Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Whither Higher Technical Education

Last month a student in final year of Computer Science and Engineering in a Government Engineering College in Indore committed suicide. He left a note saying that he had wasted a lot of money of his family and was unable to fulfill their expectations that the investment they were making in his education would result in a good job and so instead of wasting any more of their money he thought it better to take his own life. Many such suicides take place and so it is necessary to delve into this phenomenon to understand the desperate situation that faces the youth of this country.
The student in question belonged to the Scheduled Caste category. He hailed from one of the smaller towns of Madhya Pradesh where his father makes a marginal living as a motor repairer. Therefore, his selection for admission in this government engineering college in Indore for computer science through the competitive entrance examination was welcomed by his family with great enthusiasm. They and he thought that this would put them eventually on the path to prosperity.

Unfortunately, the reality that confronted this boy and which confronts most students coming from humble vernacular backgrounds these days, is very harsh. The first barrier they face is that all teaching in Engineering colleges is in English. Therefore, they are not able to perform well and end up with low cumulative grade point average scores. Finally, when the time comes for campus placement they are not able to achieve the cutoff score of 7 CGPA that is demanded by the visiting companies for eligibility to be interviewed by them. Therefore, these students never get placed from campus interviews conducted by private concerns. There was a time when there used to be Government jobs for such people but those too have dried up these days with very few government institutions and those that are there, outsourcing most of their work to private concerns. So eventually these students attend coaching classes for competitive examinations for jobs in the government administrative services, public sector banks, railways and the like. Those who don't succeed in either getting placed through campus interviews or getting selected for government jobs through competitive exams have to eke out their living in low paying and insecure private jobs which cannot lift people out of poverty.
This is why a huge number of low income background students in engineering colleges are frustrated. Their aspirations have been raised that a degree in engineering will result in a well paying and secure job. So their parents spend a huge amount to get them educated in this hope. But eventually they find that this is not the case because late capitalism has drastically reduced well paying and secure job opportunities both in the private sector and in the government and so only those with good grades succeed in landing these jobs and the poorer students are left with low paying insecure jobs.
Even though there are scholarships provided to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students for their college studies, they do not cover all the costs of tuition and hostel residence. Therefore, the parents of these students have to make a substantial outlay in addition to what is provided through scholarships by the government. After that due to the load of these expenses which often push poor families into debt there is pressure on the students to deliver which they cannot. Even if only a few commit suicide, there is general depression and desperation among them.
Thus, even technical education is now not able to provide a leg up out of poverty for those who are poor and liberal arts education had stopped doing so much earlier. The problem of course is not with education so much as with the capitalist system which creates aspirations among the people for good high paying and secure jobs on the one hand and continually decreases the number of such jobs on the other hand. Even though this adversely affects the large proportion of students coming from weaker socio-economic backgrounds more, the adverse impact on those from more privileged backgrounds is also quite high. These students have to spend a lot more on their education, even when it is in government colleges, anything from 5 to 10 lakhs if not more. After that the pay packages that are offered are on an average about 5 lakhs a year which are insufficient for staying in metro cities at the luxurious level they are accustomed to in their homes as the cost of living and rent are very high. Therefore, in many cases where students have taken loans which have to be repaid, they find it difficult to make ends meet and have to borrow further from their parents at the start of their careers.
There is also the question as to why so many engineers are being produced when clearly there is not enough demand for them. In fact for quite some time now most engineers do not pursue careers in engineering and are instead serving as managers and administrators. The answer is that the huge number of engineers pushes down the wages of these engineers in the market. The remedy could be to redesign these courses to suit the needs of the masses of the country in the areas of sustainable communitarian development but that would not suit the rapacious drive for capital accumulation and so the youth are being misled into becoming engineers who are not needed by the capitalist development juggernaut.
All this makes the mass struggle against capitalism so much more difficult. The contribution of organic intellectuals from the oppressed classes and justice minded intellectuals from the privileged classes to provide support to the struggles for justice is very important. However, the way in which aspirations have been created and then throttled by capitalism, most of the educated youth these days whether from the oppressed classes or from the privileged classes, are least inclined to rebel against the system and are instead either trying to somehow progress in it or are falling by the wayside in depression. Those of the youth who do make it, become aggressive defenders of the oppressive status quo. Some youth do want to rebel but are scared of the consequences of penury and possible incarceration and so are afraid to take the leap into the uncertain world of activism.

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