Sir — Pratham, a voluntary organization, has done a survey which revealed that the reading and arithmetic skills of India’s schoolchildren have further declined (“Reading and arithmetic skills decline”, Jan 18). The findings could be ignored had they not been empirically sound. The survey has only emphasized the obvious. The reasons for such a decline are manifold, ranging from parental negligence to the emergence of satellite channels even in rural areas. But our planners and policy-makers have to share a part of the blame too.
What is a child’s motivation to excel in studies? To be able to lead a better life — one that his parents could only dream of. By this parameter, education is essentially an empowering tool. But it is unlikely that schoolchildren are able to gauge the possible outcome of their academic careers. Their goals are short-term. Children only aspire to pass the dreaded school examinations.
My wife had started giving tuition to a neighbourhood girl for free. She not only received help in preparing her lessons but was also offered food when she came to study. Yet, a few months later, the child’s mother informed my wife that she no longer needed the coaching.
My wife was surprised by the decision. So she asked her for the reason. The mother replied that now that her daughter’s promotion to the next class had been assured, she no longer needed such a hard taskmaster.
This is the story of India. Our children do not have enough motivation to study beyond the immediate goal of passing exams. India’s policymakers have peppered the system with several demotivating factors. And the result is out for everyone to see.
Tapan Pal, Calcutta
Sir — The problems that arise from the faulty drawing of boundaries between nation states persist for a long time, unless the governments concerned are aware of the need to do away with them at the right time (“Off the map”, Jan 16). The people living in the enclaves on the India-Bangladesh border, especially in Coochbehar in North Bengal, stand to suffer at the hands of security personnel of both India and Bangladesh. These inhabitants are treated like nomads. They are made to feel marginalized, and are also subjected to humiliation. To add to their misery, the laws of both countries do not give any serious thought to their plight. Consequently, these hapless inhabitants live at the mercy of criminal gangs.
It is heartening to see the administrations of India and Bangladesh waking up to the plight of the residents of these enclaves. This is only because border disputes have had an adverse effect on the bilateral relations of the two countries. One hopes that the two governments will now sort out the matter promptly, before the situation goes out of control.
The editorial rightly suggests that many of the contentious issues threatening to worsen bilateral ties — including barbed wire fencing and unlawful migration — can be overcome if the boundary anomalies are addressed. Governments in New Delhi and Dhaka have a duty to treat the people of these enclaves as bona fide citizens. Hopefully, the upcoming meeting will see the two nations settle the problem, once and for all.
P.B. Saha, Calcutta
Sir — The Bombay High Court’s recommendation that molestation be made a non-bailable offence is welcome. However, if such a law is to be framed, adequate steps must be taken to plug the loopholes in its enactment. There have been instances of Section 498A — which deals with domestic abuse — being misused.
Arun Malankar, Mumbai