We all know ‘population explosion’ was probably coined for India and China’. We know that population is not only a ‘major’ problem, it is THE problem facing the country. But there’s only so much that can be done, once a certain limit gets crossed in terms of live births. What matters is how we handle the aftermath of the population explosion. While shifting to a new city, the only people I had in my mind were our maid (and her family), and the society dhobi. Practising compassion often gets restricted to giving donations in the form of clothes, bags and household articles that are no longer required. But I realise, each time, that it’s not enough. It will never be enough. Clothes, bags and household articles are mere possessions. Those articles suffer depreciation in economic terms and will soon be out of their houses as well. But some things that will truly enrich them are health and ‘real’ wealth in the form of education.

It’s appalling not to be able to recognise the disparity that lingers in the society. It’s something akin to the citadel and the lower-ground houses in the Harappan civilization, but the difference is that there is no strict demarcation as to the ‘poverty line’. A literate, educated, and a healthy society is the hallmark of a vibrant civilization. It simply means that education and health should be areas of priority, always. Education doesn’t end at literacy, in fact, it starts with literacy. You teach a boy/girl how to read, write, speak, and understand a script, and they will be able to amass a lot of knowledge. Knowledge really is power, and education is the beginning of all the good things that make up a society. After all, education further gets branched into basic literacy, financial literacy, sex education, health and hygiene education, and so on. Won’t it automatically generate a collective conscience that may be directed at achieving individual goals at a microcosmic level, but will definitely impact in a positive manner at a macro-level?

There are many countries which realise the importance of a healthy and educated society, and thus, they begin with making education free for all children. I feel that this incentive should not extend only to primary education, but also to higher levels. Germany sets a prime example. Of course, Germany can afford it, but that doesn’t imply that such a model cannot be successful in developing countries. It may seem like a vicious circle, but the truth is, most poverty-stricken families engage in odd jobs for quick money, and if education also becomes a ‘burden’ for such families, they will never be able to progress. A 5 percent increase in the fees may not impact the upper middle class as much, but it will lead to a higher rate of dropout at the lowest levels in the society. The next question that arises relates to the conflict between economic growth and human development, but how long can a society survive if the individuals remain deprived of basic necessities like education and health?

We set an example in sex education, when we realised the impact of growing population. The Govt has launched Mission Indradhanush to ensure vaccination against 7 deadly diseases to the children. These are laudable efforts, but there is more to be done. The Constitution envisages free and compulsory education, but only for children upto 14 years. Besides, it is not exactly ‘free’ or ‘compulsory’. Our sociological problems that never seem to end are a result of backwardness in education and health, and it is not restricted to the reserved classes, as if often projected. The elitist attitude on the other side does no good to the budding concept of an egalitarian or Rawlsian society. The barriers and the walls which are made of baseless ideas-gender bias, discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, race, and so on-need to be removed from the roots. We need to realise that the ‘mindset’ that we so often talk about emanates from the lack of usage of that very mind which has been gifted to us by God. If someone is born as a human, it implies that they were destined to be part of the most evolved species on the planet. But on an individual, local, national and international level, it is upto the mankind to make things possible. If it is possible somewhere else on this planet, it is possible anywhere else too.

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