Gen the extraordinary ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity of India, one would expect its citizens to be well-mannered, tolerant and civil. After all, when citizens have to brush shoulders, transact business and interact socially with people from entirely different cultural and religious backgrounds on an everyday basis, they have to necessarily learn to tread warily and mind one’s words and conduct. Unfortunately this expectation has not yet come to fruition. Over the past seven decades post-independence India has — not to mince words — degenerated into one of the contemporary world’s most disliked nations because its leaders, establishment and majority of its citizens are ill-mannered, boorish and unmindful of the convenience of fellow citizens and by extension, foreign visitors. There’s a national deficit of what in latter day jargon are known as life and soft skills.
Consequently, 21st century India is neither fully at peace with her neighbours, nor with itself. A discourteous remark, ill-phrased apology, unwarranted religious or casteist slur can — and all too often does — conflagrate into major riots, provoking mob frenzy, mayhem and destruction of life and property.
Fortunately, even if belatedly, wisdom has dawned upon the educators’ community and good manners, relationship-building and harmonious living supplemented with important cognitive life skills such as critical thinking, creativity and problem solving are an integral part of curriculums in progressive schools and colleges. Our cover story in this first issue of the new academic year, focuses on this important development.
Our special report feature reports on an equally crucial issue — family planning, aka birth control, population stabilisation — choose your preferred description. After the country’s first — and hopefully last — internal Emergency (1975-77), family planning became a taboo word in Indian politics because during that agonising period of 19 months, officially encouraged thugs and goons ran amok, forcibly sterilising millions of poor and socio-economically disadvantaged citizens. This period of misgovernance has cost the country dear with the national population having doubled since 1970 and imposing a huge strain on the infrastructure and resources.
Yet throughout the Emergency and thereafter, the Delhi-based Population Foundation of India (estb.1970) steadfastly propagated the importance of family planning and persisted with devising contemporary strategies for controlling the country’s runaway population explosion. With considerable ingenuity and success. Now the country’s TFR (total fertility rate) is down to 2.1, and population stabilisation is likely to be achieved decades ahead of 2050, contrary to the predictions of several authoritative demographers. For this happy denouement, PFI and its leaders well-endowed with excellent life skills, deserve great credit.