When "India Shining" means Indian Heatstroke

When “India Shining” means Indian Heatstroke

This week, Nita Nehru, one of our Board Co-Chairs, shares her perspective on just how vital access to quality education is for rural students.

The last time I visited India, I sat sweating in the 100 degree Indian summer heat. Once again, the electricity was out in our flat in New Delhi’s posh Greater Kailash neighborhood. The frequency of these power outages was reminiscent of the India I remembered from 15 years ago – a country mired in poverty, underdevelopment and corruption – and not the technology and services powerhouse it has allegedly become. Yet there I was – in a country that boasts having the third highest number of billionaires while simultaneously being home to the largest population of poor in the world – upset by my lack of air conditioning, ignorant of the fact that merely blocks away there stood a shantytown without access to even the basic human needs of water, adequate shelter and sanitation.

Globalization is the phenomenon that has made this glaring disparity possible. It has ushered in an era of unprecedented economic growth for India, expanding the middle class and bringing access to education, technology, health, and nutrition to many. But the gut-wrenching, debilitating poverty endemic to many parts of India inherently means that despite globalization’s successes, the poor have no ability, means or hope to access the technological enablers of socio-economic mobility.

But globalization is not working for India’s poor. While India’s cities are advancing, India’s rural areas are being left behind. In response to the BJP party election slogan “India Shining” in 2004, a rural school teacher emphatically stated, come to the rural villages and see whether India is shining…India is shining okay for the glossy magazines, but if you just go outside [the cities] you will see that everything about India shining is refuted…Yes, the middle and upper classes are taking off, but the seven hundred million who are left behind, all they see is gloom and darkness and despair…The only thing that shines for them is the sun, and it is hot and unbearable and too many of them die of heatstroke.1

Given the often dismal realities on the ground, the work of the Nanubhai Education Foundation and others like it is imperative to level the playing field for the millions of Indian youth trapped by their circumstances. Education is the key to opening many locked doors – it is the difference between hopeful opportunity and dire necessity.

1 Friedman, Thomas. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Picador, 2007. 539.