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The wise, old rustics

 Editor,

There are too many deaths by drowning in the tempestuous and unpredictable rivers and streams of our beautiful hill state, which compelled me to write this letter. The problem with us, human beings, is that we cannot accept the fact that tragedy usually springs out of ignorance. As a Khasi lady, it is but natural for me to love, respect and follow the customs, tradition and the unique etiquette of Khasi society. When we were young and about to go on a picnic to any Khasi or Jaintia village, our parents gave us a strong warning not to venture to a jungle or a river or a waterfall without the knowledge of any of the village elders. We had to get their opinion whether it was safe for us to venture near a river (let alone swimming) or exploring a jungle. Obeying our parents and the village patriarchs, we came back home thoroughly fulfilled and also safe and sound and alive! How can we ignore the old and wise rustics? These sturdy village men folk of knowledge and experience know better than us. Society at large, may count them as illiterate or semi-literate and at times call them “natives” in a derogatory undertone. But, swallow the bitter pill – THEY KNOW BETTER. Therefore, won’t it be sensible for all citizens of the state, to spread awareness about the existence of such wise and experienced rustics who can give opinions or advice? Society knows this fact, as an unwritten law, but a traditional acceptance. Emphasis on this awareness needs to go out to ignorant citizens and tourists alike, so that precious lives will be saved. In turn, it will also save the working days of farmers, who, out of compassion, go and search for missing persons. This is just a humble suggestion coming from a grandmother, for the benefit of society at large. Either accept it or leave it. Think twice!

Yours etc.,

Cassandra Syiemlieh,

Shillong-17

Reservation for the rich

Editor,

Recently the Supreme Court called for an end to reservations in all institutions of higher education, regretting that some privileges have remained unchanged 68 years after independence. It is argued that caste based reservation is a positive discrimination in favour of the oppressed for the sake of social justice so that they can get the chance of quick recovery from the age old social ills. But certainly this cannot go on forever. Many deserving students are being sacrificed at the altar of reservation. No one can deny that it has become a political compulsion and a game of playing with reservation cards. However, it is perplexing that those who speak in favour of meritocracy raise their voice only against reservation for the Dalits. They seldom utter a single word against the prevalent practice of making higher education accessible only for the high income groups by earmarking a sizeable number of college seats for management quota students and by escalating the fee structure that keeps many deserving students out of the college campus especially the technical ones. The cost of higher education has witnessed an astronomical growth in recent years. Since educational scholarship is not enough to meet the demands, higher education has practically been hijacked from the domain of the lower and lower middle class. Now parents are to cough up a new form ‘dowry’ if they want to settle their wards in jobs that can do justice to marksheets and aspirations of their children. This new version of educational dowry has gone up to such a level that only those who belong to very creamy layer of the society can afford to pay. As for example, last year IIM Kolkata raised the fee for their two flagship courses from Rs.13.5 lakh to 16.2 lakh. Thus the capacity of parents’ credit card has become a more important factor in our higher education system than a student’s marks in his or her merit card. Education and health sectors are gradually being exported to private players without meaningful control and without attachment of necessary strings. As a result majority of our population have to play the role of helpless spectators when it comes to saving their lives or educating their children. Many students commit suicide when their parents failed to finance their education. Are not these students victims of quota raj for the rich? Or shall we call it reservation for India in Bharat? This is the worst form of discrimination as it only carries coal to Newcastle, jettisoning struggling meritorious students for good. This negative discrimination is also destroying the democratic environment and social mobility in our country. So first of all it needs to be ensured that meritorious students get higher education without any caste or economic road blocks. It is time to do away not only with the caste quota but also with the huge chunk of management quota from the backyard of educational institutions. Moreover sufficient scholarships and easy interest free loans for the needy is a must to make meritocracy meaningful.

Yours etc.,

Sujit De,

Kolkata

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