Empires of money

This is nothing but crisis of morality

Mohammad Muqaddas Hussain
Srinagar, Publish Date: Dec 5 2018 10:44PM | Updated Date: Dec 5 2018 10:44PM
Empires of moneyRepresentational pic

Strolling through the packed and suffocating streets of Delhi’s Uttam Nagar, I witnessed a bizarre spectacle. Just like a roadside vendor would call out to customers, I heard men—without any stalls—screaming ‘demo demo’. Initially I couldn’t figure out what this ‘invisible’ product demo was all about. It took me some time to realise that these gentlemen were actually selling ‘education’ i.e. offering free demo classes to students in coaching centres in order to secure their admission. At that instant I was reminded of Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta, one of India’s topnotch intellectuals (Dr. Mehta during one of his lectures scratched his iconic bald head and exclaimed in a self deprecating humour that he lost his hair mulling over the fate of education in India). Back home in Kashmir, the ironic commentary is on with print and electronic media bristling with advertisements for ‘coaching’, a misnomer for formalised fraud. 

It is very hard to say anything new these days. Dub it as what Fourier calls ‘a fifth wheel analysis’, for the fact that this is a nihilistic moment in education, the moment of crisis of faith in it is as simplistic as a naive nursery tale. In the bazaars of education today the ‘technically-oriented’ middle class is busy forking out the last penny to save its ‘future’ and ‘honour’. The fear is hurtling like a specter, the fear of not making it to the higher echelons, the fear of slipping to the lower. It is a ‘follywood’ of sorts, of its own genre. There is glamour in it with splashy, riveting stories of success. There are blockbuster dreams peddled with trailers to bewitch people. Yet towards the other side there are silent ruptures, masked by the razzle-dazzle, a graveyard of failed expectations and unfulfilled dreams. It is a huge mound people don’t want to see. Education will meet you there.

So what is wrong with education in India? The answer to this question can be elaborated under three broad headings: the existential crisis of morality, the regulatory malfunction and the triumph of profit motive.

Existential crisis of morality 

The ethical scenario of India’s education sector is inextricably complex. The opportunities are limited and instead of mooting how to increase opportunities, the bar on the existing ones has been raised phenomenally. Underlying this is a civilization based on egoism, mechanistic thinking and instrumentalist view of a human being. Expectations are backbreaking in this civilization where, as Nietzsche would put it, rather than asking what is good for human beings it asks what human beings are good for. This on one had has led to the competition degenerating into a war aided by wishful thinking and frenzied pursuit, while on the other hand it has established what is called a meritocracy. It is said that one can shame an aristocracy but one cannot shame a meritocracy, as those who have risen through it have a greater sense of entitlement. Also education was one of the means employed by the crisis-ridden global capitalism to buy social peace, as it could provide a site/enabler for social mobility. But unfortunately education has become a site of perpetuation of inequality simply because the criteria and the conventions in vogue are rigged in favour of a privileged few.

Regulatory Malfunction 

There is a saying that in India regulations in Land, Liquor and Learning have always been open to gross manipulations. Talking of education, the regulatory mechanism is messy, chaotic, adhoc and reactionary. As mentioned before in these columns, there are almost 200 MPs in the Indian Parliament whose primary source of income is education, raising serious questions about the conflict of interest. The laxity generated thereof percolates down to the level of petty private educational establishments we find mushrooming in every nook and corner of the country. This regulatory malfunction is largely a post-1991 issue rooted in the difficulty in negotiating the exact relationship between the state and the capital. We have failed to appreciate that where we need state is as important as where we don’t need it.  Nonetheless, these are times when the state is being disciplined by the market rather than the desired other way around. 

Triumph of profit motive 

The neo-liberal rules are framed in a way that there are no principles, just interests. And whenever there is a demand-supply mismatch in a typical market, various instruments of exploitation are set into motion. In India these instruments of exploitation have resulted into the formation of a bunch of discreet oligarchies in the fields of health, education, law and so on. The overarching motive of these oligarchies is profit and the question of ‘how much’ is not a relevant question at all. The fact that qualifying examination is at the core of our education system the examination itself has supported multiple business models. It is because of this that the idea of a support system (coaching), despite the varying investment potential of people, has become a sine qua non, making it a multi-thousand crore worth industry. It may be noted here that the education sector is highly inflationary too and in most of the cases growth reflected in macroeconomic figures of a country is because of this high inflation (in education and health sectors). 

Conclusion

As someone has said, ‘everyone can’t be Kant’, but the money empires in education will dupe you into believing so and show you false dreams. It is simple: if you succeed you will sing paeans and if you fail you will wail but the money bags will never bother looking back at you. 

Who will pay heed to Allama’s clarion call, ‘Khuda ki basti dukaan nahi hai….’?

mohammadmuqaddas7@gmail.com  



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