Behind the scenes
There are many people who may not constantly make the newspaper headlines, but their works have a significant influence on today’s socio-cultural and political world. This space is for the views on Dalitbahujan issues of such people who work behind the scenes. Here, Sunil Ambekar, a sociopolitical activist associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, speaks with Kumar Sameer. Readers’ reactions on the ideas expressed here are welcome. – Managing Editor
‘Social harmony is essential to bring about change’
- Kumar Sameer
Sunil Ambekar, the national organizing secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), student wing of the RSS, tells FORWARD Press that reservation is necessary under the existing circumstances and there is still much more work to be done in this regard. He says as long as social harmony is not established, its implementation should continue. Here is the edited excerpt of his interview:
Kumar Sameer: What are your views on the development of Dalit-OBCs and the reservation policy?
Sunil Ambekar: A provision for reservation was made in the Constitution with the aim of uplifting the social and economic status of the socially backward sections. Later, the OBC reservation implemented after the Mandal Commission also proved to be effective. Although it has been successful to some extent, a lot more needs to be done. Almost 70 years have gone by since the Constitution came into effect. However, there is a long way to go before we achieve adequate economic development of socially backward sections. It’s a matter of concern. One more thing: ranting about the development of Dalits is of little use; development cannot be achieved in fragments. This should be kept in mind. Change is possible only by the progress made by villages and women. Social harmony, not the fragmentation of society, paves the way for development. At present, we feel the lack of it.
Sameer: Then, what is the way out? Is this the time to re-evaluate the modalities of reservation?
Ambekar: Let me make it clear that reservation is an imperative for propagating social harmony. There is no doubt about that. Moreover, it is the commitment of our organization, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Reservation should benefit the maximum number of people; this has been a major demand of our organization and we stand by it even today.
Ambekar: See, it is undisputed that in the last 70 years, politics in India has been revolving around caste. However, the benefits of reservation have not accrued to all the people who have been facing caste discrimination. Merely 10-20 per cent of them are able to reap the benefits of reservation. A major section within each caste is still out of its reach. We will have to deliberate upon how it can benefit more and more people. Since this section is deprived, the debate around it goes on. It is time we came together, whether one has been benefiting from reservation or not, and moved forward to end this deprivation. The day we are successful, nothing can stop the establishment of social harmony in society.
Sameer: What more could be done to end deprivation?
Ambekar: By bringing about thorough changes in the obsolete education system, deprivation can be eradicated within every class and caste. Efforts in this direction are already being made. With the new education policy, we will see the results soon.
Sameer: Could you shed some light on the contents of the new education policy through which you claim to bring thorough change in the education system?
Ambekar: See, it is very important to have a uniform education system across the country and that’s the focus of the new education policy. In the case of primary education, the policy talks about “multiple use of schools” along with “a group of schools” so that there is no compromise on the quality of education. This will also help in tackling the lack of competent teachers in rural areas.
Sameer: What else is unique about the new higher education policy?
Ambekar: Education should be perceived as integrated and not in fragments. Focusing on the re-structuring of old education institutions, what would be the new form of education? Keeping this in mind, the emphasis has been put on the need to move forward with it phase by phase. Restructuring of new institutions step by step is being emphasized upon. A proposal for bringing institutions such as research foundations, UGC (University Grants Commission), AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education), on a common platform and creating a new institution has been mooted in the new education policy. Apart from this, there is a proposal for bringing councils of various fields – medicine, agriculture, journalism, etc – under one roof.
Sameer: In what way would the centralization of institutions help?
Ambekar: To understand this, I will put forth a simple example. At present, children study specific streams like commerce, arts, science. But, under the new educational policy, every child will study commerce, arts and science. This is an imperative to withstand the global competition. Most developed countries follow this pattern of education. There is a need to help children excel in every field by developing a professional curriculum so that they are able to handle multiple tasks without being under much pressure.
Sameer: Is restoring the English-centric curriculum to withstand global competition not the main reason behind it?
Ambekar: Let me tell you that the new education policy underscores that we should not give in to the pressure of English. The emphasis is rather laid upon promotion of Indian languages. The focus is even on establishing a university for Indian languages. The policy talks about studying every language in its ancient and present forms. In addition, it stresses on the translation of literature of different languages and their use. Hence, talking about introducing an English-centric curriculum is absolutely pointless. The main motive of the policy is to withstand the global competition.
Sameer: One last question: What is your brief reaction to the present state of higher education in a country that boasted educational institutions such as Taxila and Vikramshila?
Ambekar: Certainly, India, under foreign rule, witnessed a rupture in its tradition of Sattvik Shikshan (virtuous education). Moreover, the post-Independence state machinery has also negated our glorious history. Thereafter, an education system that made us drift away from our roots was established. A curriculum that keeps our Indian-ness intact and an education that guarantees employment is needed. We need to put together a curriculum that is keeping with the 21st-century students and society.
Translation: Devina Auchoybur; copy-editing: Anil
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