Hit on paper, Right to Education Act falls flat on ground

The Right to Education Act is now in its 6th year of implementation. On paper the Act has done well as all the government-aided private schools are required to have 25% seats reserved for children from the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) families. The Act did away with the admission tests or interviews and the admission fee for EWS candidates was waived. This gave many families an opportunity to educate their children for the first time and many sent their children to schools which would not have accepted them otherwise.

However, their difficulties don’t end here. Simran is a resident of the Nizamuddin Basti. Her three-year-old son will be joining nursery this year. Her daughter is five and has been a student at the nearby Delhi Public School, Mathura Road. Even though the course fee is waived for the two children, there are many costs involved in sending them to school.

Simran’s husband works as a waiter and earns around Rs 8,000 per month.  The family is worried about the extra costs involved in schooling. A single uniform costs Rs 1,400, the shoes cost Rs 500 for each child and the books needed will be worth Rs 3,500. Simran and her husband wonder if their children can manage with a single uniform.

Under the Act, the money deposited by the parents will be credited to a bank account under the child’s name. Umais works as a tailor in the same neighbourhood. His daughter is six-years-old now and has been going to school for four years. However, he says there has been no sign of the refund. “I earn only around Rs 7, 000 a month. If I spend so much on her (daughter’s) books and uniform, how am I supposed to run a home? How do I provide for my family?”

Salim, who works as a tea-seller, shares similar story. His three-year-old daughter started schooling this week from DPS Mathura Road. “How much does a chaiwallah earn? I make around Rs 3000-4000 a month. I went and paid for my daughter’s books and I was so happy that she went to a school. But when I checked the inventory list closely, they even charged me for the carry bag! Forty rupees for a carry bag! If I had known, I would have just carried the books back in my hands!”

The parents try to cut costs in small ways. They try buying the books and uniforms directly from the source, but the books are not easy to find. They sometimes hesitate to buy even used books because of the revisions that take place in the academic syllabus each year. For nursery and kindergarten, the uniforms are different each year, and then again when they start elementary school.

Under the provisions of the Act, the parents can avail a refund on presentation of a printed receipt. Sanjay, who works as an assistant in a medical store in Nizamuddin, speaks of the difficulty in getting one. “I have two daughters. Whenever I ask for a printed receipt, the counter people always brush me off. They say they don’t have a bill book and that I should come back later. They just give us back our slip with a date. I have been asking them for six years now.” One year, after a lot of persistence, he managed to get a refund of 10%.

Zainab is sometimes late to pick up her daughter, “In DPS they scold you if you reach late. But in Modern School they wait with the child and behave better. People from the Basti who send their children there get their refunds on time and the school helps them find cheaper uniforms and books.”

Queries to Delhi Public School went unanswered.

Earlier, in January, deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia, who additionally holds education portfolio, assured parents that they won’t face any hurdles during the admission process. However, the parents continue to face difficulties post admission.


(This story can be found on http://theconverge.in/hit-on-paper-right-to-education-act-falls-flat-on-ground/)

Raghurajpur: A Museum Village

Located in the Puri district of Orissa, at first glance Raghurajpur looks like any other Orissan village.

The houses are made of bricks and roofs are thatched with straw. However, the village is home to a community of artists. In 2000, Raghurajpur was chosen to be developed as Orissa’s first heritage village after a research project undertaken by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Each house specializes in a different kind of art form and at least one person from each household is involved in a craft. There are 103 households in the village and around 311 artisans. Many have won national awards for excellence in their craft.


The artists of the village produce a variety of handicrafts such as palm leaf engravings, stone carvings, papier-mâché toys and masks that are mixed with cow dung. Paintings on ‘tussar’ (raw) silk are also one of the renowned works of the artists. However village is most famous for Pattachitra paintings.




About 14 kilometers away from the village is the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri. The Patas decorated here adorn the chariots used during the Rath Yatra festival which takes place in Puri annually.


Abhimanyu, a young artist, while showing a painting which took him eight months to complete, says: “This is our tradition (pattachitra). We make the rest for business– coconut, betel leaf, palm leaf, raw silk. People know Pattachitra.”



Themes of Pattachitra are mystical stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat, including that of Lord Jagannath. It has remained a unique and distinct art as Orissa was largely untouched by invasions from Mughal rulers. Making a Pattachitrapainting is an extremely tedious process. The artist comes back to the painting every day anywhere between three to eight months, refining and polishing till it achieves it final glory.


Historians claim that this art form came about in the 12th century AD around the Jagannath cult. Even today most rituals in the Puri temple remain incomplete without the Pattachitra.


Abhimanyu’s father and grandfather also practiced the art extensively. The artwork in the village is not restricted to the canvas alone. The murals on the walls of the artists’ houses, commissioned by INTACH to revive Orissa’s traditional wall painting, display scenes from the Hindu epics.



The residents of the village take immense pride in their tradition which has been passed on through generations. The village is a living museum where every villager is an artist.

(Find this story on http://theconverge.in/raghurajpur-a-museum-village/)

For the Love of K-Pop

Amina Razzack
The popularity of Korean music and dance in India is growing by the day

The hardest question for all fans, “How did you become a K-pop fan?“ It started innocently enough. I watched a few videos on YouTube, downloaded and listened to some interesting tracks and the next thing I know was that I was singing in Korean and dancing between classes, spending every minute of my day thinking about K-pop.Since it was virtually unknown in India a few years ago, I felt like I was one of the few people who was so passionate about it. I was never so glad to have been proven wrong. I stumbled across the World K-pop Festival by accident. It was heartening to know that they had one in India too. And there I found crowds of people who loved the genre as passionately as I did.Since then the numbers have only grown, just like our love for K-pop.K-pop is as exciting as a wild roller coaster ride.It’s a world where everything is bright, fast-paced and dynamic. It definitely left a strong impact on my life. For one thing I dress better now and I find myself moving through the day with the energy of the performers. The music is catchy and infectious and even my father groves to Gangnam style.

It’s only natural that Kpop fans began to look for others with similar interest. Thanks to the internet, it’s easier to connect with other K-poppers across the country. It was through this that I found myself one afternoon at a Super Junior Fan Meet.Even though I was supposed to be chaperoning my sister, I was sucked into the energy and laughter between the fans.Soon I was playing games with them even though I wasn’t a Suju fan! It’s very exciting when Korean culture and Indian culture meet. Catallena is a song by the girl group Orange Caramel. When I first heard it I couldn’t believe my ears. While many Korean songs have used Indian instruments, here was a song that used Punjabi lyrics! The last year was especially fun for us Indian fans. On September 30, 2014, the Siri Fort Auditorium was packed to the brim. Many people were dressed in N-Sonic tshirts, waved neon glow sticks and held up signs in Korean. As I stood in line to gain entry, I couldn’t help being bewildered by the size of the crowd. On that day, it seemed like every Indian fan had made the pilgrimage to New Delhi. People had lined up hours before the scheduled time to get good seats. N-Sonic was to perform the first Kpop performance in India! The members of NSonic were very keen to visit India as in Korea, India is considered a spiritual place. One member even confessed to have watched a Bollywood movie Om Shanti Om. NSonic confessed that they were surprised to see so many fans in India. When they took to the stage a day later, they set it ablaze with their fastpaced songs and high energy dance moves. The crowd was brought to its feet and the chants were deafening. I cheered as loud as I could, losing my voice for days after.

For those two days of the K-pop World Festival, the K-pop community in India was more active than they had ever been before. Social media networks were abuzz with Kpop discussions. Many fans uploaded selfies they had taken with NSonic.Strangers bonded over favourites and became friends. So at the end of the final performance, the crowds were reluctant to leave. The experience was over for another year. Hugs and emotional goodbyes were exchanged between fans.But just months later, NSonic returned with an India tour, thanks to the overwhelming response by fans. They performed at college festivals of IIM Ahmedabad, SRM Chennai and IIT Guwahati where thousands of fans enjoyed their performance. They fondly remembered the experience on an Arirang broadcast back in Korea, displaying the Taj Mahal models they got as gifts, and especially the energy that brought the crowd to its feet in Guwahati. They finished their tour with a fan signing in Delhi.I was so excited to see them up close that I lost my voice again when they shook my hand! Just days after that, we heard of a new Korean series to be filmed in Mumbai, starring six of our favourite K-pop idols.The excitement built amongst the fans as the world began to acknowledge India’s presence in the global K-pop scene.That presence is only going to grow as this year’s K-pop World Festival aims to be a bigger and better affair. Who knows which group will visit us next? The anticipation has started building up.

(This article was published as part of the India-Korea supplement in Times of India on 18 May 2015)