Where public services fail

For those of you who may still believe that giving 800 million Indians the legal right to food will solve our grim and shameful malnutrition problem, I have a suggestion. Examine the results of the other rights bestowed upon us so munificently by the Sonia-Manmohan government. Check what has been achieved in terms of school education since every Indian child was given this fundamental right and check what has happened to unemployment levels in rural India since 100 days of annual work became a right. One of the things I always do on my travels in the dust and squalour of rural India is check on MNREGA, schools and rural health services. And, I have to sadly report that there has not been the smallest improvement. The right to employment has given work mostly to those who otherwise worked as agricultural labour so berozgari remains one of the biggest problems in the villages.

This week though, I want to concentrate on the right to education and what it has 'achieved' since 2009. I have just returned from travels in rural Rajasthan where I found not a single government school that could be described truthfully as a halfway good school. In the unforgettable words of a young schoolboy who showed me his village school, "Only very poor children go to this school because it is so bad." When he said this he waved his hand at a vast playing field filled with weeds and garbage and at a school building that looked like crumbling barracks. When I asked to see the toilets, the school watchman pointed to a couple of filthy hovels whose doors were falling off their hinges. This is what most government schools look like, almost everywhere in rural India. But, 'English medium' private schools have sprouted across the landscape because the need for sending children to school is now deeply understood.

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