NEXT BENGAL BEST BENGAL
ANOTHER Independence Day has passed by, renewing the aspiration for a better and enriched future.
Sixty eight years ago, Bengal, fresh from the harrowing experience of communal carnage, went to breathe a fresh but heavy air of Independence. Heavy, as it was tinged with the pain of partition and mayhem.
A huge number of Bengalis were compelled to take refuge away from their place of birth, to places like Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Malkangiri and Dandakaranya so to start their life afresh.
Far more number struggled in West Bengal to make both ends meet. So did the Bengali diaspora in Assam, Tripura, united Bihar and Odisha. They believed that Independence would usher in good life, well-being, peace and a space to move forward. At the end of the long bitter struggle for freedom there was ray of hope.
The 69th anniversary of India’s freedom went by as an increasingly political and media-mediated stock-taking ritual. Claims and counter-claims about achievements and loss abound. This is the staple of political parties and freedom frenzy ‘free media’. But in this din, something was amiss.
A look into the two aspects that are immensely relevant for an aspirational future of innovation, imagination and social action is presented below in order:
First aspect relates to our lament on gradual weakening of the Bengal Intelligentsia. The Intelligentsia are individuals or collectives, whose contribution to the life of common man, society and state is based on capacity to meet novel situations through new adaptive responses. Their literature, research and advice inspire people and goad state through policy and action changes.
It’s often than not that a comparison is made out between our pre-Independence and contemporary intellectuals, to point out the gradual weakening of all these aspects. We need to trace the origin of gradually debilitating condition of our intelligentsia.
Till a few years after Independence, the flow and circulation of intelligentsia was not limited to the urban space. Rather, it used to be a two-way traffic with rural Bengal contributing much to it. The rural base was a very important intellectual and emotional attachment.
Today, our journey to the villages is mostly short duration tourism. The result: spurt of intellectualism, emphasis on intellectual or cognitive aspect at the cost of real emotion and volition. We perceive, remember, imagine, judge and reason without a genuine interest and connect to the people and the land.
We are unwilling to learn from experience within; rather we are busy explaining within, with imported schemata.
We have gone oblivious of intelligentsia’s objective of existence; many of us have been turned into pamphleteers of government and corporate. Much of our research works are posited in the perspectives of the yesteryear West even as the West themselves is frantically searching for newer pastures to explain social upheavals.
Because of the increasing disconnect to the society, the track record of our Intelligentsia in guiding the social psyche and political advocacy are on a down-slide.
Second aspect is more subtle: eroding the vitals of the Bengal society systematically ever since the Left came to power in 1977.
Our educational policy first took us away from the strength of mother tongue and English, emptied classrooms as teachers went to processions and meetings, but filled up their pockets despite truancy.
Next, the government helped mushrooming of English medium private schools. Well-to do children were separated in the process from the poor. This separation blurred the well-to-dos connect with the grass-root and thereby, drying up the stream of intellectuals that used to flow from the middle class.
This separation also bolstered inferiority complex in a large section of the people and an antagonism towards enterprises. In the last stage, by turning education into a profit making venture and converting government aided schools into feeding centers, the function of education was lost from institutions of learning.
The role of education in the evolution of tradition and boosting emotional-intelligence with sense of belonging on a continuous basis has taken the backstage. Thus, talent has boarded the outbound trains. That colleges are turning into turfs of non-academic battle is a natural closure of such a practice that we have been a party to.
Good human output depends on policy to train the process called human mind. Priorities which the mind works out, the interest it embraces, far-sight that it develops, and neural patterns of best practices that it internalizes develop from family, school and societal learning.
Quality of human supply to politics, judiciary, industry, agriculture, security and bureaucracy can improve with the refinement of our education policy.
Bengal needs to frame an education policy with a shift from economic return and the manpower planning approach followed so far. This is a huge call in the prevailing political and intellectual atmosphere.
Bengal has to undo the elitist and mass divide in education, which the existing policy is nurturing.
(Biplob LohoChoudhury is a professor of journalism at Visva Bharati. He lives in Santiniketan, Birbhum)
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