Court’s Call


As someone has said, the mistake of a doctor is buried; the mistake of an engineer is cemented; but the mistake of a teacher is reflected in the mirror of society. In the sub-continental context, this is a trifle unfair on the teacher. For, here, the unwholesome image staring out of the mirror is wholly the doing of the leadership – social, religious and political. It is only in the fitness of things that in Kashmir, which is the crowning glory of one part of the sub-continent and the jugular vein of the other, the mess-up should be big time. Since, for over six decades, the leadership has been busy either in pilfering from India’s gilded crown or sucking blood from Pakistan’s jugular vein, almost everything else has fallen by the wayside. Trite and repetitious though it may sound, one quantified fallout of sixty years of leaderships of all varieties – some dynamic and towering, some bold, fearless and unbending – is that Jammu and Kashmir was ranked as the second most corrupt state in the country. So, at times it falls to the lot of the Courts to try and undo what politicians have wrought.

Sometime in November 2011, the state High Court had quashed a government order that permitted state-employed teachers to conduct private tuitions. It is incomprehensible that the HC should have been silent when, for over a year, the government went about its bumbling business pretending that the state’s highest judicial authority did not exist. Now, due to accidental focus on the issue, the directorate of education has begun to make some pretence at action. But one can rest assured that this is only temporary, and will peter out eventually to the satisfaction of powerful cartels and syndicates. The High Court should crack its whip again, for, the state has always been blessed with a political leadership singularly lacking foresight, as is witnessed again today with a great show of registering private coaching centres. By implication, the vast network of schools, private as well as state-run, are unnecessary, and precious public resources spent on the government’s educational institutions a colossal waste. The pathetic standards of education in state schools should be the High Court’s next target, for, successive governments in Kashmir have been remorseless in using government jobs to dispense political largesse (when not actually minting money on even Class IV posts) with scant regard to merit and suitability, the last being crucial for as sensitive a calling as teacher.

Lest some quarters feel that government schools are being unfairly criticised, let it be put on record that even in the city’s most prominent private schools, students often defend the need for private tuitions, saying that the same teachers who barely go through the motions of teaching in formal classes become masterpieces of erudition at private coaching centres. It should be instructive, not the least for the High Court, that none of these students, undoubtedly bright and hardworking who will tomorrow take important positions in public life, deems anything amiss or irregular in a teacher, repeat teacher, neglecting the task for which he receives a lawful salary with the sole purpose of creating a demand and market for himself in the highly lucrative coaching business. Young impressionable students cannot be blamed, as this is what the system has been conditioned on for decades. But when tender, malleable minds start life with glaring ethical deficits, something teachers could have corrected with personal example, should it be a surprise that doctors have become subservient to pharmaceutical companies, and that engineers should think nothing of taking hefty commissions from contractors. (The two professions have been mentioned as they have long remained the first choice of most students with high academic records.)

Kashmir direly needs the courts to come to its rescue, for example in reforming the state-run school system, monitoring and ensuring standards, reining in mercenary tendencies in private schools, and laying down guidelines for setting up private educational institutions. The task, undeniably, was that of the political leadership, but it neither has the character nor the calibre to deliver on such basic counts. It would not have as good as legitimised private coaching otherwise. To begin with, the High Court must ensure that its orders on private tuitions are implemented, and carried further to root the scourge out.  

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