The 1950s Blunder

As I was reading one of the books written in the 1960s about India, I couldn’t help thinking about the challenges and the opportunities that people must have felt at India’s Independence. True, we started off Freedom with plenty of challenges — Partition, Gandhi’s assassination, Kashmir and the Princely States integration into India. It took a few years to sort them out.It wasn’t even clear at that time that India could stay together as a single country.

So, when the 1950s started and most of the problems were behind us, there must have been a sense that finally our destiny was in our hands. Looking at India now, I cannot help feeling that we made more than a few wrong turns as a country during that decade. None have hurt us more than the lack of investment in primary education. As my friend, Atanu Dey, once put it, “All we needed to do was to educate one generation of Indians.” And we failed them. That blunder continues to haunt us even today – and we still haven’t got it right. And we still don’t hold those who made the blunder accountable.

3 thoughts on “The 1950s Blunder

  1. Education is the biggest blunder the ruling class continues to make. Lack of education leads to (a) corruption (b) substandard service in procedural jobs where people do not obey traffic laws, create litter, and in general people who work for the “educated” working class.

    The politicos continue to plunder the state / nation assuming a large part of the society does not care nor the educated class has enough dry powder to throw them out. Look at Karnataka, BJP is doing the same thing what Congress has been doing for decades!

  2. My school teacher used to tell me that the euphoria and optimism after Indepdendence was so high that we could have achieved pretty much anything… yet we achieved in real terms nothing. I think there is a similar optimism in the current youth. Its time to correct our mistakes.


  3. Rajesh,

    These days I guess with all the fan mail you are getting you are getting rather blase about your opinionating.

    Heard the line

    “Confidence is the feeling you have before you have truly understood the problem”

    Read that line again!

    What the hell do you know about the fifties? Or what the hell does fan boy Atanu know? Go ask the seniors you know as to what the scenario was during that time. Then do the writing.

    It was a time when the country was optimistic, but optimistic without being really aware of the challenges that lay before them.

    The challenges were many and the government of the day was trying to solve the problems in the way it thought best.

    Consider this for instance:

    Education was considered a waste of time by most of the common man during that era. Only as more and more people started getting jobs and prestige based on their education, only as more and more government jobs became available did education take off as an attractive option. Till then the advise the elders gave their sons was to work their farms or follow their traditional occupations.

    The governments allocated funds to education but found the uptake too little. The first midday meal scheme in Tamil Nadu came as a result of the understanding that the common man had more urgent needs, needs that stopped him from sending children to school.

    Even then, governments persisted in trying to provide for education. The surge of graduates during the early seventies and the late eighties is testimony to that fact. And the fact that getting educated could be a life settling proposition.

    Soon supply overshot demand. What happened further has been chronicled a zillion times in the movies of that day, in fact this oversupply of education was the trigger for the rise of the angry young men, an oversupply of educated, jobless youth.

    Even then the government persisted with education. On the job front, the dismal scenario continued, even into the seventies and eighties, until the IT service sector broke through and clean, there were few decent options for the educated.

    There is more than enough evidence that succeeding governments did see education as a panacea, and despite the unfavorable reviews persisted with providing cheap and good quality education to those it could, the IIT’s are a case in point.

    I guess that that no IIT grad of the eighties spend more than five thousand rupees on their entire education, the government was spending fifty thousand on them at that time.

    Coming to your primary point; I imagine that all those wasted graduates came through primary school. Fine they did lack the internet, cell phones and video games. However let us get this clear, the governments of those days was pretty insistent on education.

    As to if it was the right kind of education, the debate is still on. As to the quality of imputs, the debate is still on. As to many other factors, the debate is still on.

    Governments unfortunately cannot wait until the debates get over. They have to pick the available baton and run, and this is what they did.

    And please dont quote Atanu, when reading him I am always reminded of a donkey’s bray.

    If you have noticed, the ass when it starts its bray, looks like it has something profound to say, but it finally turns out to be nothing more than a wail. We have enough wailers already.

    The perils of democratising writing is that we got to suffer fools like him. We know of course that the government subsidised his education, but looks like he did not get much out of it.

    Just because one feels strongly does not mean that one thinks rightly.

    Get your *** on track…. as I said in the first line, try to understand the problem, go to the primary schools and find out what is lacking, then tell us what is your solution.

    Do not disgrace yourself and your readers by such unwarranted philosophising. I am sorry to have come on strong, but then crap need to be stopped before it multiplies.

    I imagine that you got to take a saner apporach on the other governance issues that you have been talking about here, the issues are complex and hardly have simple solutions.

    There is a line in some Dilbert comic which asks “Who let the engineer in” Governance, let it be repeated, is not an engineering problem.

    The only simile with engineering is that, much as with real complex engineering problems, only an innovative solution will work, and unfortunately, (read this carefully) the solutions are not always obvious or easy to arrive at.

    So read the first quote again. the one that starts with Confidence. Then sit down and do some real thinking, and real study. Then pontificate.

    I rest my case.