Powered by the collective will, wisdom, and voice of India’s 1.3 billion, Modi got elected the undisputed Prime Minister for the next 5-years. The world witnessed a historic event with a gigantic wave leading to SuNaMo. The people of India may not be highly literate but ~67% voters showed their maturity, endurance, and resiliency by standing in long lines under intense heat to make the choice. Nowhere else such a large spectacle and decisive electoral victory have happened.
In his victory speech, the humble Modi bowed and thanked India’s 1.3 billion for filling the “fakir ki jholi (the bag of mendicant).” I wonder if Modi was reminiscing about the ill-conceived statement when Churchill called Gandhi a ‘half-naked fakir.’ Gandhi succeeded in gaining India’s independence from the Britishers and Modi is calling for the beginning of an end to the casteism, a social evil, which has plagued India for centuries. Modi said that there are only two castes- ‘Garib’ (the poor) and ‘Garibi se Mukta Karanay Wale’ (GMKW, those with a desire to help eradicate poverty). Modi wisely chose not to use the more common word ‘Amir’ (rich) instead of GMKW to define one’s economic status/wealth because it has a negative “class” connotation. By calling them GMKW, Modi is encouraging and empowering everyone to help lift the economically disadvantaged out of poverty. Modi also stayed away from the age-old political slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao’ (Eliminate Poverty) which has done very little.
Who is Garib in India? The garibi is not just due to the financial status but it is deeply rooted in her/his educational background. I argue that ‘Garib= Less well educated.’ Most garibs are poorly educated which limits their earning potential and thus they have remained, and continue to be, in the shackles of poverty. From personal experiences with the charitable work in rural India, we know firsthand that almost all children in government schools belong to parents who are poorly educated. In fact, the family has suffered from the lack of education for many generations putting today’s children at a very high risk to remain in the state of poverty if they are also deprived of a good education.
Therefore, Modi’s vision to minimize/eliminate poverty, first and foremost, necessitates educating everyone to reach their full potential. The best strategy is to focus on the future generations i.e, educating children/youth toward building a strong foundation in government schools serving the garib. The government is spending its fair share on primary education yet the corruption, lack of parents’ education, and bureaucracy rooted in the system with little accountability of what kids learn, etc., lead to deplorably low student learning and high dropout rates. Modi’s call to everyone is to be a GMKW and we argue to be the champion of change in improving the state of education and thus fight poverty.
I illustrate Vidya Gyan, an NGO, as an example because that is what I support and know about. It fills a few gaps in a limited number of rural government schools with initiatives focused on future financial security for girls (Savings to Secure), writing (Pencil to Power), reading (Library for Learning), teaching aids, and classroom furniture (Adopt a School) for making the environment conducive to learning. The latter initiative, in partnerships with Pradhan (the village head), is to ‘uplift’ the children from sitting on the floor and make the school more inviting. Likewise, the Saving to Secure is the adoption of Beti Padhao’s (Educate Daughter) Sukanya saving accounts under which we incentivize and partner with parents to open an account for their daughter. To the best of our knowledge, Vidya Gyan is the only NGO promoting this initiative to transform parents’ attitude toward, and financial future of, their daughters. It is important to note that Vidya Gyan initiatives are yielding desirable dividends and are replicable and scalable, one school at a time, given the human and financial resources.
“It takes the whole village to raise a child,” is what led to my own success and thus I decided to give back to the society. You too are blessed because of your education and success; become a GMKW to help India’s garib population in the villages. Everyone has the capacity to give, small or big; we can/should give in our own way to help the needy, and everyone owes to the society to make India (and the world) a better place for the underprivileged, undeserved, and/or economically disadvantaged.
You are fortunate to be educated and your children will undoubtedly be assured of a good education. Imagine a child who needs a GMKW like you to enable her/his education because every child matters. Educating the girl child matters even more; an educated future mother means an educated family and thus an educated nation with Garibi becoming a thing of the past. Being a GMKW is truly the state of mind which everyone must cultivate.