What has the 4 days and 3 nights in Chhattisgarh taught me? : Vikram Singh
I came back yesterday to Delhi after a four-day tour of Chhattisgarh. I came to the All India Centre of SFI in 2012 after spending nearly a decade in the student movement of my home state, Himachal Pradesh. In the last 6 years as part of the national centre of my organization, I have got opportunity to join various student movements, various protest demonstrations, many conventions, seminars and public meetings. However, What I experienced in these four days are the best moments of my stay at the Centre. The joy of being part of the process where organization is being created from scratch is something which can’t be compared with anything else. As individuals we are created and shaped by the organization and while through our efforts we do give some direction to the organization; in the final analysis the organizational experience shapes us- the organization build us, while we build the organization collectively.
In the four days I got chance to interact with students in Durg, Sarguja, Korba and Raipur. Since, my organization in the state is being built from the scratch, I had to directly interact with the school and college students- trying to understand their interest, their thoughts on life & politics, their idea of future, their issues and many thing else. It was an experience which brought me back to my role as a unit level organizer in my college in Chamba and later in Himachal Pradesh University of Shimla. And, what all did I hear? A 13- year old school boy doesn’t know what canteen in school means, the common room is a new term for everyone, a girl in Sarguja isn’t able to hide her desperation in seeing the condition of her school & the helplessness that she can’t do anything about, her friend who is able to explain the intricacies of Maoist politics in one line which the best of political scientists can’t do. I heard the story of anger, frustration too, but certainly not of hopelessness. I could see among many of them my own face as a teenager in a village of Kangra district near the Punjab- HP border. I could see among them the story which appears in the educational surveys and reports. I could see the mirror of shining India cracking in the middle. I could see all the jumlas falling straight on the ground. It’s not that this was something new- what made everything so powerful was that the rawness of life made the hard realities raw and powerful- something intimidating that confronts you straight in the face and you can’t do anything but are forced to think of ways to change it.
The state was formed in 2000. However, for these children most of who were born after the formation of state, the movement for statehood is something which doesn’t really make any sense. And, for the college students who were born before that the story has been that of betrayal. If anyone has benefited from the formation of new state then it is the contractors, the bureaucrats and the politicians of the ruling class’ parties- all of whom have got a separate pie to devour. What has the new state meant for the children and youth? Well, if one doubts the individual experiences, then the data tells it all. Chhattisgarh has been consistent in remaining among the bottom ten states when it comes to school education, higher education and professional education. You take any indicator- classroom-teacher ratio, drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls, ramps and kitchen rooms or the number of schools per 1000 child population- it has performed consistently poor. A central university was established in the state and the condition of the university is such that out of 400 sanctioned posts only 200 have been filled and that on ad-hoc basis. Even the registrar of the university is working on contract basis. No VC has completed the tenure and there have been 4 VCs in the period since the state university was converted into a central one.
Student movement in the state is largely non-existing. Even in places where the student organizations do exist, they work as pocket organization of local congress and BJP politicians, with students being used merely for mobilization in their rallies. The students in the areas with Maoist presence are facing double challenge- while on one hand they are coerced to join & support the Maoists; on the other hand with any democratic effort to raise their basic issues, they are branded as Maoists by the state. However, if my 4 days and 3 nights in the state has given me anything most valuable- it is the hope which these young boys and girls are able to see, it is the hope that they can make their lives better by getting organized, it is the hope that they can make their lives better by fighting together against the systematic exploitation and oppression. These fighters and believers have started on the journey to start SFI in their state. The hope in their eyes gives hope to me too.
[ Vikram Singh is the General Secretary of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI). During his tour to Chhattisgarh he also participated in a discussion on a local television channel. The discussion largely revolved around the conditions of education system in the state. Socialist India is sharing the link of the discussion, since it will help in giving overall perspective to the points raised in the note above.]