Yes after the elections, after the formation of the new MDA 2.0, Meghalaya now has a new Education Minister. Education, at the risk of repeating numerous articles, letters, lectures, seminars and whatever else there is in the galaxy of words for common public interest, had once been the flagship department of the state but unfortunately somewhere along the way we lost it. The Education Minister of MDA 1.0 had started off with an enthusiastic call for an Education Policy for the state; a committee for the same formed, met and finally came up with a draft for whatever its worth was. Unfortunately that gentleman quickly lost interest in his Department of Education and his draft Education Policy never saw the light of day. Probably, as it now appears, that he had something more important and interesting things and personal subjects to occupy his mind. To put it more brutally and candidly, the future of the students of Meghalaya never featured in the priority list of the last Education Minister. We have never heard him mention them ever. The problem here is even when a minister loses interest in the subject of imparting good Education, this aspect in our lives still continues. Jobs depend on it; it still impacts skill development; it still influences and determines careers, livelihoods and the future of our upcoming generations are controlled by it. In short, it touches the lives of both the present and the future. Hence to ignore Education is a stigma on any Government; a sign of mis-governance and a crime against the people of the state.
As mentioned above we now have a new Govt; a new Education Minister and most encouraging, renewed public interest on this most critical aspect of any Government. In the ST of 17th March 2023, Dr Sumarbin Umdor, one of the young rising intellectuals of the state has raised the need for Bridging the Graduate Skills Gap on Meghalaya. A day earlier, Manas Chaudhuri an earlier Minister for Education himself had given a call for a Road Map for Education reforms. I am simply using the above two articles written scarcely one week after the swearing in of the MDA 2.0 Govt to illustrate the interest (one hesitates to use the word frustration and exasperation) the common man has on the continued neglect of the Govt on this life and death subject. Here I wish to further emphasize that education, right from Pre Primary level to PHD level, should not be the concern and interest of Government alone. If we wish Meghalaya to recover from its Educational ailment then the distress, sense of apprehension, alarm and worry of one and all must find expression in both print and digital media. Let’s get one thing straight. Govt, Ministers and Govt officials are there simply to ensure that the departments they administer perform. Let there be no mistake – the main stakeholder in Education is the Public itself; you and me and all of us who claim to be parents or guardians of the future generation. The future of our children depend on the existence of a good relevant educational system. If we think that something is wrong with it we must express ourselves. Our voices must be heard, be it through social media, the English papers or the vernacular papers. There is a rumour circulating, and I hope it is true, that the present Education Minister Shri Rakkam A Sangma, a well qualified individual himself wishes to do something positive about the state of affairs in the realm that he holds. Education is a complex subject made more so by the bureaucratic mess our babus have made of it. Yet we have to start somewhere to unwind this mess and set it straight and this start must be stakeholder driven – by the people themselves. I do hope the Minister accepts this statement not as a critique on his department but simply as a statement of facts. Letters to the Editor, articles and downright white papers on what the public think about our education system is now a must and we hope this new Education Minister has the guts, determination and focus to accept what is right and the courage to junk what is wrong.
The fear of the bureaucratic tool
Apropos of the editorial “Adani and Polls” (The Shillong Times 17th March 2023) was interesting reading. You cannot under write tough and real business men’s instinct after all “Economic power is exercised by means of a positive by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value”. Political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman’s tool is values, the bureaucratic tool is fear” wrote Ayn Rand in her book ‘The Atlas Shrugged’. The Editor in her editorial is correct in saying that “the CBI and ED do not have a mind of their own”. This is so because their tools are fear and fear of the unknown unlike the businessman’s tool which is values and incentives. The Adani may be a goldmine for the Congress, in the words of the editor “to puncture the high credibility of the Prime Minister and outwit the BJP”. But the question that is looming large is whether they have the numbers? Is the opposition united? Certainly not. It is apparent now that Narendra Damodar Modi is BJP and BJP is Narendra Damodar Modi given the public perception at the moment that the country is at large safe in his hands. The editor has also rightly observed that “a crack to Modi’s image via Adani could rupture the very foundation of the saffron party” in the run up to the 18th Lok Sabha Election. If this happens there is no second rank leader in the BJP to undo the rupture. I agree with the editor that “Politics is a game of one-upmanship. Ideology for show”. Hendrik Hertzberg, American journalist, speech writer of the 39th President of USA Jimmy Carter, editor of the New Republic and author of Obamanous – The rise of new political era and politics, has this to say on political ideology “A political ideology is a very hard thing to have. It is a real time saver because it tells you what you think about things you know nothing about”.
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