Queries and replies found wanting

A reading of unstarred questions raised and answers obtained from the HRD Minister is utterly disappointing.

Parliament assumes gre-ater significance in view of the basic principles and assumptions associated with parliamentary democracy. A parliamentary form of government acknowledges the fact that in this system, parliament derives its power directly from the consent of the people expressed through periodic elections and it exists to implement the aspirations of the people.

The parliamentary system also ensures the best possible participatory democratic system and active interaction between the people and their representatives. In this system, the executive not only emanates from parliament but is also accountable to it for all its acts of omission and commission. This accountability to parliament is based on the principle that since parliament represents the aspirations of the people, it should be able to oversee and keep the executive under control and constant surveillance.

In essence, parliament is basically a body elected by the people to fulfil their aspirations in accordance with the constitution and also the promises and commitment made during periodic elections. In order to make the citizens aware of the deliberations in parliament, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has taken several steps to record the proceedings.

A careful reading of the unstarred (written) questions raised and the answers obtained from the Minister of Human Resource Development is utterly disappointing. Most of the questions raised by the parliamentarians look like an exercise of asking the questions to get the answer which is already in the public domain. 

For instance, an unstarred question raised by Jayadevan C M on the question ‘whether the government proposes to devise a new education policy?’ the minister has answered the question by  copy pasting a paragraph  that is available on the ministry website.

It indicates that either the member is unaware of such an important process or the minister is not bothered to send a set of documents to all members to keep them informed about the process of policy formulation which is predominantly the domain of elected representatives. Does it mean the government is not transparent enough in the process or just for the namesake they have hosted it on the website?

Most of the answers obtained through the unstarred questions are already available in the documents published by the ministry and its other related departments. For instance, the unstarred question raised by Chintaman Navasha Wanga and P C Mohan regarding the number of teachers’ posts lying vacant in various Kendriya Vidyalayas across the country was answered by the HRD minister with an annexure that runs to 21 pages. Is it a good practice to burden the exchequer to get such a long answer for a question for which the answer is already available in the published documents? Many a times the questions are repetitive and answers stereotypical.

Education system

One of the core questions in relation to the education system today is “What kind of national education system need to be built”. This was to address the fundamental problems faced by the current education system in terms of access, retention, quality on the one hand and the contents of education, parameters of teacher education, equality in opportunities and above all social justice. This was in order to achieve the core constitutional values embodied in the preamble of the  Indian Constitution to create an egalitarian society in the long run.

Surprisingly, no questions were asked against the ongoing commercialisation, privatisation, commodification and Public Private Partnership (PPP) of education or   communalisation and saffronisation of education by appointing people from extremely right ideological wings represented by RSS and the Sangh Parivar to key positions of reputed educational institutions. This not to speak of raising the questions related to onslaught of World Bank and World Trade Organisation in the area of education.

In conclusion, the questions raised and the answers obtained in Lok Sabha reveal that there is no theoretical basis for the formulation of questions based on the constitutional values or the effective implementation of the previous policies of 1968, 1986 and 1992 (Revised Policy).

As all of us know that the earlier policies were formulated on the basis of the constitutional values affirming to build a National System of Education based on the Common School System rooted in the neighbourhood school principle based on the recommendations of Education Commission and further addressed in the Review Committee to review National Policy on Education (NEPRC).

In light of all these developments, the need of the hour is to bring all primary stakeholders: students, parents, teachers, social movements, together. This is to put together a movement not less than second freedom struggle to build a national system of education rooted in the principle of neighbourhood common school system. The sy-stem should be fully funded by the state to realise the larger go-als of social justice and equality as enshrined in the constitution.

(The writer is Fellow and Programme Head, Universalisation of Equitable Quality Education Programme, Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru)

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