Mahoba, Uttar Pradesh: The district toppers of 2020’s intermediate examinations have little to celebrate at the end of a long hard year, as the Uttar Pradesh government fails to recognize their hard work
While Uttar Pradesh State toppers have been promised a sum of 1 lakh rupees, a laptop, and a proper road to their village, nothing has been announced for the district toppers, much to their disappointment. Khabar Lahariya’s Suneeta Prajapati met Harshita Singh and Harshita Trivedi, the brilliant district toppers from Mahoba district, to understand how they feel about their achievements and their recognition—or lack thereof.
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“I had high hopes, but the government has not sent any assistance. Now all I can do is wait,” says Harshita Singh. Harshita topped the exams with 90% marks but still feels like she is constrained by her options. She expressed her desire to study for the JEE examination, but has to settle for a Bachelors in Science, an unfortunate yet not unprecedented trajectory for those in our society who lack economic capital. Her constraints mean that the state’s reneging on their promise pinches even more.
But why is there such a big gap when it comes to awarding state toppers versus district toppers? While Harshita does not know the reason, she is definitely upset about it. “The difference in the percentages of State and District toppers is not as much as the difference between financial incentives awarded to each,” she says. She particularly did not understand the need to spend money on roads for the state toppers and not invest that money in district toppers instead. “If next year, someone from the same area tops the state, will they build a road again?” she comments, her frustration palpable.
Similar sentiments were shared by Harshita Dwivedi, another district topper. “Poor roads should be fixed anyway, regardless of who is topping where. Why only fix roads for state toppers?’, she questions. She also remarks how for hardworking students who are economically deprived, financial awards are a great economic and morale booster for higher studies. Denying them such opportunities can jinx their entire futures.
India is no stranger to this phenomenon of inequality, with the coronavirus pandemic and its fallouts revealing glaring gaps between the haves and have-nots. With schools and colleges shut since almost a year, the economy technically in recession and financial difficulties proliferating, many students—especially from poorer and lower income families—are facing acute stress and other anxiety worrying about their futures, often leading to depression and even suicide. And even amidst a pandemic, schools are charging hefty fees for online classes, while those without the means to afford smartphones and internet data are left even further behind. As we reported last year, the financial constraints of the pandemic have also further engendered social inequalities, with families preferring to educate their sons while marrying off their daughters.
Harshita Singh’s father is a farmer, and she has two sisters and one brother. “I feel bad,” she says. “I had hoped that dad does not have to take a further load. He would also have been so happy to see that I am supporting myself through my hard work. Now elections have also happened and everything is opening up, so why is the government not doing anything for the students?”, she added.
And as is the norm, there is no one to respond to her urgent questions.
Written by Nimisha Agarwal based on field reporting by Suneeta Prajapati.