Bihar is a state which has never got the sympathy of the bystander and is trying hard to de-congest itself from the stereotypical views of the state. Such a campaign to break the stereotypes was launched for example by The Brand Bihar (in Patna Beats through an article written by Swati Kumari). The recent exam paper scam has the potential to bring such sincere efforts to naught. Now the jokes and memes have started again. Jokes such as “Kya rakha hai is kitabi sansar mein, aap top karein bina padhe Bihar mein (what is there in the bookish world, let’s top without studying in Bihar) have been doing the rounds recently.
It is true that sometimes sarcasm, jokes and caricatures help achieve what simple sloganeering, opposition or debates cannot. Sometimes they act as safety valves to give expression to discontent. An instance is when the news about parents / guardians climbing ladders to the windows of examination halls to help their wards got circulated on social media, it led to strict vigilance at examination centers in the coming months.
However, such caricatures should have a limit, especially when it comes to creating stereotypes and disparaging an entire state and its residents due to the fault of some. We all have moral responsibility as fellow citizens towards each other. We have to be sensitive towards what the stereotypes do to Biharis when they travel outside their state. They sometimes come on the receiving end of jokes and condescending attitude, mostly borne out of the age-old notions of Bihar. Some students choose to change their surnames so as not to reveal that they are from Bihar, especially during the ragging period. Statements like “Oh! You don’t look / sound like a Bihari” are condescending. Biharis are branded as crooks as a generalization and pushed out of other states.
It is on this note that the jokes and memes about Bihar and the recent exam paper scam should have a limit. Yes, questioning the education system is right. We should be concerned about the quality of secondary education in Bihar If at all; we should ask the government why only 49% of students passed the class 10th Board exams? The real rot comprises of incompetent teachers mostly with fake degrees, students being allured to schools through freebies like mid-day meals, cycles etc, the attitude of using short cuts instead of genuine hard work, costly private schools (that too mostly absent in the rural areas at large), rote learning instead of understanding the concepts taught in school and last but not the least politics in both appointing the teachers as well as within the school premises. Even though there was strict checking at the examination centers this time around, news of about 200 answer scripts written in the same handwriting was unearthed. It was surely not done within the examination hall but by someone outside. There is a bigger racket here.
Given the circumstances, we all have to do our little bit in ensuring that people from all states are viewed with dignity and mutual respect. That is the least and the best possible way we could be of service to our fellow citizen which includes our brethren from Bihar. Shaming those toppers who could not pass the re-tests is not the solution. It is only humiliating for those who had to resort to unethical means because of poor quality of education in the state!
Bihar historically has been in the forefront of education, there has been a huge surge in the number of people who are going into IIT from Bihar. Bihar has given India some of the finest bureaucrats, Presidents, sportsmen and women and many other stellar achievers – some winning their laurels through sheer hard work and determination despite many disadvantages. Moreover, once in higher education institutions like IITs and IIMs only brain counts. Once in jobs, especially private ones, only merit is considered for promotion. Even where there is favourtism the bosses would keep in mind those candidates who can maximize an organization’s profits. Bihar is one of the fastest growing states in India economically.
It is everyone’s personal right to pass a joke or meme about Bihar, but before you share it please ask yourself if it is the right thing to do. Could we do a little better? Could we do a little more? You be the judge. Constructive criticism, without mockery aimed at improving the education system (or any fault) in Bihar is desirable – demeaning or humiliating jokes are not.