Two very interesting news items adorned the pages of local newspapers today. One was about a state cabinet decision to reward Rs. 1 lakh to any candidate who clears the preliminary test of the all India civil services examination which recruits the country’s top government jobs, most notably the Indian Foreign Service, IFS, Indian Administrative Service, IAS, and the Indian Police Service, IPS, but also a long list of allied services, which although not as prestigious as the above named three, are nonetheless in the same official classification of Class-1 Central government services. The second news items borders the tragic. It was about a protest rally by college students, including of colleges whose reputation once commanded awe and respect throughout the Northeast, to name just one, the DM College, demanding things like better laboratory facilities, adequate staff, appointment of college principals, appointment of higher education director, better infrastructure etc.
The reality is, the two news items are extremely related. It is sheer insensitivity that those in the government are not provoked enough to address both issues at the same time and prescribe the same medicine. There is no doubt that good administrators are a key to enlightened and inspired governance. The state government’s angst hence that the state is not producing enough top class administrators is perfectly understandable. We also have no issue with the government choosing to reward candidates who clear the first stage of the civil services examination with Rs. 1 lakh so as to help him or her prepare for the next and much more difficult stage of the examination, which indeed can be expensive considering professional guidance has now become a must. But, even this gesture, or gimmick as some definitely would prefer to call it, would ring hollow against the backdrop of the precious little the government is doing for the upkeep and improvement of education in the state, both at the school and college levels. Why can’t the government realise the college student protestors who were out on the streets yesterday, are the ones who would be inheriting the future soon. It is from amongst them that there would be aspirants to be civil servants that the government now seeks to reward and encourage. They are the ones who would be administrators, intellectuals, politicians, statesmen etc. To neglect them and still wish there would be more who make it to the top jobs of the country has to be the limit of myopia. At best, the government is encouraging segregation of students whose parents were resourceful enough to give their children better education than those it provides at home, from those who have no more option than to wade through the rot the government has allowed to enter into its own education system.
The two news items read together also would give anybody the sense of the absurd theatre that Manipur has become. The government must wake up to this reality. While there is no harm in going ahead with its proclaimed reward and encouragement for civil services candidates, it must begin focusing on improving the nurseries from which the seeds for the mighty oak trees it hopes would grow one day can come. To use a time worn cliché, it must begin this mission from the beginning. First and foremost, listen to the college students such as those who were on the streets yesterday and not necessarily only the politicised ones who are more interested in political posturing than studies, of which variety the state is now so familiar with. Give education the priority that it deserves. In the end, as economists, philosophers and indeed even street wisdom, have all in unison said in myriad ways, it is appropriate quality education which alone can redeem our society. It must also do everything to end corruption, including importantly in education. Appoint the best teachers through honest and just recruitment processes. And as it seeks to reward administrator aspirants, it must also evolve a reward and penalty mechanism for educators. Along with the teachers, it must also give top priority to acquiring the best infrastructure for its educational institutions. Further, it must make sure that its education facilities are spread out to all parts of the state in an equitable way, so that every child and every youth is given the opportunity to be empowered through good sound education. In the long run, such a policy and not just the ones as the reward policy the cabinet announced yesterday, which will have Manipur flooded with what Plato in The Republic called, “philosopher kings”.