Archive for September, 2011

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

I was driving to work today and was about 100 meters from the intersection when my wife shouted BJP flags. She is generally not interested in politics, but her instincts have told her that flags of the nation’s second largest political party on the roads, meant trouble!

That is the sad state of affairs in our state and country. Just like when you see a policeman on the road, you don’t get a sense of assurance; instead, you experience a sense of fear. Similarly, people have gotten to a point, when they see political party flags, it means trouble.

In any event, a bunch of BJP activists randomly walked to a busy intersection at 10:00 AM to do a raasta rokho. They obviously chose the location and time carefully. What must be their criteria? Cause maximum inconvenience to people.

The first thing that crossed my mind is- who are these people that have time at 10:00 AM in the morning to be on the roads to stop traffic? They really have to be jobless. I am willing to bet that 90% of the people who were travelling on the road at that time of the day have to be working. Now, that is the sad state of affairs. About 20 jobless people have made the lives of nearly 2000 miserable. This is the price a civil society pays when good people don’t rise up against evil.

Samme or strike is a democratic right. RTC bus driver, a school teacher, secretariat employee, or a Singareni worker has a right to go on a strike- as long as they don’t demand pay for the time they didn’t work. There may be some contractual/legal obligations that prevent certain members of workforce to go on a strike, but we don’t need to go into those details. Painting with a broad brush, it is a worker's fundamental right to go on a strike.

However, our society seems to have lost the sense of distinction between fundamental rights and enforcing one’s views on rest of the society. A raasta rokho or rail rokho is not a fundamental right. These activities violate passengers’ right to travel to the destination of choice after paying the fare. People who stop trains and traffic should be arrested and prosecuted.

Similarly a bandh is a fundamental right, if and only if the business closes voluntarily. I was watching a petrol bunk on the day a bandh was called. The business opened early in the morning. Around 10 AM, when they expected hooligans and hafta collectors to show up, the business closed down. From that point on, for the rest of the day, petrol bunk owner played a cat and mouse with those that want him to shutdown his business. This kind of bandh is not a fundamental right, but is outright illegal.

People of our state quietly accept violation of our fundamental rights that happen on a daily basis. They constantly harp about government’s failure to bring things under control. However, they never point the finger at themselves. The responsibility to stand up for our fundamental rights start at the level of individual, then at the colony, then at a ward, then at a constituency, then at a district, then at a state, and then at a nation. Instead, we tend to think it should happen in the exact opposite order. Sure, bring on President’s rule- which is nothing but a dictatorship. When that fails, let’s hand the rule over to the United Nations. Problem solved!

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”- Edmund Burke

Save Andhra Pradesh! 


Nalamotu Chakravarthy

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

On Monday September 19th afternoon, I got an SMS from my kid’s school that they are closing on Tuesday in light of the bandh. I was a little troubled with the SMS and I called up the school and spoke with the head teacher to understand how the decision to shut the school down was arrived at. The teacher said it was a management decision and she had no role in it. I urged her to have a makeup day for the school. She said they were going to do that anyway.

Tuesday evening I got another SMS saying that the school is closed for the rest of the week. This SMS worried me and I wanted to get to the bottom of the issue. My concern was about Glendale management taking such an important decision as shutting down the school for a week without consulting the parents. So, I decided to meet the head mistress.

I went to the school with another parent who is a good friend of ours. We requested the head mistress to help us understand how the decision to close the school down for a week was arrived at. Here are the reasons she gave-

Originally the management planned to keep the school open throughout the week. However, on Monday the 19th, separatist hooligans descended on a nearby Kendriya Vidyalay and asked the principal to close the school. When he refused, they physically assaulted him. Later in the day, Chirec school bus was stopped by separatists. It was stranded for sometime after which it was let go. On top of this, schools have been getting more phone calls than usual from separatist outfits urging them to close the school.

Taking all these factors into consideration, managements of different schools in the neighbourhood consulted each other and decided to close the schools down en-masse for at least a week.

I wished the schools showed a bit more courage, but their plight is understandable. The risk of their buses and their staff becoming targets of separatist attacks is their biggest concern.

My main complaint with the school management was that they haven’t consulted the parents when they took as serious a decision as closing the school down for a week. The head mistress argued that they didn’t have time to take parents into confidence as it was an emergency decision. I urged her to consider having a parents meeting at least now so that we can brainstorm together as a team about how to handle any future bandh calls. The head mistress agreed to a parents meeting and I am hoping it will happen soon.

Now to the question of what can parents do in this situation?

First and foremost, we as parents need to come to a realization that police forces are rarely effective when it comes to people’s movements. With thousands of schools and lakhs of children, there just isn’t enough police force to protect all. This problem is universal and applies to more developed societies too. Take for example, 1992 riots in Los Angeles, or last year’s riots in France, or this year’s riots in UK.

Here is my view on how this problem should be tackled:

  • Clearly school buses are an easy target for separatists. On the days when a bandh call is given, instead of sending kids in the school bus, parents should drop off their kids at school.
  • Parent groups should identify children that do not have conveyance and have them carpool with families that live close by.
  •  Lastly and most importantly, parents should volunteer to defend the school staff and children on bandh days. It is not needed for all the parents to be at the school. A small group of 20-30 volunteers is all it takes. This, in my view, is the best way of stopping the separatists from forcibly closing down our kids’ schools.

If you are a parent and your child’s school has been closed down, please consider meeting the school management. Urge them to make parents part of the decision making process. Mobilize other parents to the best of your ability and brainstorm ways in which you can ensure that the schools stay open. Our children have lost too many school days this year. Parents need to take a more active part in ensuring that schools run smoothly. This responsibility cannot be outsourced to the government. After all, this is about your child’s future.

Save Andhra Pradesh! 


Nalamotu Chakravarthy