Why gender equality has no place in Islam?

Women in Islam are treated as second-class citizens.

Women in Islam are treated as second-class citizens.

Recently a Muslim women’s organization called the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, which has over 70,000 members in 13 states has written a letter to the Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi. In their letter, they sought the PM’s intervention in bringing about changes in the Muslim personal law. Mind you, they did not ask for a uniform civil code. They just sought some changes in the Muslim personal law.

As usual, the Main Stream Media (MSM), which spends most of its time provoking the minority against the majority, did not give any prominence to the news and published it in the remote corners of their newspapers. Media and the left liberals don’t utter even a single word against Islam, giving Muslims a false sense that their religion is absolutely perfect and does not require any reforms whatsoever.

The so-called secularists, media and the left-liberals, by posing like the well-wishers of Muslims, just pamper to the religious beliefs and sentiments of them. By doing so, they actually scuttle any effort on the part of the progressive elements to bring about any kind of reforms in Islam. Here is a tweet posted by Malini Parthasarathy, the Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, a well-known daily newspaper owned and run by the communists. Mind you, The Hindu is very notorious for its left-wing rumblings and for being pathologically averse to Modi and the central government headed by him.

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When we talk about gender equality in Islam, that doesn’t mean the other faiths, especially Hinduism, are perfect as far as gender equality is concerned. Hinduism is also very much patriarchal in nature, and women were treated as second rate citizens. However, the situation has changed a lot and these days women in Hindu society are treated almost on par with men.  They are getting educated and became career oriented. They even started competing with men even in those fields which were hitherto male dominated. What made this change possible? Hinduism, unlike Islam, takes criticism in a positive way and introspects a lot. It is not averse to change and is ever-ready to  reform itself. One more reason is, the Hindu clergy, unlike their Muslim counterparts, don’t enjoy much influence over their community. The Hindu pontiffs don’t have the habit of issuing ‘fatwas’, and even if they issue, no one cares.

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A Sunni Muslim leader says that there is no place for gender equality in Islam.

Recently, the Minister for Education of the Government of Kerala, Abdu Rabb, who happens to be a Muslim, made a statement saying that boys and girls should not sit together in the same benches in the classrooms or on the campuses of the higher education institutions. And a high-ranking Muslim clergyman from the same state made a really shocking comment on the status of women in Islam. The influential Islamic cleric, Usthad Shaikh Aboobackar bin Ahmad,  who is the General Secretary of the All India Muslim Scholars Association, and also the founder and Chancellor of  the Sunni Cultural Centre in Karanthur, declared that the concept of gender equality is totally  “un-Islamic” and went on to say that women could never equal men as “they are fit only to deliver children”. Since the statement was made by a high-ranking and influential Islamic cleric, we all have to believe whatever he said about the status of women in Islam to be true. Mind you, these are the voices from Kerala, which is considered to be the most literate and progressive state in India. If the situation of Muslim women in Kerala is this poor, what about the other states? The statements made by the Muslim leaders from Kerala are really shocking and even more shocking is the fact that their remarks did not attract any condemnation whatsoever from the Muslim community.

Shah Bano was deprived of alimony after the parliament pitched in and reversed the judgement.

Shah Bano was deprived of alimony after the parliament pitched in and reversed the judgement given by the Supreme Court.

Now the moot question is whether the Muslim community will stay opposed to any kind of reforms by continuing to remain in the tight grip of their clergy or snub them and move ahead with reforms.  The way things are going, it is highly unlikely that the Muslim community will tolerate any kind of intervention, leave alone reforms, in the Muslim personal law. Even the politicians and the media are not ready to trigger any debate on the need for a uniform civil code, fearing the backlash of the Muslim orthodoxy.  The Shah Bano case bears ample testimony to the distressingly poor social status of Muslim women In India. In the famous case, the judiciary granted an alimony to a 62-year-old Muslim mother of five, but later on the parliament pitched in to deprive her of the alimony, coming under pressure from the Muslim clergy.

It is high time that the Muslim women ignored their clergy and raised their voice against the deep-rooted gender discrimination prevalent in their religion. They should put pressure on the government to listen to their voice and make the required legislations for their empowerment.

sustainable living

Humanity may one day be forced to get back to the primitive way of life.

In the 21st century, everything is a rat race, everything is a competition, and everybody tries to establish his or her hegemony over the others. There is no time for the humanity to stand and introspect. In this modern era, the only yardstick to measure things is money. To earn that money people work more, invest more, produce more and consume more. Anything small or moderate is not accepted. Life is worth living only when it is lived king size.

Economists always speak about growth. They advise on how to formulate suitable policies to maximize growth. But what is growth? In simple terms, growth means increasing the production of the various goods and services. More production leads to more employment and more employment leads to more purchasing power and more purchasing power results in increased consumption and increased consumption ultimately results in more production, making it come full circle.

Okay. It all sounds good, right? What’s wrong with more production, more employment, and more consumption? They all result in human welfare. So far so good. But do they all happen without showing any undesirable impact on the humanity?

The Quality Of Life of many people and communities is nosediving.

The Quality Of Life of many people and communities is nosediving.

Certainly no, if we closely observe the quality of life we are experiencing. The Quality Of Life (QOL) is roughly defined as the general well-being of individuals and societies. The well-being is measured in terms of health, wealth and stability. As far health is concerned, the humanity has never been so unhealthy. Our life expectancy has certainly gone up, but the kind of life we are leading has made us into living corpses.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that everything we consume is either polluted or adulterated. Even tender coconut water and mother’s milk are no exceptions. Researchers found a serious dose of  pesticide residue in breast milk (around 0.12 mg per kg). We all feel that tender coconut water is the safest liquid for us to drink. However, it has been found that even it is not free from the pesticide residue. So the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe – all are polluted. The frequency of our hospital visits has gone up. Newer diseases are putting the resilience of the humanity to test. Glandular diseases like diabetes and thyroid dysfunction have increased manifoldly. Hypertension and heart ailments are shooting up. The health care industry is reaping a bumper harvest.

As far as wealth is concerned, only a small section of the society managed to amass incredible wealth, widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The ever increasing economic inequalities appear to have a major role to play in the increasing social unrest in various parts of the world.

The humanity is indulging in the over exploitation of the natural resources to feed the conspicuous consumption in our market-driven economy.

The humanity is indulging in the over-exploitation of the natural resources to feed the conspicuous consumption in our market-driven economy.

The population explosion is putting a lot of pressure on the natural resources. The industries are extracting the resources indiscriminately to produce more to satiate the burgeoning demand of the rich and the middle class.  The growing industrialization is contributing to a lion’s share of the pollution the world is witnessing. The business organizations, especially the Multi-National Companies (MNCs), to induce the people to spend their high disposable income, are manufacturing various products, most of them unnecessary. This consumerism and conspicuous consumption are putting enormous pressure on the sustainability of the environment and the natural resources. It is a well-known fact that the environmental degradation and natural resource depletion will, in the long run, cause instability both in the societies and the nations.

Our mother earth has enough to satisfy the needs of the people, but it doesn’t have enough to satisfy their greed. Mother earth is like a cow. If we take good care of it and safeguard it, we can milk it for a long time and get the nourishment it provides us with. However, if we turn greedy and cut open its udder the cow itself dies. It is very clear that the humanity has turned greedy and grossly materialistic. In their blind pursuit of materialism, they are not in a position to realize the impending danger that is lurking around.

How long will this unsustainable growth continue, and how long will the humanity be able to tolerate the deteriorated quality fo life? We can’t continue this unsustainable lifestyle forever and one day the humanity has to stop this rat race and conspicuous consumption.

But what could be the solution to the innumerable problems created by the market-driven economy?

Pursuit of Gross National Happiness (GNH) leads to sustainable lifestyle.

The pursuit of Gross National Happiness (GNH) leads to a sustainable lifestyle.

The only possibility that appears feasible is reverting to the primitive lifestyle. Primitive life need not necessarily mean reverting to the Stone Age. The Macmillan Dictionary defines the word primitive as “old-fashioned, simple, and without modern features or comforts”. So the humanity, instead of measuring development in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), should start measuring it in terms of Gross National Happiness (GNH). The GDP approach only triggers a rat race that results in over-exploitation of natural resources and conspicuous consumption, which is not sustainable in the long run. On the other hand, the GNP approach avoids rat race and results in building a society which prefers simple, need-based and sustainable lifestyle. Then only we will be able to leave this mother earth to the future generations in a good shape to enable them to lead a happy and purposeful lives.

antibiotics

Is antibiotic resistance an impending apocalypse?

Antibiotics are losing their power because of their excessive and inappropriate use.

Antibiotics are losing their power because of their excessive and inappropriate use.

What is it that we the humans dread the most? It is none other than death. Because we don’t know what does it feel like to die and where do we go after our death. We all dearly love our bodies and prefer to peer into a mirror daily to detect any signs of aging or degeneration. The moment we feel any inconvenience in our bodies, we start googling for symptom check, and rush to a doctor if the symptoms point towards something ominous.

Most of the diseases we get are the result of infections, and the antibiotics, which have the capability to protect us from almost all microbial infections, enable the physicians to reassure us of a cure. So in other words, the antibiotic/antimicrobial drugs are the things that enable us to overcome the fear of premature death. They also make it possible for us to undergo surgeries without any dreadful complications.

However, if the medical scientists are to be believed, all this is going to change. They say that there are perceptible signs of many of the harmful microbes developing antibiotic resistance, in other words, the infections caused by these  microbes cease to be treatable by using antibiotics. This phenomenon is already observed in many parts of the world and there is a possibility of it spreading throughout the world. If such a situation arises, the future of humanity will be very bleak. When you get infected with a disease, you go to a physician and the physician tells you ‘sorry… there is nothing that I can do to save you’. Imagine the scary prospect of even small infections getting transformed into life-threatening conditions, and your survival becomes dependent on sheer luck.bacteria pull

Now the big question is what are the reasons that are contributing to the advent of such a dreadful and precarious situation? One of the reasons cited is the excessive and indiscriminate use of antibiotics.

People have this habit of popping antibiotic pills even for cold and sore throat.

People have this habit of popping antibiotic pills even for cold and sore throat.

In India, most of the antibiotic drugs are available over the counter. Whenever my four-year-old daughter catches cold, my wife asks me to get Amoxicillin oral suspension.

Most of the poor people in our country, who are unable to bear the high medical costs, go to a nearby pharmacist, reveal their symptoms and ask for medicines.  The pharmacists, based on their knowledge and guess work, dispense some tablets, especially antibiotics, which leads to the rampant misuse of the antimicrobial drugs.

Even the medical professionals in India, unable to resist their greed to get more commissions and goodies from the pharmaceutical companies, over prescribe the antibiotic medication.

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Sometimes it so happens that a physician, when he has incomplete or imperfect information to diagnose an infection, tends to prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic with a suspicion that the patient might be suffering from an infection.

So the patients, pharmaceutical companies, and physicians are all contributing to the phenomenon of antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance.

Now what are the measures that could be taken to avert the crisis?

As the primary reason behind the growth of drug resistance is the excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics, the government should step in to formulate the rules and regulations to curb the misuse of antibiotic drugs.

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Over the counter availability of antibiotics should be regulated in our country to prevent their inappropriate use.

As the people got used to popping antibiotic pills even for some common viral infections like common cold and sore throat, the pharmacists should not be allowed to sell the antibiotics without a prescription. Even the medical profession should be regulated in such a way that the physicians diagnose the infectious diseases accurately and prescribe a specific and judicious use of antibiotics.

Already the scientists have discovered an enzyme called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1), that makes bacteria resistant to antimicrobial drugs, which is found in India, Pakistan, the UK, the US, Canada and Japan.

India is particularly vulnerable to the phenomenon of antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance because of the highly inadequate and expensive diagnostics services, greedy pharmaceutical companies, easy-going healthcare professionals, and rampant availability of antibiotics over the counter.

So the government and the professional associations like IMA should plunge into action and take decisive steps to curb the inappropriate use of antibiotics so that the frightening prospect of losing lives to simple infections in future could be averted.

MNC junk food not only makes a hole in your pocket but also in your health.

As a commerce student, I heard a lot about the multinational food giants like McDonald’s, KFC and Domino’s. While I was doing my post-graduation in Commerce, I read a book titled Principles of Marketing, authored by two great Marketing thinkers – Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong. The authors explained all the marketing concepts with many real life examples in such a way that the book became one of my favorite books in no time. That was the first time in my life I came to know about these food giants, their food products, their modus operandi, and their marketing strategies.

MacMeal consists of burger, french fries and Coke.

MacMeal consists of a burger, french fries, and Coke.

As a person with a rustic background, I never even got an opportunity to spot a McDonald’s restaurant or a Domino’s Pizza chain. It was when I had been to Bangalore in search of a job, I found a McDonald’s restaurant for the first time in my life and out of curiosity, immediately entered the eatery without any second thoughts. The restaurant was plush and spotlessly clean. Even the kitchen looked quite sophisticated and the food is prepared in the most hygienic conditions. I bought a coupon for an Econo Meal by paying around Rs. 100. They placed three items in a plastic serving platter – a burger, a small paper bag full of french fries, and a tumbler full of chilled coke. The burger was tasty, the french fries were crispy and tasty and the Coke, of course, tasted good on my tongue. The next time I came across another multinational food giant was when I, along with my wife and little daughter, entered Domino’s Pizza chain in Secunderabad. Just like at McDonald’s, even here we saw a plush and spotlessly clean dining hall. It took a while for me to understand their menu and prices. The prices, being a person from a middle-class background, appeared very high to me. I ordered a pizza by paying around Rs 350. They served the food in cardboard boxes. They served us a small-sized pizza, some Garlic breadsticks, and a 600 ml chilled Coke bottle. My wife, who was initially very enthusiastic to taste the pizza, looked very much disappointed after taking a few bites and reluctantly finished her share of the pizza.

Domino's Pizza is not only expensive but also a pure junk.

Domino’s Pizza is not only expensive but also a pure junk.

The US-based food giants mostly cater to western food habits and serve junk food. The food they dish out is full of carbs and they are mostly fried. If we take the example of McDonald’s Econo Meal, the burger is made from super refined white flour, the French fries are made from potatoes and, of course, the coke is simply carbonated sugared water. There is hardly anything nutritious in it. Even in case of pizzas the crust is made from super refined white floor, and it also contains a bit of cheese and a disproportionately small quantity of vegetables. These food giants spend a lot on brand building and once they become popular and gain wide acceptance, they start skimming the market with their very high prices. The food they serve doesn’t cost much, but the diner ends up paying a lot for their brands. There are many studies which reveal that the carb-rich food sold by the multinational food giants is, to a great extent, contributing to the obesity among people, especially children.

MNC junk food not only makes a hole in your pocket but also in your health. Click To Tweet

We, the people of India, have a very healthy food tradition. We use grains like rice and wheat, and millets like Ragi, Bajra and Jowar, and pulses like red gram, green gram and black gram, and most importantly vegetables as our staple diet. They are not only nutritious and fat-free, but also help us in having a balanced diet. However, after the emergence of the MNC food giants, the food habits of the urban people are gradually changing and the carb and fat-rich food, coupled with the excessive pollution, is taking a heavy toll on the health of the urban Indians. Indian food traditions are based on ‘real’ food. Real food in the sense we collect various edible natural raw materials like grains, millets, pulses and vegetables and cook them without any artificial ingredients and eat them hot. However the food sold by the fast food chains is processed, is carb-rich and contains hardly any nutrients. There are many allegations that these companies don’t state exactly what kind of ingredients they use in preparing their proprietary food. Some food and nutrition experts reveal that these companies, to get the intended taste, to increase the shelf life, and to maximize their profits, add some ingredients which are harmful to the health of the consumers.

E-commerce has set the stage for a major transformation in the way we lead our lives.

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E-commerce enables the buyers to conveniently shop for the products they need from the comforts of their homes.

When we feel the need for a product and have the affordability to pay for it, what is it that we do to procure the product? We go to a nearby market, enter a plush looking and brightly illuminated brick-and-mortar store, physically examine the products that are on display, chose a product that caters to our requirements, negotiate for a lower price, pay for the product either in hard cash or cheque or by using plastic money, and  get back home triumphantly with the pride of owning a brand new product. But this process has already started becoming outdated.

The new e-commerce firms like Flipkart, Amazon, eBay and Snapdeal brought about revolutionary changes in the way various products are sold. Online stores like Flipkart and Amazon gained great reputation by selling good quality products at lower prices. They created the best logistics facilities for themselves so that they can ship the products as soon as possible and  deliver the products to the buyers on time, that too in their pristine form.

It has been a meteoric raise for the home grown e-commerce gaint Flipkart, which has gained a great reputation with its quality products and timely delivery.

It has been a meteoric rise for the home-grown e-commerce giant Flipkart, which has gained a great reputation with its quality products and timely delivery.

An ordinary brick-and-mortar store, how much ever big it is, offers only a limited choice for the customers and the stores bear the burden of maintaining a huge inventory and incur a large amount of maintenance expenditure, which ultimately gets transferred to the customers. So conventional shopping centers not only  offer a limited variety of products, but also sell them at higher prices. However, unlike a physical store, an online store, by dint of possessing a ‘long tail’, need not maintain a huge inventory  and it offers an unimaginably wide variety of products at lower prices that too to the customers who reside even in the remotest and far-flung areas.

With the internet penetration growing at a lightening pace and more and more people turning into online shopping enthusiasts, India is gearing up to take a big leap forward in the field of e-commerce. As more than 90 percent of the businesses are still offline, India is almost a virgin market for digital shopping. With the first movers are already in their heyday, more and more players are feeling tempted to enter the fray by going online.

The state of the art fulfillment centres operated by Amazon play a key role in the company's logistics and supply chain management.

The state of the art fulfillment centres operated by Amazon play a key role in the company’s logistics and supply chain management.

Now the big question is who is going to derive benefit out of these revolutionary changes that are taking place in the way the people shop for various products and services? It is undoubtedly the customers. They not only get access to a wide variety of products and serves but also buy them at lower prices and get them delivered at their doorsteps. The shopkeepers who run brick-and-mortar stores can no longer indulge in excessive profiteering and will be forced to keep their prices competitive.

Many e-commerce firms have attractive return policies. If the customer is not satisfied with either the quality or quantity of the product they can easily get in touch with the customer care department of the online store concerned and get their problems resolved. So in a way the customer is empowered and his rights are protected.

So, all in all, the e-commerce is a very welcome development which is not only enriching the market but also empowering the consumers.

The idea of beauty is not time-tested and is highly subjective.

The concept of beauty is only subjective.

The idea of beauty is only subjective.

As the proverb goes, ‘ beauty is only skin-deep’. Oxford dictionary defines the proverb as ‘a pleasing appearance is not a guide to character’.  Even if you take the proverb in its literal sense, if two humans, a supposedly charming man and a supposedly ugly chap are skinned alive and made to stand side by side, they look the same. So beauty is indeed only skin deep.

The concept of beauty is very complex to understand and everyone has his or her own distinct idea of beauty. Because one’s idea of beauty depends on his tastes and preferences and the perspective from which he views his fellow humans. It also depends on the culture and traditions in which he has been brought up and even on his education and social status.  In our Indian culture beauty appears to have a certain benchmark – fair complexioned, tall and lean, and people, to reach the benchmark, use different products and services to improve their looks.

Posed by model picture of a woman appling Make-up to her face for her christmas party

There is evidence to state that the excessive use of cosmetics may be detrimental to one’s health.

According to the Personal Care Products Council,  the global personal care products industry has a revenue of about $250 billion per year and China and India are among the fastest-growing markets for personal care products. There is no doubt that maintaining hygiene and smelling good are not only essential to keep in good health but also project yourself as an educated and civilized individual. But at the same time over-dependence on cosmetics to artificially enhance one’s looks may be counterproductive in many aspects. Modern research shows that excessive usage of cosmetics has many adverse effects on health including skin allergies and cancer. So one needs to be very cautious and judicious in their usage. 

There are some people, especially women, who are excessively concerned about their weight, and they reduce their intake of nutritious food with the expectation of shedding weight. However, in their obsession to be light weight they deprive their bodies of the much-needed nutrition and easily fall prey to anemia and related ailments. Many people rightly opine that all the healthy people who lead healthy and dignified lives look charming and beautiful.

The idea of beauty is not time-tested and is highly subjective. Click To Tweet

God, when he creates any creature, creates it to look charming and attractive. The terms aesthetically challenged or ugly are highly subjective terms and only reflect the arrogance and superiority complex among their users. Real beauty lies in naturality and simplicity.  Any artificially jacked-up appearances are not only unsustainable but also can’t be termed as beautiful. Take the example of our Bollywood celebrities, who appear stunningly beautiful on screen but fail to impress off screen. In fact, many of them look pretty ordinary without makeup.

So our concept of beauty could best be only subjective. We humans are very much conscious of our looks, and we all worry a lot about the kind of impression we create on others with regard to our physical appearance. What we people should understand is, in order to look beautiful and charming, one needs to keep in good health and cultivate a dignified personality without worrying about his or her physical appearance.

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Why the state-funded education system in India is in shambles?

Dilapidated buildings, non-existent teaching aids and poorly motivated teachers are ruining the future of the children.

Dilapidated buildings, non-existent teaching aids and poorly motivated teachers are ruining the future of the children.

Every year thousands of well-qualified teachers are recruited by various state governments in India to expand the educational network. However, not much discussion takes place as to why the public sector education system is in shambles, and why in spite of spending enormous amounts of taxpayer’s money to strengthen the public sector education system, people prefer to send their children to privately-owned schools.

The main difference between the teachers who work with government run schools and their counterparts in private schools is – the teachers with government schools, after getting the job, feel absolutely secure and they neither feel the need for improving their skills nor do they feel like keeping themselves abreast of the latest developments in the profession. As a result, their knowledge fast becomes obsolete and they slowly grow inefficient. As there isn’t much pressure to perform in the classroom and bring about improvement among the students, they show lackadaisical approach towards their profession and start doing side businesses like real estate, money lending or insurance advisory. Once they become busy with their extracurricular activities, they neglect their responsibilities towards the student community.

In sharp contrast to the environment in government-run schools, the teachers who work with private schools always feel insecure and out of that feeling, they engage themselves in constant and continuous sharpening of their skills. They are also subjected to tremendous pressure by their superiors and they work under the shadow of constant and continuous monitoring. As there is intense competition among private schools, they are more receptive to experimentation with modern methods in teaching. There are many school managements who think very progressively and give academic freedom to their staff in introducing new methods in teaching.

Gone are the days when the teachers were strictly advised to stick to the prescribed syllabus but these days going beyond the textbooks has become a fad in teaching. Taking students on field trips, activity based teaching and learning by doing have become part of the teaching-learning process.

This blogger started his teaching career with a private residential public school. While he was working there, he and his colleagues were put through continuous in-house training by their management. His principal would always talk about developing rounded personality among the students, and to achieve that he invested a large amount of money on infrastructure expansion. According to Howard Gardener’s Multiple Intelligence Theory, there are seven intelligences, namely, linguistic, logical, intra-personal, interpersonal, kinesthetic, musical and spatial. He created all the facilities like a lingua phone facility, a prayer room and would also organize many social gatherings. He expanded sports infrastructure and recruited teachers for music, painting and other performing arts. The main intention was to sharpen the multiple intelligences of the students. The qualifications that were required to join as a teacher in that school were graduation in the relevant discipline, good command over the subject, teaching experience, the ability to deal with students in a matured manner, and good communication skills. A B. Ed degree was desirable but not compulsory.

Most of the privately owned schools get associated with teacher trainer institutions and get their staff trained by experienced teacher trainers, who visit these private schools at regular intervals to share their ideas on latest teaching methods and technologies in imparting education. In government-run schools, though they have high salary drawing teachers, don’t have the required infrastructure facilities. There are many irregularities reported in the procurement of teaching aids and sports equipment. But the private schools, on the other hand, spend a lot of money on infrastructure and create the facilities required to make learning easy and enjoyable for their students.

The rot that has entered the government schools made them almost defunct. The teachers who are strongly unionized are not only able to shirk their responsibilities but also gain a considerable political clout. There are many people who feel that the government teachers do everything – money lending, insurance advisory, real estate brokering and what not. The only thing they don’t do is teaching. So the present-day public sector education system is not only defunct but also untenable. The system imposes an enormous burden on public exchequer and becomes a drain on tax payer’s money. So there should be a discussion on the ways and means of universalizing education but without government teachers who have turned into white elephants.