Vaccination to the Infected
All the while I wonder about why over 15 years of unrelenting struggle against Andhashraddha, by agencies like ANS, this epidemic still continues to thrive? I also wonder why educational institutions, administration, police, law etc do not cooperate whole-heartedly with ANS? Why it took so many years to pass the bill against Buvabaji? While trying to find the answers to the above, I feel that probably, approximately 90% of adult population is steeped into Andhashraddha, and miracles. This was evident while millions thronged to pour milk on the Ganesh idol presuming that the idol drinks the milk. Satya Sai Baba’s sway over millions of Indians is also a stark evidence of belief system prevailing among us. If we assume that the efforts put by ANS like organization is equivalent to vaccination, this infection of blind faith can be uprooted in due course of time. At present the adults already infected with all kinds of belief systems, in turn mould the minds of their young with continuous barrage of irrational rituals, faith and strong belief in miracles. A very tiny fraction of our adult population escapes being infected with Andhashraddha, because of their rational parents and/or teachers. Probably over 90 % of our youth emerge as adults without any counter “vaccination” against superstition given by ANS or other rationalist agencies.
It is well nigh impossible to eradicate this “infection” in adults and they carry it for the next 40-45 years. No ANS vaccine is effective in adults. In fact it causes strong reaction and resentment against criticism of traditional faith and rituals and provokes them to block ANS vaccination to their children. The propaganda efforts among adult population, therefore, should be at very low key.
At the present level of vaccination of youth, probably we have a steady inflow of 90% infected and 10% vaccinated fresh youth annually; may be 20-25 lakhs out of total adult population of 400 – 500 lakhs. Even if, by an effective increase in vaccination doses, the inflow percentage may change marginally; say from 90:10 to 80:20. Even then it will take many more years to bring radical, appreciable and noticeable change.
No epidemic can be controlled, leave alone eradication of superstitions, except through massive, effective and continuous vaccination. At the present time if we are realistic ANS and other like-minded agencies are neither using enough vaccine nor giving adequately frequent doses to the majority of our youth in their formative years. Living as they do in a totally polluted environment continuously, an occasional sprinkling of ANS holy water cannot generate the results we are hoping for.
It would seem that the period of fifteen years and the resources built up till now in terms of activists and educative material have proved not adequate enough to change the status-quo. Perhaps this explains the apparent lack of success to ANS campaign against Andhashraddha. To sum up:
ANS has achieved some success against Buvabaji;
ANS has been largely ineffective in influencing the adult mass and weaning them away from Andhashraddha; and
With the recent advent of Vivek Vahini and Vidnyan Bodh Vahini the focus on Probodhan amongst youth will be intensified. But unless this educative effort covers a large majority of all youth under 18 effectively enough to counter the blind belief environment in their homes and schools and colleges the results will be unsatisfactory.
In this regard, I have a few suggestions:
- Continue the intensive efforts on the anti Buvabaji campaign
- Shift the focus from educating our “infected” adults to continuous prabodhan to youth under 18. For this, all literary and persuasive skills at ANS disposal to be diverted for preparation of materials in the form of pamphlets, booklets, posters, audio and/or video CDs, etc. to suit the tastes of majority levels of youth from 8 to 18 years of age. I regret to mention that at present ANS does not have a large number of activists/teachers who can effectively deliver the lectures. A question and answer mode in Socretic style could be more effective containing real life stories. We should explore all IT tools and info-communication devices to be more effective and to reach a large number of youth.
- Pursue the relevant Government Departments to assist ANS in their efforts to reach schools and colleges. We should see that the Departments should not become stumbling blocks in our efforts.
Magnitude of Probodhan Efforts
Our adults are mostly impervious to ANS educative effort, which means that 4-5 crores adults believe strongly in blind faith and miracles and a very tiny percentage adopts rationalistic life style. If this ratio of believers to non-believers is 90:10 and remains the same the rationalization of the society is not feasible. Our only hope is that against 13-14 lakhs who die every year and the new batch of above 18 youth join the adult population who are sufficiently rational, then only there will be some change in the ratio. This may take a very long time.
To accelerate this process of rationalization of whole society we must concentrate our efforts on the fresh batch of youth to expose them to progressive views during their formative years i.e. from 8 – 18 years period. A ten years span of school and college going period should be used to inculcate the rational ideologies to curtail the blind belief, miracles, fatalism etc. Since each annual batch is 25 – 30 lakhs of youth who join the adult population the prabodhan efforts have to cover at least 2 crore-school going and adolescent children! This is a daunting task and well beyond presently available sources of any single organization like ANS. However the efforts can be stepped up gradually by adopting following steps:
Increase the resources as rapidly as possible;
- Identify and concentrate on the most cost-effective areas. Due to rapid urbanization a very large population is concentrating in very small areas in cities and townships. Here students are also concentrated in large numbers and can be handled with minimum efforts and less cost by a handful of mentors. Even here also priority should be given to school going girls.
- Using a small dedicated team of activists, experts and consultants develop standardized publicity materials, economical and affordable communication equipments, transportation facilities, maintenance and support teams, and modus operandi for monitoring;
- Social auditing structure to evaluate the results achieved by various campaigns; e.g. in terms of rational students against superstitious students
- Estimation and justification of costs, time and efforts for the tasks undertaken and lessons learnt
- List out the long term goals to be achieved: Number of students of 7-8 or 16-17 years age group to be trained at least 3-4 times in a year. It may be worth considering 2 or 3 levels of educative materials to suit the age group and their maturity level.
Plan to acquire Resources
- A few volunteers out of existing activists should be designated as mentors. Mentors need not be good orators. They should have interpersonal relation and communication skills. The present educational materials provided to the speakers, barring a few, are not very effective.
- The educational materials can be either audio or video, but preferably video which can be projected through TV (multiple) screens or projectors. The reading material should be affordable and easily accessible. The format of the booklets and pamphlets should be in the question answer format rather than continuous paragraphs.
- Transport needs will be low in the dense urban areas in comparison with remote rural areas. These needs to be met through local sponsorship of well wishers.
- Allot priority to the schools and colleges while undertaking the probodhan tasks
- Brief the concerned school authorities about the intention of the task undertaken which mainly stresses upon rationalism and scientific attitude and not meant to attack God and religion.
- Persuade the education department to introduce the text material on rationalism and scientific attitude and cite the examples. In fact the text book material should include chapters on environment, water conservation, family planning, tree plantation, educating the girls etc.
- Persuade other like-minded institutions and organizations to join the campaign with a parallel programs even under their own banner. In fact a federation of like-minded organizations at local and state level should be constituted to take up various issues faced by society. This will enable to concentrate the efforts and avoid duplicating unnecessary efforts.
The above proposals, if implemented, will really bring change in the society for which ANS is trying hard for last 15 years.