Dr Suresh Mathew
In the abnormally growing crime scenario in the country, two features stand out strikingly – an escalation in the number of juvenile criminals and an increase in child abuse cases. The cases involved are not petty ones, but heinous crimes like rape and murder. Earlier, juveniles were generally caught in acts of theft or scuffle. But, new statistics reeled out by the police, based on reports of National Crime Records Bureau, reveal that juveniles have graduated to dreadful offences. An equally awful revelation is that among the young criminals, as many as 25 per cent are students.
These figures force us to believe that noble values no longer dictate the behaviour of children. Fear of law and respect for fellow human beings are fast disappearing from their conscience. Their dabbling in crime is the most worrying issue not only for the law-enforcing agencies but for the society in general. Experts suggest that the upward movement of juvenile crime rate is not merely a law and order issue. Rather it has to be tackled at several levels. The suggestion of Delhi Police Commissioner B. S. Bassi that moral education should form part of the curriculum has to be seen in this background. Educational experts should take this proposal forward. Human minds can be moulded, like clay in the hands of a potter, in any way at an impressionable tender age.
It is to be born in mind that the sole purpose of education is not to ‘produce’ employable young people. Unfortunately the present education system is totally oriented towards scoring high grades. The focus is on skill development which will equip one to compete in the highly competitive job-market. A brilliant student means one who excels in studies and scores high marks. ‘Merit of heart’ has no place in this cut-throat competition. This is reflected in many meritorious students turning out to be cheats and charlatans later in their career and profession.
The remedy to juvenile crimes hence lies in character formation at homes and schools. Parental guidance and moral education can go a long way in making the young realise the value of human life, sacredness of sex, and respect for every human being, especially women. Hence value education has to be brought out from the cold storage and given prominence; it should be treated at par with any other subject.
But the government seems to be taking a narrow view on the issue as is evident from the proceedings on the New Education Policy. It has not included any Christian body in its consultations though Christian educators are engaged in the length and breadth of the country running over 35,000 institutions. As in many other fields, if Hindutva proponents are going to dictate terms of the education policy, it will be a disastrous venture. If those who put animals on a higher pedestal than human beings are allowed to have their way in education, the remedy is going to be worse than the disease.