Monday, May 22, 2006

Citizens or customers ?

Are students customers in an educational setup ?
Are people customers in a governmental setup ?

I instinctively say no to both the questions. Though student unions and e-government supporters can mention the word 'customer' in every sentence, my whole being revolts at that notion. What a horribly narrow minded view should one have to describe the relationship between a student and a teacher with a term which primarily means a person involved in a monetary exchange for goods/services offered. Similarly, can anyone buy good governance or the acumen of statesmen for the price paid as taxes? Amidst all the crap that is flying around since the current medico's strike, there was a surprisingly mature statement from the Arjun Singh when he said "we are concerned as the agitating students are our children too.." The veracity and intent can be questioned but that is not the point. That is the feeling of overarching responsibility and bonding that a Government should have with its people and that feeling towards the Government surpasses all monetary measures...

9 comments:

Karthik said...

Dood.. your argument holds when the quality at offer is already good. Then, it is interaction of the souls that matters. First the education and the governance have to get professional. Then once can concentrate on touching the soul.

Vijay Krishna said...

I agree. To liken a student-teacher relationship to a business relationship is plain oversimplification.

A.J.Anto said...

That was a really profound thought. I am wondering if we can extend this beyond-customer-theory to every relationship in the world....

Gokulakrishnan S said...

@karthik: I totally understand a person being appalled at poor quality teaching. But believe me, putting a quality filter for humane treatment of a teacher further worsens the situation. and mind you, it works both ways :) You need not be touched to the soul, but atleast engage at a personal level with people in the educational institution, which is very rarely seen nowadays.

@anto: Dude, supply-demand economics is the most disastrous invention of humanity in the last century !
the next time some old person grumbles 'it was not so in my time..', he is being factually accurate.

Anonymous said...

I disagree.

-BAghu

Vishal said...

You are arching dangerously towards a socialist paternalistic state kind of argument. This is the sort of argument that is holding down progress all over the world. We all need the right sort of incentives. Your discomfort at thinking of teachers as service providers is rooted in cultural mores. World moves on and living cultures adapt to it, those who don't die out. In this age of free market, we must internalise free market ethics or we are going to perish.

Although I haven't tried, I don't think that you can reasonably argue that the "guru-shishya" framework of education is better than the "service" model.

Gokulakrishnan S said...

@Vishal: On the outset, I am not against private property. What is the "progress" that you say is being hampered? Is it another cheap air ticket or a cheaper mobile connection or another company in Day 1 ? None of these touch the poorest class in rural India. There, my dear friend, despite all the clever devices like access deficit charges, it is still the "paternalistic" government that provides amenities. Free market has had its fair chance but in trying to even out social injustices, it has refused to move beyond Tier II towns. Mr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has been crying himself hoarse about PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas).. and I am sure it can never be achieved by private corporations alone. We need a paternalistic government to match the private-corporations-business and the need to provide services to people who cannot attract these profit-driven- corporations themselves.

And this is not dangerous... it is called PPP :)

Vishal said...

PPP is an acknowledgement of the fact that the government can't do everything rather than the other way round :). Your point is well taken though. Yes, there are some areas where private corporations can't help - notably where common property is involved. However, that is what the taxes are for. By and large the government should leave the market to itself.

The progress that I am talking about is - being able to commute to work on public transport without having to go through a nightmare, having access to reliable power, clean water, pothole free roads, clean air, clean neighbourhoods. And yes, cheaper air fares and mobile phones don't hurt anyone.

As far as reaching the poorest of the poor is concerned. I believe that the government's job is to ensure equality of opportunity - no more and no less. What would you rather have? - "From each according to ability to each according to need" or rather a level playing field where everyone can compete on your abilities. Nature is not fair, who are we to impose fairness as an ideal?

Gokulakrishnan S said...

Okay, between us we agree that neither a fully governmental setup nor gung-ho capitalism is gonna work. What is bugging is that pressmen are especially fond of statements featuring left 'in the way of "development"'... For a public force-fed with urban news into believing that India doesnt exist beyond city limits, it might sound true.
"not left" doesnt mean its "right" :)