Failure Of Education

Photo credits: Reuters

By R. Raj Rao

THE India Today Group, along with an agency known as Karvy Insights, recently conducted its bi-annual Mood of the Nation Survey. The survey was intended to find out that if general elections were held today, what would the results be? In order to investigate this, 12,132 Indians were randomly interviewed across 19 states, representing 97 parliamentary and 194 assembly constituencies. 

The results of the survey, conducted between 3rd and 13th January this year, showed, predictably, that the BJP’s and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approval ratings stood at 74%, with 44% of those interviewed rating Modi as good, and another 30% rating him as outstanding. Only a small number rated him as average or poor.

Principal among Modi’s achievements, according to the respondents, was the favourable Ram temple verdict that he had managed to elicit from the Supreme Court. 27% of the interviewees voted in favour of this, while another 20% lauded him for revoking Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir. Overall, the nation also seemed to be satisfied with the Prime Minister’s handling of the Covid 19 pandemic.

There were things that were regarded as Modi’s failures too; among them, unemployment, cited by 29% of the respondents, and inflation, cited by another 13%. Only 10% of the people interviewed called demonetisation a failure, and, shockingly, just 9% regarded the ongoing farmer agitation as an indication of the Modi government’s inability to deliver. 

The final result was that if general elections were held today, the BJP would win 291 Lok Sabha seats, while the NDA would win 321. Impressed by this, India Today put Modi on the cover of its latest issue.

The survey can be faulted on many counts. One may ask whether in a nation of 140 crore people, 12,000+ respondents is a representative enough sample. Besides, does the profile of those interviewed include people from different segments of society, in terms of education, gender, caste, class and religion? This is not known.

Assuming, however, that the sample size and the nature of the sample are okay, the verdict proves how “illiterate” Indians are. 

First, the handling of the covid-19 pandemic. People are unable to see that, among other things, a stringent lockdown at four hours notice led to job losses (although 29% of the respondents cite unemployment as the government’s chief failure), destroyed the economy, caused the migrant labour crisis, and gave the police a free hand to unleash terror on citizens, exemplified, at its worst, by the murder of the father-and- son mobile store owners in Tamil Nadu. Now, with the arrival of vaccines, there is further displeasure at the way Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is being thrust on people while still in the clinical trials stage, with the company itself issuing an advisory as to who should not be taking the vaccine for reasons of safety. 

Secondly, if almost half the number of interviewees thinks of the Ram temple judgment and the revoking of Article 370 a good thing, it shows how insensitive they are to the feelings of minorities, Muslims in this case, and especially to the feelings of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) that are hostile to Muslims do not seem to have come up in the survey, but if they had, it is clear that here too the respondents would be on the side of the government, rather than on the side of the protestors at Shaheen Baug and various Indian universities. 

All this proves that now onwards, the Hindu majority will be blind to the government’s faults as long as it is convinced that the government is aggressively pursuing its Hindutva agenda. This is further proved by the survey showing that it is Yogi Adityanath, UP’s ‘Love Jihad’ man who is seen as Modi’s successor, rather than even Amit Shah. The secularism, then, envisioned by the founding fathers of our Constitution has gone for a toss, and Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia and other phobias have become the order of the day. 

But the insensitivity isn’t just with regard to Muslims. India’s farmers have been protesting against the new farm laws for over two months now. As many as 150 of them have died of hunger and exposure to the cold. All talks between the government and the farmers have come to nought. On Republic Day, the farmers’ tractor rally in the capital ended in violent clashes between the farmers and the police, with casualties on both sides. Yet, it is only a paltry 9% of India Today’s respondents who are critical of the government’s handling of the farmer issue. 

Then there is the recent BARC-TRP scam that revealed, through WhatsApp chats, how Arnab Goswami had direct access to the PMO, which should really be a source of embarrassment to the government and bring down its score. But this question did not even figure in the India Today survey. 

How different Indians as a race are from the Americans, who were able to see through President Donald Trump’s white supremacist policies, and voted him out of power. And it isn’t enough to say, as analysts often argue, that the only reason the ruling dispensation seems to be invincible is because there isn’t an alternative to Modi thrown up by the opposition. Joe Biden wasn’t seen as an alternative to Trump till the elections drew near. And yet he won the elections. Likewise, at the appropriate time, an alternative to Modi shall automatically emerge. No democracy can use this as an excuse to invest in just one man, for this is how autocracies are born. It is—or should be–our collective responsibility to scout for new leaders, just as new captains are chosen for cricket matches.

What purpose do absurd surveys of this kind serve, other than boosting the ruling party’s ego and giving them the feeling they are indispensable, come what may? Or are they paid surveys, with the government itself providing the list of respondents?

As an educationist, I can only conclude that the lopsided, bigoted, ill-informed thinking of Indians proves one thing. It proves the failure of education. And it suits the government to cash in on this failure. Small wonder, then, that higher education, especially in the Liberal Arts and Humanities, is accorded such low priority by the powers that be.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  •  Dr. R. Raj Rao is an internationally known Indian English novelist, poet and critic. He was Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of Pune in Maharashtra. He has also been a Visiting Professor at universities in Canada and Germany 

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