Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVI No. 20,February 1-15, 2017

Leading India in protest – But why?

(By The Editor)

It could have been a model protest were it not for the miscreants who queered the pitch on the final day. It was an expression of resentment that was a model to follow in many ways – no violence, no harassment of women, minimum disruption to traffic and, above all, the political elements kept at bay. The rest of the country watched in amazement, until it broke up in predictable fashion. As to who was responsible for the chaos that followed, that merits investigation. Meanwhile, the Marina is clear, for the nonce.

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We add that qualifier chiefly because of some statistics that have emerged concerning our State. Apparently, Tamil Nadu is the most restive among all the States of India. It witnessed a staggering 20,450 protests in the last one year. The closest that others have managed are 13,089 (Punjab) and 10,477 (Uttarakhand). That notches up another first to our tally, though it is not certain whether we ought to be celebrating it. What is also amazing is the difference between the State and the rest of the country. When we thought all along that our State is one of the peaceful backwaters where people go about their routine activities, not giving much thought to public expression of inner angst.

Angst it certainly appears to be, for how else can we explain this statistic? It points to a deeper malaise and the sooner those in power address this, the better. Youth roused to protest is a dangerous thing and does not indicate a society where all is well. As to the reasons for such discontent, those are not far to seek – those who gathered at the Marina ostensibly for Jallikattu also expressed their anger at farmer suicides, lack of effective governance and stagnation of the State. A Government official has dismissed the contention that this is an alarming situation. He has stated that all agitations in Tamil Nadu have to seek police permission and since the system is foolproof, each and every protest has been recorded, which may not be the case with other States. This may be a correct assessment, but is the figure not alarmingly high? That is something the Government may want to ponder over rather than waving it away as a mere number.

We at Madras Musings are no analysts, but we do feel that there are some key issues that need to be addressed. For years now, ours has been a Welfare State, with many measures such as the noon meal scheme, many concessions in education, and a host of freebies for the less privileged. These are all to the good as they have helped create upward mobility. Tamil Nadu is today one of the most urbanised States in India. A host of colleges and polytechnics, both Government-run and private, have proliferated. All of these are bringing out educated youth in the thousands each year. All of them need gainful employment. Unfortunately that is just not happening.

One of the key reasons for this is that many of our graduates and diploma-holders are unemployable. Skills development is given short shrift in most educational institutions today and they all suffer from a huge disconnect from industry. In addition, there is a new -fallout, owing to increased -automation – the number of jobs going around is far fewer than what it was ten years ago. The State has to address these issues – first by getting its education system more up to date and second, by getting more -industries to invest here. There has been little thrust on the -latter for years now. The end -result? A discontented youth seeking high-profile causes of protest. The Marina may fill up, yet again. Section 144 is not a permanent solution.

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