Ticking time bomb not just another protest

In the last couple of months I made two trips to Delhi and witnessed the biggest revolution and protest I have seen in my lifetime. Whether we like it or not we have become one with the farmers protest. During both my journeys to Delhi and back I witnessed hundreds of tractors ferrying old men, women and children to the protest site. Historic people’s movement led by farmers has indulged everyone due to its massive scale and peaceful approach. Unfortunately, those who have fed the nation for thousands of years have lately been under attack from the state and Centre and faced false accusation of antinational activities and sedition. Many have use their smartphones to amplify the demands of the protesting farmers and are spreading the word as a matter of favor to the one who has fed them.

Administration, political packs and the mainstream media seem to have forfeited their role and the democratic process for which we take a lot of pride appears to have been dismantled completely. The farmers have not only been failed by the government, administration, political packs but also by the failing judicial system in the country. While the three farm laws have catalyzed millions of farmers and their families through large-scale protest, the manner in which the protests have progressed or a perfect example of controlled aggression and vanity. The protest have been done with dignity, equality and resilience. Notably, thousands of activists, political crusaders, intellectuals have been put behind bars and their bail applications or biting dust since a long time. But this has not weakened the farmers and their cause. The shameful act by a few motivated individuals who were able to bring a bad name to the protest group are despicable and condemnable. People are able to see through the government’s rhetoric and cunning plot to malign this massive peaceful protest by the farmer community.

The Centre is clearly rattled by the massive gains that the protesters have made in terms of generating buy in for the cause, contributions made by the society and the long-term effects of the protest on the largest democracy in the world. The government is intimidated and threatened by the fearlessness and empowerment that the movement has gained in the last couple of months.  

Most of the people in the forces deployed to restrain the farmers are the children of farmer community. The government’s hubristic and senseless self-righteous approach has pitted kisaan and jaavan against each other.  

Mrs. Gurbax Rawat is a consecutively elected Councilor and an Ex-Deputy Mayor of Chandigarh.

Sound parenting ideology for a child’s holistic success

Giving birth is among the most transformative experiences in a parent’s lifetime. Furthermore, from the offspring’s perspective, the nurturing relationship between parent and infant profoundly affects the development of the brain systems regulating social behavior. A child’s psychology and behavioral patterns are set between one to eight years of age and therefore a lot of emphasis is laid on proper parenting. The truth, however, is that most of the parenting is either experiential or accidental. There are no internships, courses or certificate programs in parenting.

According to Assocham survey, 72% of the students in India don’t know how to handle pressure and as an outcome India witnesses one of the world’s highest suicide rates among youth. 71% of the students have broken relationships with friends & family.

A certain style of parenting these days is messing up kids, impeding their chances to develop into their selves. We spend a lot of time being very concerned about parents who aren’t involved enough in the lives of their kids and their education or their upbringing but the other end of the spectrum is equally worrisome. There’s a lot of harm going on the other side as well where parents feel a kid can’t be successful unless the parent is protecting and preventing at every turn and hovering over every happening. These parents expect their kids to perform at a level of perfection they were never asked to perform themselves. And then with their kids they spend so much time nudging, cajoling and nagging to be sure they’re not ruining their future or closing door on some hoped-for admission to a tiny handful of colleges that deny almost every applicant. Every piece of homework, every quiz, every activity is a make-or-break moment for this future they have in mind for them. So much so that they absolve them of helping out around the house, and even getting less than enough sleep as long as they’re checking off the items on their checklist. 

And these kids, regardless of where they end up after high school, they’re breathless. They’re brittle. They’re a little burned out. They’re a little old before their time, wishing the grown-ups in their lives had said, “What you’ve done is enough, this effort you’ve put forth in childhood is enough.” And they’re withering now under high rates of anxiety and depression and some of them are wondering,” Will this life ever turn out to have been worth it?” Well, parents are pretty sure it’s all worth it. They seem to behave as if their kid’s future will be doomed if they don’t get into one of these tiny set of colleges or careers they have in mind for them. Or maybe, they’re just afraid that their kids won’t go to a school, college or have a future they can brag about to their friends and with stickers on the backs of their cars.  

But if you look at what we’ve done, you’ll see that our kids think their worth comes from grades and scores. With our over help, our overprotection, over direction and hand-holding, we deprive our kids of the chance to build self-efficacy, which is a really fundamental tenet of the human psyche, far more important than that self-esteem they get every time we applaud. Self-efficacy is built when one sees that one’s own actions lead to outcomes, not one’s parents’ actions on one’s behalf. So simply put, if our children are to develop self-efficacy, and they must, then they have to do a whole lot more of the thinking, planning, deciding, doing, hoping, coping, trial and error, dreaming and experiencing of life for them. 

Does it mean that every kid is hard-working and motivated and doesn’t need a parent’s involvement or interest in their lives, and we should just back off and let go? No.

But when we treat grades and scores and accolades as the purpose of childhood, that’s too narrow a definition of success for our kids. Our kids need us to be a little less obsessed with grades and scores and a whole lot more interested in childhood providing a foundation for their success built on things like love and chores.

The Harvard Grant Study found that professional success in life comes from having done chores as a kid, and the earlier you started the better. A roll-up-your-sleeves- and-pitch-in mindset is what gets you ahead in the workplace and we all know this.

Yet, in the check listed childhood, we absolve our kids of doing the work of chores around the house, and then they end up as young adults in the workplace still waiting for a checklist, but it doesn’t exist, and more importantly, lacking the impulse, the instinct to roll up their sleeves and pitch in and look around and wonder, how can I be useful to my colleagues and my boss? 

A second very important finding from the Harvard Grant Study said that happiness in life comes from love, not love of work, love of humans: our spouse, our partner, our friends, our family. So childhood needs to teach our kids how to love, and they can’t love others if they don’t first love themselves, and they won’t love themselves if we can’t offer them unconditional love. 

All right, so you’re thinking, chores and love that sounds all well and good, but the colleges want to see top scores and grades and accolades and awards, and maybe they do. The very biggest brand-name schools are asking that of our young adults, but here’s the good news. Contrary to what the college rankings racket would have us believe our children don’t have to go to one of the biggest schools to be happy and successful in life. Look around and we will see that happy and successful people went to an ordinary school and went to a small college no one has heard of.

Our children aren’t bonsai trees. They’re wildflowers of an unknown genre and it’s our job to provide a nourishing environment, to strengthen them through chores and to love them so they can love others and receive love. Their choice of the college, the specialization, the career, that’s up to them. Our job is not to make them become what we would want them to become, but to support them in becoming their glorious selves. 

Mrs. Gurbax Rawat is a consecutively elected Councilor and an Ex-Deputy Mayor of Chandigarh.

Politics as a career choice for women

It is largely believed that women are less interested in politics, they don’t really want to run for elections and are not made for a career in politics. Most political parties have male-dominated flagships as the myth that women may be unfit for a political career, is very deeply entrenched in the minds of society at large. In 80s, when one of my aunts expressed that she wanted to be an engineer, her family’s objection was that why does she want to become an engineer? Can she even become an engineer? It was considered to be a male thing. It was especially ironical because our Prime Minister was a woman at the same time. In the history of our nation we have had so many women politicians including Chief Ministers and yet there is an unspoken resistance in political packs to field female candidates in elections. In the last 2 decades there has been a steep rise in the number of women who are interested in pursuing politics as a career.

When a woman wants to become a journalist, a banker or a computer engineer, she is at liberty to make those choices these days. No one asks her how she is equally or more competent than his male counterparts. She can become a banker because she wants to be one without worrying about being better than any man. Being ordinary or extraordinary depends on one’s capabilities as an individual. The same must hold true for women in politics. Women have a right to govern simply because they want it, they don’t need to be better than men. When a woman is hoping to start a career in politics she should be welcome by political parties to join them. In our patriarchal society men in politics, most of them, use other men for political power. They are either sons of somebody, fathers of somebody, nephews or related for some reason. But one thing has to be understood very clearly that in politics once a woman acquires a position of responsibility and power, she has to walk the walk independently. She cannot be accompanied by a male patron to the assembly, house or to the parliament. She has an office, she has to understand the protocol, the environment and take independent decisions.

The seed of my political inclination were sown many decades ago. My grandparents were freedom fighters in Indian National Army and participated in Quit India Moment. My father, an army veteran, participated in combats of 1962, 1965 & 1971, went to Congo with an army contingent for a peace mission and joined the police force post retirement. I was brought up in an environment where women were treated as equals from generations. My foray into politics began by supporting my husband who was actively involved in politics and fought elections.

In my opinion women joining politics is no different than men. However, many women step into politics simply because men in their family are unable to contest due to women reservations in the province. I contested from a woman reserved seat and have been chosen by the people of my ward for two continuous tenures to serve the society at large. All this while I was employed as a Senior team member with an IT company at Chandigarh, nurturing my young daughter, managing the household and doing justice to my appointment as a chosen public representative. To be able to strike a balance between domestic responsibilities, work and public service one must be able to compartmentalize the brain so that the challenges of one sphere do not interfere with the challenges of another. In fact I began using my experience at corporate to better my dealing with public offices and workers. 

The biggest challenge that I faced as a woman politician, in the initial few years, was to make many believe that I could work in politics independently. During my initial days as an elected representative the discussions revolved around the capability of a woman representative to handle the MC staff, liaison with police and ensure the development of the ward. The voters had to understand that in the same arena there were potential women candidates that could be voted to power purely on the basis of their capabilities and potential. Once I assumed my place as a politician I drew a lot of strength and support from my family. Infact the biggest asset is my mother-in-law who attends to every person visiting my home with a big smile. My husband has been a constant source of support and encouragement as it is much needed. Just like any other corporate job there are good and bad days in politics.

Like any other career whether it’s a bank or a corporate or a university or a hotel, the bottom line is about the job satisfaction and work environment. The initial days in politics are more like examining then confirming. You need to identify a suitable, likeable, good candidate whether a male or female, reach out to their local office, sign up and see the party environment and culture for a couple of months to begin with. The big challenge of being a political leader, representative and aspirant is that you need to be a people’s person and to be able to mobilise people, convey a positive message and encourage them for activities that bring values to their lives and the society. It is also reflective of your capabilities and qualities as a leader. And also helps you to make necessary changes as and when desired.

In contemporary times it is not correct to say that there is lack of women in Indian politics. The social entrepreneurs, housewife, working women take an active part in politics; whether it is the RWA (Resident’s Welfare Society), MWA (Market Welfare Society), family politics or interpretation of political analysis or debates at prime time.

The lack of gender-balanced leadership has been a problem in India and around the world for centuries. Although women make up for a large percentage of our population, and graduate with over sixty percent of all undergraduate and graduate degrees, they continue to be severely underrepresented in upper-level leadership in almost every company, organization, and politics across India. Much has been done over the years to move toward equality for women in order to bring them to the powerful place of leadership men have held from the beginning of our country’s founding. The role of women in the farmer’s protest is very inspiring as these women have broken the myth that village women do not understand politics and that their place belongs in the confines of four walls.

Political Consciousness

During my interaction with the young undergraduate students at colleges and universities I would categorically tell them to stay away from these evils; media, politics, IPL, Bollywood and spiritual cults. And the reason for the same was that they do not add any value to the lives of young and vibrant people that comprise the youth. Over many years of my interaction with the school and college students I discovered that a lot of productive and valuable time is wasted in pursuing these things.

Of all these five things the word politics seems to be one of the most despicable words among the youth. People are amply clear that politics is a dark and evil world. But can being largely apolitical society put the country on the path of growth? Our previous generations did not imagine the way politics will be perceived by the coming generations. It is rather difficult to imagine an apolitical society that is indeed the heartbeat of any democracy. 

BJP led Center govt passed these laws without agreement of state governments on a matter which falls under their jurisdiction. It is aiming to turn them into puppet governments. The raids on the arhtiyas in Punjab make it easy to put 2 and 2 together. They’re being targeted for backing up the farmers. Why shouldn’t they? It’s a time tested relationship. The center govt has employed its puppet media and venom spitting television anchors who have tried to discredit the farmer movement by calling them anti nationals, khalistanis and tukde-tukde gang. It was inspiring to see that farmers have an IT cell to counter the negative propaganda of the govt. The recent launch of “Trolley Times” is another innovative idea to tackle the false media hype. The center is operating to concentrate all power arbitrarily into its own hands, and playing havoc with the lives of the people.

People who claim that they have nothing to do with politics are not only mistaken but also ignorant. Politics is a part of our daily life starting from the small negotiations made with the domestic help through the dining table conversations between the family members. Rejecting political consciousness may lead to vulnerability and therefore exploitation and brainwashing by various political packs that prevail around us. It is disturbing to witness the middle class opposing the strikes and agitations as they are the same reason that middle-class is what it is today. The political ignorance has stooped to such a level that there are constant wars between people from the left and right calling each other Communist and Nazis.

It is not uncommon to witness young people talk about and seek dictatorship in the country. This is the result of growing anger and resentment against the establishment. Another disturbing trend prevalent amongst urban youth is their belief that politics is meant for the leaders of political packs and not the common man. This disinterest in choosing politics as a career amongst the youth can easily be attributed to the current decaying political discourse in the country. This needs to be addressed by introduction of awareness of political consciousness in our education system. A highly difficult but the much-needed approach has to be made by the politicians to change and make our political system more open and transparent.

Let us hope that a day will come when political consciousness will lead to a responsive society in our country which is poised to be the next superpower in Asia and the world. And that is the day our Parliament will be filled with highly intelligent, qualified and honest people who shall serve the country to the best of their abilities, without any bias.

Mrs. Gurbax Rawat is a consecutively elected Councilor and an Ex-Deputy Mayor of Chandigarh.

An unstoppable force has met an immovable object

2020 had been a year of anxiety and melancholy for everyone. The collective leadership, all over the world, has been questioned regarding the handling of the pandemic. India has been closely watched by the world as many theories support it to be the next super power in Asia. As if the PM’s highly randomized and unthoughtful announcements like GST, demonetization, CAA-NRC followed by unscientific addresses to the nation during the pandemic, bordering the absurd, were not enough the center govt decided to pull another vicious snake from the bag. The 3 farm laws were passed by the BJP government with its brute majority in Parliament without any consultation with farmers’ organizations and opposition parties. The new farm laws introduced by the Centre violate the basic ethics of farming, their sense of dignity and their intuitive sense of what is their due. The farmers may not read the fine print of these laws, but they can sense the gradual dismantling of the Mandi system (APMC) that has been their lifeline for the last few decades.

The govt made a big mistake of underestimating the farmers, especially their women folk from Punjab and Haryana. It has been almost a month that lacs of farmers are braving the harshest winters of the decade and protesting at the Delhi border along with their wives and children against the anti- farmer laws. Like all other protests, this protest began with the male farmers in lead challenging the govt’s efforts to exploit their farmland and produce. Unexpected by anyone, their women folk back home, who clearly understand the repercussions of these laws, realized that the time has come to unleash the women power and join their men at the protest point. These women have broken the myth that village women do not understand politics & economics and that their place belongs in the confines of four walls. This has acted like a shot in the arm for the protesting farmers and unions representing them. They know that the govt is capable of anything in order to appease their corporate friends who have been investing in land and making large storage spaces since 2017. A visit to the protest site reveals the upsurge of a new power in a stale and decaying political space. When one sees a group of elderly women shouting slogans and singing patriotic songs, it is enough to convince any living soul that they’ll either emerge victorious by forcing the government to withdraw these bills or they’ll fight till the last breath. Their motivation comes from the women protestors of Shaheen Bagh, who tirelessly protested against CAA-NRC.

BJP led Center govt passed these laws without agreement of state governments on a matter which falls under their jurisdiction. It is aiming to turn them into puppet governments. The raids on the arhtiyas in Punjab make it easy to put 2 and 2 together. They’re being targeted for backing up the farmers. Why shouldn’t they? It’s a time tested relationship. The center govt has employed its puppet media and venom spitting television anchors who have tried to discredit the farmer movement by calling them anti nationals, khalistanis and tukde-tukde gang. It was inspiring to see that farmers have an IT cell to counter the negative propaganda of the govt. The recent launch of “Trolley Times” is another innovative idea to tackle the false media hype. The center is operating to concentrate all power arbitrarily into its own hands, and playing havoc with the lives of the people.

The contributions for the ongoing protest are not only coming from India but also from international organizations that are helping the farmers such as Khalsa Aid, International Punjabi foundation, Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, All India Kisan Sabha, Indian Overseas Congress Germany and many more. Local people have been pouring support in plenty. Langars have been ongoing ever since the protest picked intensity and magnitude with farmers from Punjab, Haryana, UP, MP, Rajasthan and south joining the protest. Almost all daily need items are available at the Langar counters including toiletries, warm clothing, mosquito repellents, footwear and other essentials. The Sikhs proudly say that there are two prominent viruses in their community, “sacrificing” and “servicing” nature. And there is no anti-dote to this good VIRUS. Most food camps have a medical facility. The electricity generation is being done through solar panels and many farmers are running their tractors round the clock as generators. The petrol pump owners in the vicinity are offering their premises for sleeping and using their toilets. Youth from the farming community and related workforce including the students have also joined the protest and are determined to stay as long as possible and required. This is not just a farmer’s protest or farmer’s movement anymore. This is the 21st-century version of highly educated and tech-savvy farmers who cannot be intimidated or bullied.

The Modi government is handling it as it would handle any trade union protest. Attempts of dividing the movement have met with the ridicule it deserved. Farmers across the country now share a sense that the government is doing something big and bad. This is why the government’s handling of this upsurge is counter-productive. The longer the government takes to realize this, the higher the cost for it and the country and national security. The govt-corporate nexus is now clearly visible. The hubristic attitude of the center must change and pragmatic, well thought and consulted decisions must be taken for not only the farmers but also for their brave cavalry of women who’re ready to see this battle to its logical conclusion.

Any sector that has been privatized, by the govt policies, has witnessed monopoly by the private players at the top, whether it is the education system or the telecom sector. The buy-in is generated, by the private firms, by passing on some immediate tax benefits to the other party that is exploited once the existing system succumbs to the new system. The next Rabi crop is due for harvesting after almost 4 months. The govt could have easily waited and held discussions and negotiations during these months instead of letting farmers camp at the protest site. Over 50 farmers have died and few have committed suicide, naming PM Modi in their suicide notes. Unless the govt wakes from its deep slumber and arrogance, one can witness a blatant disregard and slow suicide of democracy.

The Supreme Court has done the right thing by looking at the ramifications of the present situation. It has lit a candle in the dark. We need a solution out of calmness and not by the stakeholders taking strong positions. It will, however, be very tough for the farmer community and its representatives to put faith in the committee set up by the govt.

Mrs. Gurbax Rawat is a consecutively elected Councilor and an Ex-Deputy Mayor of Chandigarh.

Merits and perils of online education during Covid

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? A Big Bang. Coronavirus, like an asteroid, came from nowhere and changed our world permanently. Life is never going to be the same anymore. Businesses, jobs, relationships, beliefs, societal norms; everything has been reset to a new normal.  

The devastation of almost all economy churners has been such that some of the businesses that were thriving in January this year may not even resume operations again. With the travel and hospitality industry among the worst hit another industry that has been shook by the pandemic is education. Sometime in mid-March, state governments across the country began shutting down schools and colleges temporarily as a measure to contain the spread of the virus. It’s almost 4 months and there is no certainty when they will reopen. Infact a few schools have made it amply clear that they may not resume operations before early next year. The intellectuals and the government bodies believed that the moment was opportune for online education at all levels. Decisions were taken without much due diligence required to mitigate the perils associated with online method of education. From an environment made up of chalk and powdered physical classroom, a teacher and fellow students, the realm of education has changed to a digital world. Neither the schools nor the students were prepared for this sudden change. The timing of the Covid induced lockdown cusped with the new academic session forcing all the stakeholders into a situation that none of them were familiar with. Though online education is estimated to be the most prudent approach, this indefinite closure will not only have a short-term impact on the continuity of learning for more than 500 million young learners in India but also engender far-reaching health, economic and societal consequences.

The effect of online education is being closely studied regarding its cognitive impact, reach and access as this game is being played in the confines of a home. Teachers and students have suddenly found themselves to be at the deep end of this technological teaching pedagogy. Their expertise to impart and receive knowledge via I-pads, smart phones and laptops was never considered and both the key stakeholders were expected to embrace the change for unreasonably long and odd hours, indefinitely.

The other side of the coin is bright and shiny. The move to remote learning has been enabled by several online tech platforms such as Google Classroom, Blackboard, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, all of which play an important role in this transformation. With the development of IT in education, online video-based micro-courses, e-books, simulations, models, graphics, animations, quizzes, games, and e-notes are making learning more accessible, engaging, and contextualized. Schools have always considered learning management systems, educational apps or digital learning as a supplementary tool and may have had difficulty in mainstreaming it, mostly due to not having fully understood its efficacy. However, the current situation has given an impetus to accelerate the adoption of technology and experiment with online learning and measure its success. In response to significant demand, many online learning platforms are offering free access to their services, including platforms like BYJU’s, a Bangalore-based educational technology and online tutoring firm founded in 2011, which is now the world’s most highly valued ed-tech company. Other companies are bolstering capabilities to provide a one-stop shop for teachers and students.

Some educationists feel there may be some merits to face-to-face teaching but it is not necessary, given the number of online tools and innovative methods of teaching available to enable learning. The less of face-to-face teaching you do, the better — you must have some of it, but it doesn’t do much. We need teachers to make students think. They must be mentors and gurus, not someone standing in a classroom and lecturing as students take notes. Another outcome of online mode of learning could be that a good teachers will find value and be accessible to a larger number of students.

As the digital learning acceleration continues, it also brings forth the digital divide in India. Students from underprivileged backgrounds, poor communities and remote districts lack the infrastructure and the means to reap the benefits of online learning. It is difficult to imagine how these large population of already disinterested students could make sense of online system of education. The government of India, for the first time, is allowing Indian universities to offer online degrees which previously was limited to foreign universities.

The role of educational institutions has always been to connect students with teachers. In the last two decades the focus of the parents, students and institutions went beyond education to infrastructure and extra-curricular and institutions obliged by providing AC classrooms, gymnasiums and hobby classes. The quality of contemporary education is debatable.  Many parents, at all level of school education, have taken their children off the school and home tutoring them. A study suggest that extended screen time for very young students could pose a potential threat to their health and cognitive abilities. This situation is unprecedented and desperate times have called for desperate actions/reforms. A careful insight reveals numerous challenges in the near future. Parents, teachers and students may not be adequately equipped to handle those challenges.

The sudden, forced immersion of learners into virtual learning during this period of Covid-19 has proved that the education industry is disrupted. Education is going to be digital in the foreseeable future and with the right infrastructure and policies in place, we would be better prepared to handle it.

Mrs. Gurbax Rawat is a consecutively elected Councilor and an Ex-Deputy Mayor of Chandigarh.