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Varanasi weavers' poor wages 'force children' to study in madrasas: meeting told

By Harsh Thakor* 

With the goal of raising class consciousness and mobilizing the working population of Banaras, especially the weavers, a meeting was organized at the Swayamvar Vatika on behalf of the Fatima-Savitri Janasamiti. The weavers discussed the issues related to their status and wages in the programme.
Mohammad Ahmad Ansari, who toils with his family on power looms, said that due to the monopoly of capital and middlemen in the market,the wages of people engaged in weaving work are not even Rs 400 -- less than those of the construction workers. He said that when the wage-income is so rock bottom, it has forced the children of the weavers to study in the madrasas.
Vinay of the Bhagat Singh Chhatra Morcha said that along with low wages, the question of education is linked with the autocratic political structure of the ruling class, which has made education a commodity to be exchanged in the market.
Harihar Prasad, convenor of the Janwadi Vimarsh Manch, said that the new education policy is being implemented to enforce the sustainable development agenda of the United Nations. Under this, path is paved for preparing cheap and skilled labour to provide for domestic and foreign capitalists. Due to this, higher education cost is soaring.
Strongly advocating equal and free education for all, he said, if it is not opposed, the children of poor-disadvantaged sections will be deprived of higher education and it will turn into the privilege of the rich.
While conducting the programme, poet-critic Dr Vandana Choubey said that the "imperialist mahaprabhus" created an atmosphere supporting or paving the way of opening up the economy completely by spending vast capital. Institutional intellectuals were patronised to spread the ideology of fragmentation.
Dr Choubey said that the question of women and education is directly related to the problem of stagnation and recession in the economy and unemployment. If we want to solve the problem of marketing of education, then we have to link it with the question of unemployment.
Referring to the era of Fatima Shaikh, it was pointed out, she wasn't just confronting the colonial structure of British India. The Brahminical forces of the affluent people, who had wealth, dominance, caste power, all allied it.
Even after achieving independence, to a considerable extent the British system of education continued. Describing the present phase as the second phase of imperialism, Dr Choubey said, after independence people placed great faith in government institutions but gradually this trust began to decline in the 90s.
An atmosphere has been built popularising the private sector with the help of capital. Disbelief was expressed in every government thing and the narrative was made in such a way that all areas of public utility services should be opened to the private sector. "When the government is responsible for education and health, we have the right to raise our voice against their poor quality because we form the government by voting."
Sharing the experiences related to weaver-Muslim settlements, Dr Choubey said that the question of communalism and the debate on it is every minute tickling the Muslim community.
The socalled democracy is the oligarchy of the capitalists. The government has opened all channels for the capitalists by removing all the tariffs and duties and opening all the avenues of the market. This has broken the back of the working class, it was underlined.
Dr Vandana Choubey
Amit of the Disha Students Organization said that the education system of the country is undergoing a phase of drastic change, adding, the exploitative system of the past is continuing in the present education system as well.
Without destroying this capitalist system, which sucks the blood of labourers and extracts profits from their blood and marrow, it is not possible to construct a system of mass-scientific education. He said that the question of anti-people rule remains as important today as it was during the British era.
Pawan Kumar, a social activist associated with the labour movement, said that in this capitalist marketism, education is not an isolated feature from other needs of life like health, family environment, house, food, clothes etc. but all are connected to each other.
Education is not only formal education available in schools and colleges, but with this formal education, informal education starts from birth as well as parents, family environment, surrounding environment and economic social conditions of the family. And nowadays this informal education is being given continuously through WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media, he said.
Pawan Kumar continued, higher education is restricted only to the rich and capitalists who buy labour and is snatched from the reach of those who earn their livelihood by selling their labour. He said that in this system, by those who live by selling labour, there is no bigger lie and illusion than propagating that good days will also come for the common people.
Launching a scathing attack at today's capitalist polity, identity-discussion (backwardness, casteism, feminism, regionalism etc.), he said, the ruling class wants to evade the issues of the common people and make the working people forget it. That's why it has invested billions of dollars to the NGO-world to divert attention from the basic issue of capital vs labour. He added, the education policy needs to be fought in an organised manner, integrating it along with other problems.
Social activist and advocate Shahzade said that the process of knowledge cannot develop without inculcating social consciousness. It takes 18 years for any brain to mature. During this time education based on religious prejudices and caste discrimination spoils the personality of a human being. Education armed with social consciousness, which is oriented with the mode of production, creates a man who exudes the spirit of collectivism and cooperation.
He said that the capitalist tries to maintain continuity in the long-standing social system by controlling the social consciousness to fulfill its purpose.
Others who addressed the meet included Dr Mohd Arif of the All India Secular Forum, Kusum Verma of the All-India Progressive Women's Association, Indrajit of the Bihar Nirman and the Unorganized Labour Union, Swaraj India's Mohd Ahmed Ansari, Indrajit of the Uttar Pradesh Construction and Unorganized Labour Union, social worker Pratima etc.
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*Freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India

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