Patna: Bihar is witnessing the return of its natives in droves. A million migrants are back at their villages and towns over the past week or so to celebrate Chhath festival, the biggest community celebration, along with their families and relatives.
According to a conservative estimate, over one million Bihar migrants working across the country as well as abroad have returned home to infuse “new life” into the festivities.
Even Biharis who are rich and famous, as well as professionals from different fields, have made a beeline for the state for the festival.
“Most migrants have returned in the last one week while thousands are still on the way. Many failed to make it as there was no place in long-route trains,” a labour department official said.
“We have come to celebrate Chhath with our family, relatives and friends,” said Mukesh Rai, in his mid-40s. He reached the Patna railway station on Monday evening, on way to his village in neighbouring Vaishali district.
Mukesh works in a garment export factory in Ludhiana in Punjab.
“After arriving in Patna from virtually every part of India, they are boarding packed buses and trains to reach their villages across the state,” said Bhola Singh, who works as a supervisor in a cement factory in Gujarat.
According to officials at the East Central Railway headquarters at Hajipur near Patna, 1.5 to 2 lakh passengers have been arriving everyday in Bihar from across the country in more than 250 trains since last week to celebrate Chhath.
“All trains from Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Chandigarh, Surat and Ahmedabad are packed to capacity, thanks to a huge rush for Chhath,” a railway official said.
The return of thousands of Bihar natives, most of whom are migrant workers outside the state, to rural Bihar has certainly put smiles back on the faces of their old parents, and kith and kin.
Not only this, it also has provided fresh impetus to socio-economic activities. Savings brought along by the migrants has meant their families are spending more on both essentials and fancy goods and thus the state economy i9s getting a boost, spurred by Chhath purchases.
So, it is not just the families but also traders and shopkeepers in the countryside who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of sons of soil for the Chhath.
The four-day festival devoted to the Sun god began on Sunday and ends on Wednesday morning.
Celebrated six days after Diwali, during the festival married women observe fast for 36 hours while devotees offer wheat, milk, sugar cane, bananas and coconuts to gods.
“We are lucky to arrive here. Now we can enjoy Chhath with our family,” a group of migrant workers who returned from Andhra Pradesh said.
Most migrants from Bihar are concentrated in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Assam, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Pune have a sizeable number of people from Bihar.
Both China and India started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. Different policies and historical circumstances have, however, led them to different educational outcomes, with China outperforming India not just in terms of its percentage of literate population and enrollment rates at all levels of education, but also in terms of number of world-class institutions in higher education, and greater research output.
The roots of China’s successful education system date back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which unintentionally expanded access to the primary education through democratising the schooling system, which was previously elitist in character, thus addressing the problem of mass illiteracy.
In contrast, India continued to focus on its higher education system since independence and only realised the importance of basic education in 1986, keeping it behind China and many other countries in Asia in educational development. In terms of enrollment, China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.
In terms of secondary school enrollment, India and China both started at the similar rates in 1985, with about 40 percent of their population enrolled in secondary schools. However, due to a wider base of primary school students, the rate of increase in China has been much faster than in India, with 99 percent secondary enrollment rate in China and 79 percent in India in 2017.
India is closing in on the Chinese rate in terms of access to education, but on the literacy level front, there is a huge gap in the percentage of literate populations in the two countries. In the age group of 15-24 years, India scores 104th rank on literacy and numeracy indicator, compared to China’s 40th rank.
The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses after every three years the domain knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and finance, revealed that students in China performed above the OECD average in 2015. Moreover, one in four students in China are top performers in mathematics, having an ability to formulate complex situations mathematically. Further, China outperforms all the other participating countries in financial literacy, by having a high ability to analyse complex finance products. For India, the comparable data is not available as it was not a participating country in PISA 2015.
However, in India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 provides data for rural youth, aged 14-18, with respect to their abilities to lead productive lives as adults. According to this survey, only about half of the 14-year-old children in the sample could read English sentences, and more than half of the students surveyed could not do basic arithmetic operations, like division. For basic financial calculations, such as managing a budget or making a purchase decision, less than two-thirds could do the correct calculations.
With regard to the higher education system, both India and China dominate the number of tertiary degree holders because of their large population size, but when it comes to the percentage of the population holding tertiary degrees, only about 10 per cent and 8 per cent of the population possess university degrees in China and India, respectively. By contrast, in Japan, almost 50 per cent of the population holds a tertiary degree, and in the United States, 31 per cent of the population hold a tertiary degree.
In terms of the international recognition of universities, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019 places seven of the China’s universities in the top 200, compared to none for India. The global university rankings, which are based on various performance metrices, pertaining to teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industrial income, shows progress for several of China’s low-ranked universities, largely driven by improvements in its citations.
In fact, the Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia due to improvements in its citations, institutional income and increased share of international staff, students and co-authored publications.
While India has progressed in terms of massification of education, there is still a lot which needs to be done when it comes to catching up with the China’s educational outcomes. China’s early start in strengthening its primary and secondary education systems has given it an edge over India in terms of higher education. Moreover, Chinese government strategies are designed in line with the criterion used in major world university rankings, especially emphasis is on the two factors which weigh heavily in the rankings — publications and international students.
The relentless publications drive, which is very evident in China, is weak in India and has led to a growing gap in the number of publications contributed by the two countries. Further, China enrolled about 292,611 foreign students in 2011 from 194 countries, while India currently only has 46,144 foreign students enrolled in its higher education institutions, coming from 166 countries. The large number of international enrollments in China is a reflection of its state policies granting high scholarships to foreign students.
To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes. Massification drive for education has helped India raise its student enrollments, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to global recognition for its universities. Further, it needs to focus on building the foundation skills which are acquired by students at the school age, poor fundamental skills flow through the student life, affecting adversely the quality of education system. (IANS)