74.04% People Literate in India. How Many Educated?

What is the difference between being literate and being educated? Ask any average Indian housewife and she would be able to tell you precisely.

I watched the first episode of one of the most hyped shows on Indian television – Satyamev Jayate – after three weeks of its TV broadcast. And yes, Amir does make a statement – not that it wasn’t expected. While all the three stories covered in the episode of female feticide can give goosebumps to anyone but the story that really shook me was of Mitu’s.

Just like all the other people, I also always believed that most of the blind beliefs and social crimes are result of illiteracy. Literacy is the solution to every problem. But when I listen to such stories, I question that conclusion. If literacy was the solution to everything, how can female feticide be attempted in a house with an Orthopedic Surgeon (Husband), Retired History Professor (Father-in-Law), Retired Principal (Mother-in-Law), PhD in Mathematics (First Sister-in-Law) and a Teacher (Second Sister-in-Law)? Among all, probably we can excuse 1-2 people who might be misguided in spite of getting such high level of education. But here we are talking about five individuals, including three ladies. Surely, we are missing something.

In retrospection, I recall that even today, many graduates and post-graduates believe in superstitions, have their own stereotypes and engage in many social evils including female feticide, dowry, and domestic violence and so on.  The evils are not the brainchild of poor, uneducated and rural people. It’s coming right from the places where people least expect – the wealthy, highly qualified and so-called elite.  Two of the cases discussed in the episode came from Ahmedabad and Delhi. These are not rural areas. So, where is the problem? The same episode also showed two examples – one, of tribals who did not believe in female feticide and considered the child of any gender as God’s gift and the other one, of Bharati who considered female feticide as sin. These people are probably not even primary school pass outs, forget about graduation.

The problem appears to be in our definition of literate and educated. Normally people use both the terms synonymously, but there is a huge difference. Unfortunately, there is no standard definition in English for people who possess the ability to judge right or wrong through cognizance. Oxford dictionary defines “literate” as a person who can read or write and “educated” as a person who has obtained formal school or college education. However, the underlying assumption is that such technically “educated” people also possess enough cognitive power to decide rationally.  But that is not the case, not at least in India.

Till the time we have cases like that of Mitu coming up, 74.04% is just a number.


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