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Saturday / March 25.

The Unacknowledged Lower-Class Aspiration

Education Cess

By Kumar Anand

This is real life story of the family of Ramchander, or Ramchandara, as he is called by his friends and acquaintances. Ramchandara is one of the “below below average” IQ person, with almost no skills. He earlier used to make a living working as a daily unskilled labourer to support his family of five – his wife, three young sons and himself. But even this typically unskilled work was too much for him and soon he found it hard to find employment, as his capacity to add value was significantly less than an average  in this small town of Bihar, and labour is quite abundant in this part of the country. Soon the word got around that Ramchandara was a lazy, good-for-nothing daily labourer, who hardly did anything when on the job.

Now, Ramchandara is most of the times unemployed and just roams around his neighbourhood streets. The burden of earning a living for his family has fallen on his wife, known as Mukeshwa Mai, “Mukesh’s mother” (Mukesh being the eldest of her three sons). She is alternatively also known as Ramchandara Kaniya, “Ramchandara’s wife”.

After Ramchander became unemployed and before his wife started working as a housemaid, her family’s only means of survival was a buffalo her family owned. But the buffalo was erratic in giving milk and so there were good days and there were ‘dry’ days. Now not only did she have three young kids, in her husband, she now also had a fourth ‘adult’ dependent. One buffalo’s milk a day was not at all sufficient to support five persons.

She had to supplement her family’s income. And above all, she wanted her kids to get better education. She had seen government schools of the neighbourhood and what goes in there in the name of ‘schooling’, and she was not at all satisfied.

Ramchandra’s wife says,“Humein apan bachcha ke sarkaari school mein nai, phee wala school mein bhejwai.”

Loosely translated from Maithili to English, it means, “I won’t send my kids to the government school, but to a fee-charging private school”.

Ramchandara’s wife would have been fine working in one or two households to take care of her family’s basic needs. But she had bigger dreams. She desires education for her children, not just for name’s sake, as it is done in government schools. So, now Ranchandara’s wife is working as a housemaid in four households, earning anywhere between INR 800 to INR 1000 per household per month. Not only does she have to pay monthly school fees for the private school her three kids went to, she also has to provide for their uniform, books, meals, etc.; things she would’ve gotten for free in a government school. Not very smart of her, eh? Just like her husband, Ramchandara!

Governement education in India

Primary government schools | Photo Courtesy: kochipost.files.wordpress.com

Recently while considering whether to take job with a fifth household; she had to take into account the fact that this would eat into the time she used to prepare breakfast for her kids. Sometimes, her kids would prepare their own food. She didn’t like the idea of it becoming a more regular affair. But she didn’t have much choice either.

Ramchandara’s wife goes through all this hardship daily so she could send her kids to one of the many fee-charging private schools in her neighbourhood.

But of course, Anurag Behar knows better! If it were up to him, he would force my money, Ramchandara’s wife’s money, money printed by the central bank, borrowed money from abroad (foreign aid), money borrowed from Kuber, and of course your money – more than what we already do – to go to the same government schools which have failed to produce better results even after significant increases in budgetary allocations year after year.

These are the same schools which have been rejected by Ramchandara’s wife.

By the way, Ramchandara’s wife also has a phone to stay connected with households she works in. Falling call rates has made it possible for her to own one. When she buys recharge coupons for her phone, small as it may be, she pays taxes, as with everything else she buys. But in this case, she also pays an education cess over and above service tax. Probably, she doesn’t know this. I bet, given a choice, Ramchandara’s wife will ask for her money back, to spend as she wishes. And so will many like her. So, shhhhhh…

This article was originally published in Spontaneous Order

Featured Image Source: Ismael Nieto via Unsplash