After completing the walking and exploring course, shodhyatra in churah valley, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh IIMA students had an opportunity to meet Mr Hansraj dy speaker of Himachal Pradesh.
Mr Hansraj, 35 years, had asked more than five hundred questions in HP state assembly about his constituency in previous five years. The students shared their experience with him about how one teacher taught two or more classes, how a girl complained when a good teacher was transferred out; why no school has a library or even a microscope; why the top performing state in education had not done better than it had? The problem is that in Gujarat too, such scenes are not rare. Last year, municipal schools in Ahmedabad and government schools in marginal regions had huge vacancies of teachers.
We had the opportunity to pursue two shodhyatras in two contrasting regions back to back in two weeks ( rapar to anjar, Kutchh, Aug 19-25 and Churah Valley, Chamba, Aug 28-sept 3). Most admirable things in both the places were the encounter with outstanding creative and innovative children and many highly motivated teachers. One of these teachers had a question hour on every Friday, kids could ask any question on any subject. Wish such an hour is heled everywhere. The activity room in kutchh was well furnished with teaching aids but most walls of all other classes were devoid of any poster of educational value. The walls were blank in HP schools too. It does not cost much to have posters of interesting features of our inclusive heritage, unique achievements, ecological distinctions, rivers, mountains, river valley projects and so-on on the walls. Achievers in the different fields could also be highlighted disregarding from where and when. I recall a government primary school in Nashik, Maharashtra (sixth shodhyatra, Mohandhari to Dhulda, 2000), the only school of its kind witnessed all over the country where on the wall outside, the name of those students was mentioned who had achieved significant distinctions in life after studying in that school. Does it cost anything to highlight the name of achievers? But such things don’t consume much budget. Anything which cost less, even if has a high impact somehow doesn’t get much attention in our polity.
There were many other indicators of marginality in both regions. Both the regions have abundant plants, adding value to which can generate huge jobs and increase the income of poor people and yet this has not yet become the focus of aspirational districts as many of these regions are classified by Niti Aayog or DBT and other science and industry departments. Kutchh, rapar region has an abundant piludi tree, Salvadora persica very useful for making dental creams, analgesic, antibacterial, antimycotic, carminative, diuretic, astringent, antifertility, anticonvulsant, and other products. Churah valley has Giradinia sps, bichhu buti, stinging nettle which is used for making fibre used for weaving clothes in Uttra Khand and Sikkim. Besides different parts are used for skin diseases, alleviating headache, constipation and numerous other ailments. Given the nature of the widespread abundance of such plants in marginal regions/aspirational districts, why could not these become a major strategy for livelihood generation? I am sure this neglect by science and technology, MSME, planning, rural development, industry departments etc., and other ministries will not continue for long. It is understandable that a mindset oriented to deal with scarcities always wants to provide what is lacking. A patronising state may find it very convenient. But when you build upon something abundant, one has to draw upon local knowledge, skills and resources with humility and a spirit of co-creation. The Educational system should highlight the self-reliant potential of such a social entrepreneurial approach of adding value to local resources. When we build upon an abundant resource, the chances of poor getting excluded are much lesser.