Will Kamala have the right?…

Kamala is five years old, she lives with her mother and two brothers ( aged eight and ten ) in Bangalore’s Ulsoor area. She wears a frayed yellow dress that has been hemmed up probably for the tenth time and the tatters in her frock have been sutured with a red thread. She looks like a rag doll wrapped in sombre yellow patchwork quilt. She sits on the mud floor inside her thatched hut and neatly arranges a pile of jasmine, red roses and white lilies on paper.She then takes a white thread and licks the end of it and pushes it through the eye of a fat needle. One by one she picks up the flower and pierces the needle through its fleshy centre and pulls it out. Her small child hands struggle to push the needle through the center of a fat red rose bud and pierces her thumbs a couple of times whilst in the process.The flowers wind down to the bottom end of the thread and sit there limply. Kamala repeats this action throughout the entire day. Close to around lunch time, she walks a few meters to the kitchen, which is a sooty corner of the ten feet by ten feet room that the family of four live in. She neatly arranges some firewood in between two small brick walls, pours a bit of kerosene and starts a fire. She then places an aluminium vesel full of water and with her small palms measuredly takes out two handfuls of thick, brown rice from crumpled paper and throws it into the vessel. She then blows into the fire with a wooden blowpipe and the flames start leaping out in all directions, deftly she moves the firewood into place again and regulates the burning flame. With watering, burning eyes she returns back to the centre of the ten feet by ten feet room and continues the mechanical action of sewing the flowers into a garland.

Kamala’s mother sells flowers near the Ganapathi temple in Ulsoor. Her day starts at 4AM. She lines up at the wholesale flower market and buys her stock in the wee hours of the morning. She then rushes home and drops the fresh stock at home and makes her way to the neighboring temple. While she is away, Kamala strings the flowers together for her mother. Kamala’s mother entices the temple visitors who leave their footwear by her stall for her to guard while they go in and seek divine blessings to also buy flowers from her. She sells the fresh flowers at the temple premises and probably earns no more than hundred rupees a day.When the temple closes in the afternoon, she returns home to have her lunch of plain rice with salt that Kamala has prepared, rests a bit and take the garlands that Kamala has strewn together to sell it to devotees who visit the temple when it reopens in the evenings.

Kamala has never gone to school, she speaks tamil and kannada. Her brothers work in a nearby mechanic shop and assist the garage owner in changing tyres and performing other menial tasks. For working twelve hours a day, collectively they get paid Rs 50 a day. The father abandoned the family shortly after Kamala was born and married another woman. Since then, Kamala’s mother has been toiling day after day to make end’s meet. Education for her children is not even a consideration, eating at least one meal a day is of prime importance and she gets the children to shoulder the responsibilities.

There is now an important bill that has been enacted to cater to the right to education in India.Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, has been enacted by the Parliament.Article 21-A, as inserted by the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, provides for free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right. 

The salient features of the Right of Education Bill are:

– Free and compulsory education to all children of India in the six to 14 age group.
– No child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until completion of elementary education.
– A child who completes elementary education (upto class eight ) shall be awarded a certificate.
– Calls for a fixed student-teacher ratio.
– Will apply to all of India except Jammu and Kashmir.
– Provides for 25 percent reservation for economically disadvantaged communities in admission to Class One in all private schools.
– Mandates improvement in quality of education.
– School teachers will need adequate professional degree within five years or else will lose job.
– School infrastructure (where there is problem) to be improved in three years, else recognition cancelled.
– Financial burden will be shared between state and central government.

While the bill is a step in the right direction, it would still not give Kamala a chance to education just as yet. She would need to wait for another one year to turn six before she can benefit from this bill. Secondly, the private schools too would wait for another year before enforcing the 25% reservation as admissions have already been filled up for the next academic year, Kamala’s brothers would continue working in the garage until then. What happens to the children in Jammu and Kashmir? Why is it that state is always treated as the outsider? No wonder countries like Pakistan and China continue with their respective agendas. The right to education is a constitutional right and it is a pity that we cannot enforce it in every nook and corner of the country. Lastly, in this particular case like Kamala’s and a million more similar cases, what will be the income substitute for the family when all the children go to school or will Kamala’s mother allow them to go to school? Getting the children to go to school  by itself remains the biggest task for the Government irrespective of the free education.Despite these gnawing issues, this bill is most surely one of the most important changes that this country has needed for a long time.

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26 Responses to “Will Kamala have the right?…”

  1. India’s economy is booming yet too many living below poverty line. isn’t there any provision to provide them to fulfill there basic needs!?
    Bills can be made and passed for everything but they are useless until there is no proper implementation of it. there could be many Kamala and like her family in each & every city,town,village. Neither bureaucrats nor politicians really care about them or there shall not be so many scandals and scams in every sector.
    Its really heartbreaking for those who have some heart.

    • Monalisa – Good to see you back. Yes, precisely the point, a bit worrying how they will implement the bill now. It is a good bill on paper, but ground level reality is different. It requires an iron will to pull this through.

  2. Aishwarya Says:

    Sharmila,

    Evening schools with free meals cd be provided for such children if they cannot attend during regular hours. I know of many families who send their kids to school because of the midday meal scheme. The parents need to be educated on family planning and the one-child norm as well.

    A few street urchins come to my OP, so I always make sure sample medicines are stocked up to offer free treatment. But clothes, food, money, or medicines can solve only their immediate worries. What they need is education.

    Inspiring post.

    • Aish – Yes, the meal schemes are good and should be provided more. Really nice to hear what you do your own way for these children. Proud of you!

  3. Anand Khare Says:

    Thanks Sharmila,

    It is nice to know that you are equally concerned about the humans as you are for animals.Now, you are rightly focussed as a true compatriot. Let ‘saving the tiger’ be WWF and few NGO’s priority. We have other urgencies. Tigers don’t need humans support to survive.

    The deprived kids you described in Ulsoor, Bangalore are better off than many other similar kids in rural India.

    Many such welfare and social development programs are required. When the people at the helm of affairs are busy settling in personal vendetta, any such program is bound to face difficulties in implementation.

    You can take up full time writing.You write better than many successful columnist in India.

    Regards,

    Anand

    ~~~~~~
    Aishwarys- Good suggestions. Nice to know than you are doing what you can do. Keep it up. My father is a doctor too, now he is 73 and not practicing. He always told me that biggest disease in India is mal-nutrition,poverty and misery of poors.I saw him working with these people.

    Regards,

    Anand

    • Aishwarya Says:

      Anand – Thank you. Our teachers were great people like your dad who taught us that the prime concern should always be the patient, money is secondary. Just following their footsteps.:)

    • Thanks a lot Anand for your gracious comments as always. However, I think the tigers too need us as much as these children do. you are right when you say getting the bill to be implemented on the ground level is a very tall task. Lets hope that the Govt well and truly does something about it now than settling scores with people around them!

  4. Sorry, in case I have not really made my point very clear – any professional would know that antibiotics have no effects on viruses whatsoever.

    • Actually, now that I have calmed down some, I would like to explain why I feel so passionately about the antibiotic issue.

      In the early seventies, when I started to study biology, there was this great lecture series by Professor Peter Starlinger (who worked in the field of antibiotic resistances and I was a work study in his department for years), which convinced me to go into the field of molecular biology instead of the cuddling-animal biology I had planned before.

      And I see him in front of me, 1974, how emotional and upset he became when he taught us about the abuse of antibiotics by ignorance and greed that was rampant even then. He predicted that within a few decades people would die of pneumonia again.

      In March would have been my father’s birthday. He died of a hospital-acquired pneumonia for exactly those reasons. Humanity has been given a magnificent gift and real chance by Alexander Fleming and his successors, and managed to blow it within a few years. Ignorance among the general public and greed among corporations are still the problems today as they were at any time.

      Scientists and physicians have a responsibility to safeguard the knowledge and use it for the benefit of humanity.

      • Renate – Thanks for this comment. I understand your passion on the subject and it appears it is close to your heart.

  5. A related problem is Child labor……thats what I often think about.When I start a conversation with anyone supporting this social evil,they say its a better alternative for the parents and for the children themselves because they get to earn something.But,if we think for a while that who is responsible for making this evil a better alternative.Surely,we are the ones.We are they ones employing them in exchange of some hundred kroner thereby preventing them for their right to study…….Still,I see many children who are so young are made to work in houses way back in my hometown in UP.

    • ?????

    • Sharmila Says:

      Salman – Yes, child labor by far is the worst crimen and the ones who hire children are the worst offenders. I like the point Archana has raised about adopting or at least looking after a few kids.Education is what that lasts a lifetime. I also adore what both Aishwarya and Veekay are doing in their own way. Honestly, so proud to know people like you.

      • Like whom!!!!!!!Not me for sure…….coz primarily I am dishonest in turning up to you regularly…..

        Di can you plz check your email…I seek some information from you……

      • And I truly appreciate the efforts of the two towards this noble cause…….

      • Salman – I shall check the mail asap!

  6. Dear Friends

    While it is commendable that the Govt has enacted the Right to Education Bill, we should also take individual responsibility to do more in this field ourselves. Many of us may not have time as a major resource to tutor the under-privileged, but several of us are fortunate to be able to offer financial support.

    There are many Kamalas in our country who are waiting for our support. Take the case of Seema – 2 years ago I was shocked to know that she was still in Upper KG class at age 10. As I probed further with Deepalaya (an NGO working in the slums of Delhi, with special focus on children), I learned that she did not go to school as her main task was to look after her 4 sisters. It was only with Deepalaya’s efforts that her parents were motivated to start her schooling.

    It brought tears and happiness to my family and myself when Deepalaya confirmed in 2008 to accept our sponsorship of Seema’s entire education. Her dream is to become a doctor….

    I receive her school progress reports regularly, same as is for my children; and, it gives us similar joy reading her reports “…she stood 3rd in class…comes to school neat and tidy…always answers first in class…scored 91 in maths…”

    Deepalaya’s motto is “every child deserves a chance”. Pls do consider to give this chance ourselves to the Kamalas and Seemas in our country.

    Thank you Sharmila for bringing alive this very important social issue on your blog !

    • Sharmila Says:

      Veekay – Bravo!..this is what I love about our countrymen, we have our hearts in the right places along with the intellect to supplement it. Wonderful to hear this Veekay, and honored to have individuals like you read my blog.

  7. archana(bengaluru) Says:

    Whenever i read such articles i feel ashamed for the fact that there goes another bill down the drain!! Sometimes i get annoyed that such acts are only made and takes its own time to be followed.

    Anyway sharmila, it was a very touching post. Sometimes its easy to blame the government too but as u said a substitute for their income should also be encouraged. I feel that each privileged citizen can take take 5 such cases and help the family in whatever way possible. We should consciously take a firm decision not to encourage child labour at any cost. There could be a dhobi’s family, or a sweeper’s family, or a laourer’s family, or a maid’s family. We can atleast provide/create opportunities for their living. I am constantly trying to do my bit within my limited resources.

  8. archana(bengaluru) Says:

    Whenever i read such articles i feel ashamed for the fact that there goes another bill down the drain!! Sometimes i get annoyed that such acts are only made but takes its own time to be followed.

    Anyway sharmila, it was a very touching post. Sometimes its easy to blame the government too but as u said a substitute for their income should also be encouraged. I feel that each privileged citizen can take take 5 such cases and help the family in whatever way possible. We should consciously take a firm decision not to encourage child labour at any cost. There could be a dhobi’s family, or a sweeper’s family, or a laourer’s family, or a maid’s family. We can atleast provide/create opportunities for their living. I am constantly trying to do my bit within my limited resources.

    • Sharmila Says:

      Archana – I love your idea for sponsoring children!.Bravo! I wish more adopt your idea. I am well and truly proud of you.

  9. Interesting post.

  10. Nice post. Though the bill is a good one and is being tabled to make progress, unfortunately I don’t see this bill making much difference. The Govt needs to address the real issue, which is implememntation. Unless the people who are responsible to implement are made accountable for their actions, these will be little progresss no matter how many bills are passed or how good they look on paper.

    Child labor is a big issue in India, agreed. If I am right it is an offence too to hire child labor. Why is the government not serious on tracking down the culprits? The least govt can do is spread awareness through regular capaigns and just setting up a toll free number where responsible citizens can call and give information about offenders would go a long way in keeping child labor under control. But again, what is lacking is a WILL to do things. Good to see people doing their bit. Keep it up!!

    Regards,
    Deepan

    • Apologies for spelling errors there. I should have read it twice before submitting it.

    • Deepan – Good to see you back. Completely agree with all your points. A drive around any cit still reveals how many children continue to be employed. It is very sad. No problem with the spellings, your comments are good enough!

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