Reforms are vital to any country or society. It’s because everything has to change with times. As a country grows and population multiplies priorities have to change. It is through reforms that we adjust ourselves to face tomorrow’s problems.
As much as they are vital the reforms are often resisted by the people concerned irrespective of whether they are necessary for wellbeing of the people at large or not. Today we see in our country a wave of protests over a wide spectrum of issues in areas ranging from transport to health and education. Hardly a day goes by without some protest or threat of strike over something.
Take the education sector for example. There is an imbalance between what is produced and what is in demand. Our state higher education sector over the years has been producing the graduates with lesser skills who are often not employed by the private sector of the economy. Private sector higher education institutions affiliated to foreign universities have come forward to bridge this gap. Those who are able to afford made use of the opportunities and nobody has protested.
However, whenever the government steps in to reform the State-owned university system either by reducing the intake of students into areas where there is no demand or by effecting other changes whereby students would be directed to technical skills which are in demand,usually there is a lot of pretest.
In the field of medical education the opportunities are limited in the government universities despite many students obtaining high marks in relevant subjects at the university entrance exam. Still there is a shortage of doctors if we go by the WHO standards on doctor-patient ratio. However, any attempt to award medical degrees through the private sector higher education institutions is much resisted by doctors and medical students almost as a matter of policy although issues about standards are often cited by those who are opposing.
In the transport sector any attempt to discipline the bus operators, the three- wheeler drivers or the motor-bike riders despite their massive contribution to fatal road accidents are often resisted in an organized manner with transport strikes. Despite massive losses and unutilized potential for future development in the railway department any idea of modifying it is resisted in the most severe manner as all employees are complacent with its current status whatever the burden it adds to the economy.
The same situation prevails in all other state institutions that require reforms. If there are issues with the way the reforms are done, the employees concerned have a moral right to oppose. It would also be justifiable for other political parties to take up these matters at the right platforms. But what is often happening today is opposing the very idea of reform looking at things from a narrow angle.
However, the fact remains that we as a country cannot go forward without these important reforms. Successive governments who understood these issues have often postponed such reforms for reasons of political expediency. Now we have come to a situation where we cannot afford to postpone these reforms any longer.
Question remains how we can go ahead with some reasonable reforms in the face of growing protests. The government also has to be cautious and methodical in dealing with these issues. Sadly the actions of the government in this regard have not been in that direction. Taking some haphazard steps and retracting in the face of mounting opposition will only allow protestors to earn some brownie points in the eyes of the people. It’s much better to study the issues properly and take informed decisions than doing half-right things in a hurry.
Our future success as a nation will, to a great extent, depend on our ability to implement these social and economic reforms. The best approach to achieve these reform targets is to create sufficient public awareness before trying to implement them so that most of the negative public reactions can be avoided. Protestors will protest, but the public at large will not sympathise with them if public awareness is created beforehand.