After the huge, city-wide wave of protests that we saw in the wake of the rape of a six-year-old schoolgirl, we now have a set of ‘guidelines’ issued by the city police on July 26, for ensuring safety of students. Read through the details, and you find the kind of chicanery and lack of genuine regard for equity that marks most of the official responses to social problems.
The report says that while the guidelines have been mandated for private schools with a deadline of August 31. “The police may not insist on government schools to implement the guidelines as they may not have the necessary resources – they will require a lot of clearances from the government which is a time consuming process” as explained by a “senior police officer.”
Chew on that. Girls in private schools have to be protected, never mind whether those schools have the resources for installing closed circuit television monitors around the school premises, but girl students in government schools don’t deserve such protection. Meaning, the poor can be condemned to rape and molestation, it does not matter, because the “government does not have resources.”
If anyone has the resources, or can find it, it is the government. Lack of funds never stops the government from apportioning money for VIPs – Rs 1.16 crores for minister Ambarish’s medical treatment (as an actor he has earned crores, and is not dependent on state support), posh new air conditioned cars for MLAs, new wall-to-wall carpets for a swearing in ceremony because our VIPs cannot be condemned to the indignity of walking on ordinary floors; thousands of banners and hoardings around town, greeting this or that politician on his birthday; statues of Kempegouda, et cetera. Not to mention foreign jaunts to Russia, New Zealand and Fiji, to “study garbage disposal” (waste management is the politically fashionable term).
But, no money for improving safety for girls who have the misfortune of being enrolled in government schools because they are poor. Isn’t democracy all about ensuring equity, treating all, the rich and the poor, with dignity and ensuring basic human rights? A slum child has as much right to protection from rape by her school staff , as a girl from a rich family that can afford to send her to a private school. On what grounds are the guidelines exempting government schools? I find this attitude obscene in the extreme.
A “senior police officer” assuming that guidelines for safety are not needed in government schools? I thought the police force is supposed to protect everyone, especially the weak and the poor, who cannot engage private security. Is the state’s policing machinery only for ensuring safety for VIPs (look at the bus load of policemen sitting outside the chief minister’s residence, round the clock, chatting, reading the paper, yawning, getting paid for being “on duty”)?
As it is, government schools are in a shambles, with shortage of teachers, shoddy (or nonexistent) infrastructure, not even toilets and safe drinking water; text books are not made available till half the academic year is over. “No money”? No one says councilors or corporators cannot have their perks because there is no money. It is not even the lack of funds that bothers me (though that is unacceptable as a genuine excuse – money is always found when there is a political will to find it) but the assumption that safety of girls in government schools need not be seen on par with that of girls in private schools.
Non-government schools that cite lack of funds for installing CCTV or other measures listed in the guidelines, will be penalized. Thousands of government schools, citing the same, will not. One set of rules for the rich, another for the government machinery. Some democracy.
If the procedures in government organizations are “cumbersome,” who made them so? Certainly not we the people. Is anyone raising questions?
Post script: At the end of a talk that I was asked to give last week in South Bengaluru, a young woman from the audience came up to me, to narrate her experience. I had suggested that girls learn martial arts to protect themselves against molesters. She said she was learning karate while in college, but the instructor himself misbehaved with her. When the fence eats the crop, when teachers see female students as playthings, it is time to concede that we need ‘education,’ not just for students but also for adult teachers. And adult ‘leaders’ too, many of whom have come up with outrageous comments condoning rape and sexual assaults. If I was asked to describe today’s social scene in one word, I would say “sickening.”