I belong to the southern most state of Kerala. I am proud of the enchanting landscape of my state – the silver beaches, the lush fields and greenery, the swaying palms, the meandering backwaters – all of which gave it the much touted tag line, God’s Own Country. However, looking at the going on since the dawn of the new year, I am not sure if I should take pride in belonging to Kerala.
Strikes and hartals have long since become the pastime of Kerala. Political parties declare strikes / hartals. Most people sit at home. The previous day there are serpentine queues before beverages corporation outlets. Armed with bottles, it is a fun time boozing. Besides, TV channels air movies. An unexpected holiday to watch them, booze again and have pure fun!
The latest in the news is the Government Teachers’ (Schools & College) strike. Being a practicing educator, I can’t help looking at the choice of time for this strike. January and February are the most crucial times in the calendars of teachers in India. Annual examinations happen in March. In colleges, though most of the semester exams happen in April and May, the teaching time ends in March. How can teachers afford to lose out on valuable teaching time now? Lessons have to be completed, concepts have to be taught and students need to be given revision as well as practice tests. It is sad that those who have to mould future generations have thought least about this. They have also not thought of how lucky they are when compared with their peers in the unaided sector. Many of them get a paltry salary and hardly any perks. I even know of managements who terminate teachers on March 31st and appoint them again on 1st June, so as to save on money given to them as vacation salary.
The most horrific aspect of these strikes is the kind of tactics the so called teachers and adults have indulged in. The media has reported incidents wherein velvet bean or cowitch powder was sprinkled on students in Trichur and Palakkad. Cowitch or Mucuna pruriens is a tropical legume. “The hairs lining the seed pods and the small spicules on the leaves contain 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) which cause severe itching (pruritus) when touched. The calyx below the flowers is also a source of itchy spicules and the stinging hairs on the outside of the seed pods are used in itching powder. Water should not be used if contact occurs, as it only dilutes the chemical. Also, one should avoid scratching the exposed area since this causes the hands to transfer the chemical to all other areas touched. Once this happens, one tends to scratch vigorously and uncontrollably.” (Source: Wikipedia) It is this kind of a virulent powder which was sprinkled on young children. It is sad that those who have the power in them to mould minds have stooped to this low a level. What models are being portrayed by these acts? Isn’t there any conscience in these adults?
It is time we woke up to the looming reality. If we put the young minds through these kinds of atrocities, they will grow up mindless and heartless. Then we will moan in our old age that our children are not taking care of us. Why should they when we have not taken care of them when we should have. Conscience – it has become a rarity!