Monday, 21 July 2014
Another one of my letters to the editor of "The Hindu" which most probably will not be published:
July 21, 2014,
This is with regards to your news article titled "From school drop out to crusader of 'free' education" by Vidya Venkat (July 15, 2014) about the late Tamil Nadu leader, the great Mr.K.Kamaraj. I feel that the term "free education" used in this article is a misnomer and belies a lack of understanding of the fundamental rights entitled to the citizenry of the nation by the collective use of the public exchequer contributed by the tax paying public.
Certainly your journalists will not refer to the provision of street lamps as "free lamps" or the construction of gutters for sanitation as "free gutters" because such services using tax payers' monies is considered as part of public safety and public health. Similarly, provision of primary and secondary education and even health care to all citizens is a fundamental right warranted by concepts of public education and public health, and cannot be termed as "free education" or "free health care" because these services are not free but public services paid by the public. Even in capitalist USA, public education up to high school diploma is fully subsidized by the tax payers by a nationwide public education system, and even technological stalwarts like Steve Jobs got their education only in this public education system and Steve Jobs in particular did not go to college after his public school because he could not afford college, and in a way we have to thank the public education system in USA for giving us a Steve Jobs and his apple products. In India on the other hand, someone who studied only up to high school will not be accepted or respected for his tech wizardry (unlike Steve Jobs) even if he is a proven genius, given the respect and status accorded to elite high tech educational institutions subsidized by tax payers' monies such as IITs which almost exclusively function as academic citadels of upper castes, and it is interesting that your newspaper will never describe students who study in IITs as users of "free" education!
Public education for all up to high school with no cost to the students is guaranteed by every state even in that so called capitalist paradise called USA, and hence the lack of a universal guarantee to primary and secondary education in India is inexcusable, (despite the unenforced directive principles of our constitution and inane ineffective laws like the Right to Education Act), and calling the provision of such public education as "free" may be seen as emanating from a patronizing attitude that sees private elementary education as superior, or which considers education only as a preserve of those who can pay for it, or worse, as in the expression of Brahmanical dictum that sees education as an exclusive preserve of Brahmins and "twice born" castes and derides the spread of education to the working masses defiled as "Shudras in Hindu scriptures".
Hence, the title to your aforementioned article should have read as "crusader of public education" and not as "crusader of 'free' education".
Posted by Iniyan Elango at 21:30