Bowing to the Storm
In agreeing to withdraw some of the more objectionable features in its Education Bill, the Kerala Government has shown not only tact but a fine sense of its own future interests. Though the main purpose was to give a statutory basis to existing practices, so as to make them easily and strictly enforceable, many of the provisions affecting the rights of managements and custing the jurisdiction of courts were, with some reason, suspected to be an attempt to acquire a stranglehold on the educational system by forcing teachers of a particular political persuasion on unwilling managements. In view of the fact that the State register of teachers will contain the names of all persons qualified and eligible for appointment, the further restriction of choice to a small panel was bound to cause resentment. The strongest objection was, therefore, taken to the proposal that the management of an aided school can choose its teachers only from a panel given “in the manner prescribed by the prescribed authority” and the Government has acted wisely in withdrawing it in deference to public opinion. The structure and function of the educational authorities have also been clarified and widespread fears concerning their activities set a test.
In the matter of taking over the properties of mismanaged schools, it is true that other Government already possesses and exercise similar power. It must be confessed that the deep-seated distrust of a Communist Government accounts for the intensity of the opposition, which has come not only from Catholics but from all who value freedom and dread totalitarianism. Though a Congress Government, too, may go wrong and indeed often does, there is the feeling that an effective appeal lies from the State Government to the Centre or the High Command or the conscience of humanity; power of discretion is more easily vested in a non-Communist Government in the hope that: it will be used for the good of the country. Whether the changes now announced are due to advice received from the Government of India or directives from the Politburo, they amount, in effect, to a concession to public opinion and provide a welcome gesture of moderation which will strengthen rather than weaken the Government. Standing on prestige and turning a deaf ear to criticism is not a sign of strength in any Government.
Indeed, there is reason to believe that the bill was not so much a move to improve education in the State as a feeler put out to discover how far the party can go in the pursuit of its ideology. It is clear that the Government now knows what support it commands; it has bowed before the storm, perhaps only to strike deeper root and face much heavier trials with more assurance and resilience. When the Communists happen to be in a small majority in a Government or in a minority in the country, their behavior is sweetly reasonable. But it is up to the people to choose a set of rulers to whom they can entrust ample discretionary powers and a Government which they can change at will.
(The Indian Express-21st August, 1957)