administration did in its control and also present rulers.
Himachal Pradesh now spends double the amount in percentage terms than Mahaashtra on education. Politicians talk of the language of Pasayadaan of saint Dnanyeshwar, of caring for all, but in practice they function like Dronacharya who cut off the thumb of his underprivileged student.
I heard many horror stories about education in the state during the conference. Heavy bribes and donations and fees have to be paid. A teacher cannot get government scale salary without paying bribe. One cannot complain to any legislator because all of them are involved in some educational institution or the other.
The legacy of Bhaurao Patil, a selfless pioneer figure in education, as also of Tarabai Modak in the field of pre primary education, had been betrayed.
Neeraj Hatekar, Economics Professor, said Maharashtra now lagged behind even Uttar Pradesh in some sectors and in industry it was behind Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. The Patidar farming community in Gujarat had switched to industry, the Marathas in Maharashtra did not, they took to sugarcane farming which was more remunerative than other crops.
Dr Bhalchandra Mungekar, former Rajya Sabha Member, and Vice President of MMGS, spoke on the encroachment of rights of state governments by the Central government and on the federal structure. The BJP wanted smaller states because it was easier to squeeze them.
Prachi Deshpande, Associate Professor of History at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Kolkata, spoke on the multiplicity of languages and scripts like Modi used in archives and administration in some parts of India in the 17th century and other times. Some documents used both Persian and Modi script in Marathi. Some were in Dakhani Urdu, Kannada,Marathi etc, all in one region, there was so much mixture of languages.
Nandkumar Pawar, a leading of the fishing community, was heard with attention as he spoke in detail about the vandalization of the Konkan coast by corporates and others which had severely hit the livelihood of people apart from destroying wetlands and farmlands.
Deepak Pawar, Head of the Department (HoD) Political Science, Mumbai University, said there was need for many politicians and people to think beyond the era of Shivaji, they were living in the past, in a frozen time frame.
A 12-year-old boy from a Municipal School in Dadar animated the conversation over a presentation on agriculture. He asked a question about the price of tomato and the gathering, including many experts, realised it had failed to take cognisance of such an important current issue.
Dr Bhalchandra Mungekar, former MP who was also a member of the erstwhile Planning Commission, who was present praised the boy saying, "We need a strong consumer movement on the food price issue". Surely we can do without tomatoes for some days , he said, and felt that a big corporate group may be involved in the hoarding.
The question and answer session was held after the presentation of a paper by Sominath Gholve, Senior Researcher of Unique Foundation. He expressed concern over the diversion of land and scarce water resources to sugarcane. Even during drought, new sugar factories were sanctioned though cane was a major drain on water sources.
[Vidyadhar Date is a Senior Journalist and Author of a book on public transport.]
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