This refers to your cover story ‘Give Me Back My Classroom’ (June 28). Invention may have become the mother of necessity when the pandemic hurriedly forced the education sector to go into a one-way virtual mode from the pre-Covid lively classroom interactions, but sharp digital divides, urban-rural inequalities and differences between haves and have-nots were never far behind to play their part and continue to do so. Consequently, while terms like ‘blended learning’ may make us believe that some long-due transformation in the domain of education has been brought on by the virus, the truth is ‘learning outcomes’, already under a cloud for long, have received further setbacks. Not only this, with the normal ‘chalk and talk’ method disrupted, the teacher’s strict vigil disappearing and a lot of hoo-ha (not really off the mark here) about children’s socio-behavioural tendencies being adversely affected, the ‘victim card’ is ready for the school goers to be played as and when required. Marks, the biggest motive for school students to study and perform, have become a casualty in these abnormal circumstances, and, as a result, interest in studies among students is on the wane. The repercussions of Covid-stifled education will be there for all to see in the years to come. There may be varied reasons for stakeholders to yearn for classroom education to get going, but get going it must.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
It is really bad for children that schools have been closed for more than a year and there is little chance of their re-opening in the near future. It is true that many students are attending classes on computers and mobile phones, at least in urban areas, but online study is no substitute for classroom study—it can at best be a supplement. Children are missing interaction with their teachers and friends. Moreover, there are no outdoor activities for them to participate in, and spending long hours in front of a screen is not good for them physically and mentally. The situation is worse for students in rural India, where they have very limited access to computers and mobile phones. In this scenario, we can only pray that schools are re-opened at the earliest.
D.B. Madan, New Delhi
India is drifting rapidly towards a state of ignorance even as it aims for development. The pandemic has reminded us that education is an essential public good. The government needs to invest more on schools and the well-being of children.
Uzair Ahmed, Muzaffarnagar (UP)
This refers to Imagining the Post-Pandemic Campus. The idea of bringing together four eminent experts in the field to discuss the problems faced by the education sector in India during the pandemic as well as the possible solutions is commendable. I entirely agree with Dinesh Singh that “all universities have no choice but to be universities of the future”.
M.L. Pandit, New Delhi
This refers to your story on how “organisational flux continues to mar the Congress’s self-image as the national pole of anti-BJP politics” (Slippery Old Pivot, June 28). The departure of Jitin Prasada may just be the beginning—more and more Congress leaders, especially the aspirational young among them, will look for ‘saffron’ pastures in the BJP. What is strange is that the Gandhis do not appear to be too ruffled with defections, repeated electoral setbacks and the boiling political pot in Rajasthan and Punjab. The grand old party is now definitely ageing and its grandeur is a thing of the past. Even the BJP’s recent failures in controlling the second wave of the pandemic, dislodging the feisty Mamata Banerjee from her perch and getting the economy back on track have not galvanised the Congress into action. The only party with an organisational presence across the country, which could have challenged the BJP by consolidating the entire Opposition around itself, is facing an existential crisis. Can it be said that the BJP’s confidence stems from here?
Vipul Pandey, Nainital
The Congress’s waning influence over its rank and file is clearly visible. The total washout in Bengal, losing to the Left Democratic Front in Kerala and being thrown out of power in Pondicherry are ample proof that the entry of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra could neither change the party’s electoral fortunes nor give the much-needed fillip to rejuvenate their workers to survive the choppy waters of contemporary politics. In the constantly changing political scenario, the trouble with the Congress is that it lacks foresight and capacity for readjustment. One group supports Rahul blindly, even though the electorate has repeatedly shown that it does not favour his leadership. The party cuts a sorry figure in every election. With more and more leaders leaving the party in anguish and claiming there is no place in it for honest and dedicated workers, it is clear that there is no charisma left in the Gandhi family. Rahul and Priyanka cannot rebuild the party by ignoring or humiliating capable leaders. The Congress is now on a sticky wicket, and it is slowly shrinking and crumbling due to the emergence of strong regional parties with an iron grip over the electorate.
K.R. Srinivasan, On E-Mail
While Sharad Pawar may be a force to reckon in Maharashtra, Mamata Banerjee has no clout in neighbouring Assam or Tripura because of her image. The influence of M.K. Stalin and Pinarayi Vijayan is confined to their states. Despite its best efforts, the DMK is yet to win a single seat in neighbouring Karnataka, where there is a sizeable Tamil population in East Bangalore. The Congress remains the only opposition party with footprints across the country. Moreover, both Mamata and Pawar have their origins in the Congress and share the same ideology. Minorities trust the NCP and the TMC as much as they trust the Congress.
Rangarajan T.S., On E-Mail
Since the BJP is licking its woundsinflicted by the TMC during the fierce Bengal assembly elections and cannot suffer the insult any longer, it may be hatching a plan to somehow demolish Mamata Banerjee. The sinking Congress is dreaming of better days, without stepping down from its old pedestal for a friendly handshake even with its own young comrades and other parties. Without roots all over India, no party can stand up to the Pied Piper’s authoritarian attitude and save our democracy. We must have a confederation of broad-minded leaders for holding a large umbrella to accommodate everyone who cares enough for secular democracy to checkmate the champions of Hindu nationalism.
M.N. Bhartiya, Alto-Porvorim (Goa)
This refers to the column by Colin Gonsalves on Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (Scrap This Law, June 28). Yes, this law must be scrapped as no democracy worth its salt can have such a despotic, anti-people and repressive law that mostly targets its own citizens. It is used as a tool to harass and intimidate dissidents. I wonder why the law devised by the British colonial rulers to suppress our freedom movement was allowed to exist even after the Constitution came into force. Perhaps the makers of the Constitution imagined that no government would be so scared of students, poets, artists, academics, climate-change activists, journalists and doctors that it would use the same law to keep them in jail.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun