Monday, September 8, 2008

Screening of Divided Colors of a Nation

Screening of Umesh Agrawal’s my latest film DIVIDED COLORS OF A NATION, produced by PSBT & PRASAR BHARATI, will be carried out on 13th September 2008, at 6.15 P.M. Indian Habitat centre.

Its a 60 minute film in English. It focuses on caste based reservation in India, an issue that concerns all of us in one way or the other.

The film will be screened as part of Open Frame International Film festival, organized by PSBT & Prasar Bharati.

The screening will be followed by an open forum. All the involved parties in this issue will participate in the forum.

All of us have been invited for the screening ceremony.

A quota of attention
Umesh Agarwal on his documentary on reservation.

You seldom find documentaries that walk the tight rope of veracity. And if the issue is caste reservation, it becomes all the more difficult not to fall on one side of the divide. Umesh Agarwal has managed to do the balancing act in his latest film Divided Colors Of A Nation.

The film not only scans the concept of caste-based reservation since it made an entry into the Constitution courtesy the very first amendment and its usage as a political tool over the years, but also looks into the status of education in the country. “The film is not pro or against reservation, but it does say when there is disparity at the level of grassroots education, what is the use of reservation,” says Umesh.

He has travelled from Delhi to Rajasthan to Andhra Pradesh to prove his point. At some places he didn’t find a teacher in government schools in villages, at others he found 200 students of five grades being taught together. He discovered that most of the teachers appointed to these schools are from cities and they don’t want to travel to villages every day. “Instead they have made arrangements where a local man marks attendance on the teacher’s behalf. Students don’t even know the name of their school and teacher.” But what takes the bakery is the government primary school in Gosainganj in Lucknow. Here the teacher at the dilapidated school fails to name the President of India.

Gross negligence
“Originally I had no plans to look into the educational aspect, but the Gujjar agitation made me think about the state of education. In Rajasthan the pass percentage of the State Board’s High School examination is not more than 50 percent in the last 10 years. Around the same time, the ‘Aaja Nachle’ controversy happened in Lucknow. I was in the city at that time. I was curious to know the state of education in the state where there is such high caste consciousness that the government led by a Dalit Chief Minister bans a film where a line in a song has casteist overtones. Most of the students in the Gosainganj school come from scheduled caste and Muslim families.” The film also points out how public schools made on subsidised land are not imparting free education to the deprived, which is their fundamental right. Umesh says this gross negligence of primary education has resulted in a situation where there are vacant seats in the reserved quota in prestigious institutes but there are no students despite all the relaxations.
Then Umesh takes us to the other spectrum of the issue — whether the ‘creamy’ layer of the scheduled castes, tribes and other backward castes should get the benefit of reservation. “The Supreme Court has said that the creamy layer from other backward classes should not get the benefits of reservation but hardly any state government has taken note of it. They keep on amending the law to suit their political agenda. I feel the economically well off SCs and STs should also be included in the creamy layer so that their seat goes to the really deserving one.” Umesh has taken into the account diverse point of views without being judgemental. The film also points out how the number of castes has increased in the last six decades with the demand for reservation. “We are increasingly becoming casteist. In Rajasthan, there are separate crematoriums for Jaats, Meenas and Gujjars. I agree with what Naryan Moorthy said: India is the only country where people are thronging the streets to be called backward.”The film will be screened on September 13 at PSBT’s Open Frame festival at the India Habitat Centre and followed by a discussion.

* * *
A retired Cabinet Secretary who belongs to a scheduled caste feels his grandsons also deserve the benefits of reservation.

Sharat Babu, an SC student who went to IIM, Ahmedabad, and now runs his own food business, feels his kids don’t need reservation.

When asked how one should explain the reservation policy to an 18-year-old, UGC Chairman Sukhadeo Thorat feels he should be told this is how the wrongs of the past could be corrected.

No comments: