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Essay on “Illiteracy is the Consequence of Our Policies” Complete Essay for Class 9, Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Illiteracy is the Consequence of Our Policies


An informed citizenry, active citizenship and collective assertion are critical civil society functions in a mature democracy. However the very low levels of literacy prevalent even today despite decades of rhetoric have made ordinary citizen very tiny and weak in the face of the might of the state. Many people secretly believe that universal adult franchise in a largely illiterate society is not desirable. However the reality is that the verdict of the poor and illiterate people is roughly the same as that of the literate and informed population in society. Human beings are endowed with the same amount of dignity and they have the same democratic right and freedom of choice irrespective of their origins, level of literacy, wealth, talent and accomplishments. In fact it can be argued that illiteracy is not a cause of mis-governance in society but is actually perpetuated by failure of governance. The literacy levels of many countries which had comparable human development indices some fifty years ago have dramatically improved after the Second World War. The fault of perpetuation of illiteracy, if anything, lies at the doorstep of incompetent administration and dysfunctional political process. To argue that illiterate population is the cause of failure of governance is a clever inversion of logic wholly devoid of merit. Apart from examples like South-East Asia, Sri Lanka and the State of Kerala, the experience of Tamil Nadu in recent years clearly demonstrates that a few strategic interventions by the state will make a spectacular difference to literacy in a relatively short span

of time. Sometime in early 1980’s the MGR Government in Tamil Nadu introduced the mid-day meal programme at schools. The motives were probably to attract the votes of the poor, to enhance the image of the ruling party and the leader, and the genuine concern for the plight of the poor coupled with a desire to promote literacy. Unlike many other usual government promises and programmes bureaucratically implemented, the mid-day meals scheme in Tamil Nadu was genuinely well-implemented. There was a lot of political attention focused on this scheme. As a result, the poor sent their children to schools. A well-conceived programme genuinely implemented thus altered the behaviour of people. As the schools became the centre of political attention the quality of schooling went up significantly. Simultaneously greater investments were made in school education. As a result literacy levels went up and in particular female literacy made rapid strides. Today, Tamil Nadu has the second highest level of literacy in India among the major States. In the past few years this higher level of literacy has translated itself into low levels of population growth. Tamil Nadu is now very close to reaching a stable population level. All this transformation has taken place in less than two decades. This change resulted in higher skill levels, greater investment, greater employment creation and rapid economic growth. Let us compare this with the State of Andhra Pradesh where populist programmes of a different kind were implemented with equal sincerity and vigour. In 1983, the NTR government introduced the subsidized rice programme at Rs.2 a kilogram me. The scheme was equally well-implemented and the motives were perhaps similar. However people simply consumed subsidized rice and it did not alter their behaviour in any positive way. As a consequence the poor largely remained poor and their skill levels and literacy have not gone up. In fact it is possible to argue that the savings by the poor went for alcoholic consumption and such other unproductive, and sometimes harmful activities. Andhra Pradesh today has the third lowest literacy among all States of India. Only Bihar and Orissa have lower levels of literacy. It is clear, therefore that literacy level cannot be a precondition for democracy and universal adult franchise. In fact good governance and sensible strategic initiatives are the preconditions for higher literacy and the positive benefits that flow from it.


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