Education and the two Indias

Education and the two Indias

I liked Ramesh Ramanathan’s column, “Cracking the cocoon", Mint, 22 October. I have had similar experiences as the author had in Mumbai. Unfortunately, it’s true there are two Indias and the gap between the two will grow in the next 20 to 30 years. Will we be able to build a peaceful society this way? I have serious doubts. As Buddhist philosopher and educationist Daisaku Ikeda writes: “Unlike political and economic concerns, educational programmes do not bear fruit immediately; thus, it is hard to convince people of their importance. But in the long term, education cannot be overlooked as a key to bringing stability and prosperity to society." I think it is only when we as a nation are able to truly educate our masses that transformation will take place in society.

—Amit Samant

Time magazine in its special issue, “Heroes of the environment", 29 October, has profiled individuals who have done a lot of work in their own way to make the earth a better place. One such individual is Abul Hussam, associate professor of chemistry at George Mason University.

To solve the problem of arsenic-laced drinking water in the vast Ganges-Brahmaputra delta region of Bangladesh and West Bengal, he has devised the Sono filter.

The filter can be manufactured locally from cast-iron turnings, along with readily available river sand, wood charcoal and wet brick chips.

It removes 98% of arsenic content as well as other minerals that make the water hard.

Moreover, it is affordable, effective and environmentally sustainable. A glass of water that we take for granted can be laced with poison, and one individual through his efforts has tried to make this safe.

The article, “Govt begins hunt for arsenic-resistant rice" by Jacob P. Koshy, Mint, 24 October, set me thinking. This problem is in the same area where Hussam has tried to solve the potable water problem. What does one do when the poison seeps into the earth itself? This is what is happening and our problem to the solution is to develop arsenic-resistant rice?

It may be a short-term solution, but does it address the core issue? Why is the groundwater contaminated with arsenic in these parts of the Gangetic region and why is it spreading?

All these questions need to be answered and a holistic plan to tackle the issue needs to be developed, instead of simply embarking on a five-year project, which will pose another set of questions five years later.

In nature, everything is connected and things cannot be viewed in isolation. We may solve the drinking water problem, but the poison will seep in through the food that we eat. The balance has been upset and we need to restore it instead of looking at short-term solutions.

—Vinod Kotwal

Reading the editorial, “Nuclear dodo", Mint, 15 October, makes me think that paralysis is a recurring occurrence on the Indian political scene.

Sixty years after the birth of democratic India, we have a host of “family firms" on the state and national platforms with pretensions of representing the interests of the nation. There are also parties that project religious identities as their clarion call.

Every one of these parties sees national interests through their own prismatic viewer. The summation of visions adds up to a democratic trade-off, shifting nationalism and secularism from time to time.

It is in such an environment that dodos take origin and the Left parties find their relevance in the nuclear debate.

Many of us suspect that all parties have a deep-seated fear of unleashing the power of a poverty-free and thinking voting class.

Electoral outcomes will acquire frightening unpredictability.

—M.M. Kapur