In letter and spirit

Synonymous with the bestselling novel Godfather, or countries like Colombia or Afghanistan, one could never imagine that the word drug would be in our neck of the woods one day. That how quickly this single word would replace words like ‘green revolution’, ‘health’, ‘resilience’ and ‘physique’ and make them look so feeble, distant and ancient.

So how did these words end up getting jumbled up? Where did the game of scrabble go wrong and heroin, ice, smack and proxyvon invade sadda Punjab and overthrow words as powerful as desi ghee, malai, makhan and lassi?

The reasons being attributed to this saga vary from cross-border smuggling to narco politics, but getting lost in this hustle-bustle of allegations and counter allegations is perhaps a word called education. Yes, this nine-letter word has the power to transform thousands of lives just like the word drug has the potential to ruin thousands.
 Sorry to say, but what else do you expect to happen in a state where schools are ordered to shut down for the sake of political rallies? In other words, the message is loud and clear — education is not a priority.

Just for the heck of it, let's analyse the recent news whereby schools were asked to remain shut on the day of the inauguration of the Talwandi Saboo power plant. My congratulations for this giant leap, but imagine if a differently drafted circular had been circulated.

“We have achieved a great landmark, but the celebrations should in no way hamper the functioning of the schools. Education should not suffer, for education is the state's first priority.” Picture what a rocking signal it would have sent -that education matters. Believe you me, the day education starts mattering, drugs will beat a hasty retreat.

A lot of people who are concerned about this drug menace feel that probably a 'dharamyudh' kind of an agitation is the only solution to the problem. My view, however, is quite contrary as the state is already in the grip of an overdose of religion, which unfortunately has not achieved the desired results as we can all see.

 My plea is to try pushing education as religiously as we push religion, and then evaluate the difference. Education is the only asset that gets you employment and which you can claim to be yours.

It is an asset which no government, mafia or taxman can take away. You can keep making your brain wealthier by acquiring more education and it is the most moveable asset you can ever own. It not only travels with you, but takes you places.

Let me cough up some simple statistics which will further my case for education as a means to drug alleviation. In Punjab state alone, there are around 26, 000 gurdwaras (estimated value Rs 35, 000 crores) but the government has been able to build only 13, 340 schools in the state. I do not have the figures of temples, mosques and churches so you can well calculate the monopoly of religion over education.

I might be appearing to be twisting facts if I hid the source of this information. The statistics come from the Kalgidhar Trust, Baru Sahib — a school in Himachal Pradesh which has blended religious teaching with formal education. These facts were stated in an e-mail to push the Akal Takht Jathedar's appeal to contribute a portion of the ‘dasvandh’ (one-tenth of your income) towards

In other words, even the clergy is realising the fact that education is far more relevant than religion alone, or at least that the two need to be intermingled. Religion in a standalone format cannot achieve what education can. Period.

It’s high time the polity of Punjab realised that the ongoing narco, shamlat and religio-politics are outright disaster for Punjab. It is edu-politics that is going to eradicate the word drug from apna Punjab. Hence my slogan is — education, education, education.


The columnist is a Punjab-based author and consulting editor at a news channel.


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