Way back in 2007, I had an opportunity to be part of City Carnival organized by Katha in New Delhi. There were writers, readers, critics, fanatics, artists, movie buffs, movie makers, activists, social thinkers, singers, dancers, translators and researchers from across twenty two countries. There also were hundreds of teachers and college students from across India joining the carnival.
Katha is a non-profit organisation, working in the broad areas of language, culture and translation as well as poverty alleviation. Founded in 1988 by Geeta Dharmarajan, a very graceful and sweet old lady in New Delhi, it aspires to help to help attain lifelong learning and earning opportunities and also attain one's potential. It is well known for its endeavors to spread the joy of reading and knowing. It is one of India's top publishing houses.
During our stay in Delhi, we were taken on tour to Katha School, located inside the slums of Govindpuri. There were some one thousand children being directly benefitted by the school. All these children belonged to poor residents of Govindpuri slums. In fact we were told that most of these children worked on the streets, as domestic help and in shops earning their livelihood and most of them were even out of basic education.
Katha worked with communities who lived in poverty. They used very simple and cost effective infrastructure. Apart from normal lessons, children were directly engaged in many trades. Children can choose to take classes in tailoring, small machines repairs, computer applications and designs, bakeries and pastries, cooking, etc. In fact there were many. We were told that the children could opt to open his own shop when he passed out from the school in any of the trade. The children could even get loan to start his or her own business but the person had to employ at least two or three children from the school to be eligible for the loan.
What touched me most was the children were ready for jobs. In fact some of them started earning while at school like those students in bakery, cooking, tailoring and small machine repair classes. Most wanted to take loan and open their own shop. Those who opened their own shops had high success rate.
Unfortunately in Bhutan, our courses take us all to become “Office goers.” In fact we fail very miserably in offices also. Every year the Government make fuss of the unemployment problems while much of the businesses are plagued by fronting and labour imports.
Those villagers who venture to sell vegetables along the main street are chased away by the authorities like the hounds chasing stags. Instead of encouraging these villagers to produce more and sell more, they are made to bear the brunt of some myopic plans and policies. If there is no space in the market to accommodate all the people, the authorities should find new places and encourage people to sell and buy. The policies and rules should be aimed at making it friendly for the people so that the people benefit out of policies and plans. If they are benefited, the beneficiaries can be made responsible for the cleanliness and hygiene. They can contribute in the form of taxes so that the money collected can be used for creating employment for someone to look after the place.
With technology at hand, people can now begin to look at many jobs as very rewarding. Creation of business would entail in creation of job. Business can be created by encouraging entrepreneurship in people in every small way possible and not in making rules during meetings of division heads which in many cases are anything but very bureaucratic. It is time for Bhutan to come out of “office, chamber and cubicle culture.” The reality lies in seeing people sell food and vegetables on the cold streets along Norzin Lam as much as seeing the butchers selling unhygienic meat just nearby. If people can sell the things they produce, they will be encouraged to work harder. Their families can earn better. The buyers can get a better deal and Government can get taxes. Someone can get job to look after the places and most important of all, it paves way for future.
It is time to get rid of many rules and ideas from the book. It is so "uncivic" to see the authorities trying to snatch the goods of poor villagers. What a shame???!!!