My America Tour -8

Telugu Original : Avula Gopala Krishna Murty (AGK)

English Translation: Komala Venigalla

Children are Children Anywhere

While touring Ohio state we went to Jackson school at Eaton. We wanted to see the children in their classrooms, mainly up to sixth class.

          We went to 4th class. Here first three classes are considered primary and next three as elementary.  They call the classes `grades`. High schools are up to 12 th grade. Before that they study in middle school.

          It is a beautiful building. There are 36 little ones in the class. Boys and girls are in equal  number. Mary Sanders is their teacher. She introduced Pauline Kaufman, my host, to the class telling them that she  brought the guest with her. She asked my host to introduce me. Our names are difficult  job for them.

          I began to tell the kids about India- `your country became independent from Britain  200 years ago. We got independence from the same Britain  16 years back. You and me are brothers. We are younger brothers to you as we become independent much later than you.`  All the children clapped enthusiastically ` being our brothers`.

          ‘Your country is much bigger than our country, you are 19 crore population where as we are 45 crores’(1963).

          The children looked at their teacher and then at each other and  they  blew their cheeks in surprise.

          `We are trying to educate all our children . You don`t yet have full number of teachers, we are much behind you. It will take quite some time for us.—

          ‘Our children are good and well -disciplined like you.’

          This compliment made them smile.

          ‘I will show you where our country is.’ The teacher spread the world map.  — Pointing to our country in the map. I told them that we started from Bombay in  the morning and reached New York in the evening flying 11 thousand miles within 22 hours.  They looked at me wide eyed.

          I encouraged them to come forward with their questions. Those who wanted to ask questions raised their hands. The particular girl or boy I pointed out asked the question. After I replied others raise  their hands. Till answer is given to a question others sit quietly waiting for their turn.  

The following are their questions:-

Do you have cats and dogs in your country?  Do you have rabbits?  Do you have elephants? Do you have squirrels, monkeys and lizards? We heard you have flies and mosquitoes.

          Do you have cows? I said — we have cows and my last name is Avula, the cow. They laughed and made me laugh.

          They address ‘you’ as Mister. They asked me whether our children  dress like them. When I said ‘yes, they mostly dress  like you’. they looked at me appreciating. A small girl wanted to know whether our children wear shoes. I told them, ‘some wear shoes, some wear slippers. I showed them Bata slippers I was wearing at that time. When I told them that some children come bare foot, they  could not believe it and most of them said ‘damn’ loudly. I  had to explain to them that the country is still poor.’ We were slowly making arrangements to give all things needed to our children. They did not know how to react.

          They asked whether all children have  chairs, desks in the class rooms. Each student had a chair and desk in their class. I told them that  we  long benches with writing boards attached  and in primary classes we have low benches only. I even told that in some schools the children are  made to sit on mats. I had to explain what a mat is and their teacher helped them to understand.  ‘Why like that ?’- a little child asked. My reply– 1 we are able to meet our needs gradually. When your grand parents studied in your country they were also like us`. They looked at Pauline Kaufman for  answer.

          One child asked whether our children study English. I told them, — initially we teach our children our mother tongue- Telugu-  your mother tongue is English–` One girl asked – ` how could our children learn English. I told them that we start teaching English  to our children in their 3rd class. One boy expressed his doubt — why not only English. I told them that our  children should learn their mother tongue first and then English as it is international language .I advised them to learn different languages when they grow up. They agreed with me.

          A very active girl asked — How does your language sound?

          I first wrote my name in Telugu  on their    blackboard and then same in English under that. I showed the syllable wise division. I wrote TELUGU -ANDHRA on board. They copied it in their notebooks and laughed.

          One child asked me why should we have two names for one language. I said – `We don’t normally like that. Our language is very sweet. So we have names`. I laughed and they too joined me.

          Let us listen to your language– they all said in one voice.

          I know that  our language is sweet as  sugar blocks-that was the remark of Sri Krishna devaraya about Telugu. But my voice might not bring out all that sweetness -I thought.

          I first recited one verse of Vemana slowly, softly and sweetly. I recited Kaviraju`s (Tripuraneni Ramaswamy) verse -GUDIKI TARACHU BOYI GUNUGUCHUNDEDI VAADU (GO TO TEMPLE OFTEN AND GRUMBLE),  and B.V.Narasimharao`s poem  `Gudilo bommalu palakavu, kadalavu; Badilo bommalu palukunu, kadulunu` (The statues in temple donot talk  nor move but dolls in the class room can talk and move.)

          I told them that I can tell them  such verses at length for days together. They chirped, giggled and laughed. That is their style.

          The children in the front row were observing my dress. I wore `dhoti and shirt` as per the advise  of Kaufman couple. Dhoti has a border. I told them that our Telugu men dress like me showing my dhoti.

          They looked wide eyed in amazement and remained motionless like painted children, their faces beaming with multiple expressions. Anybody will be enamored looking at them.

          Yes, children are children . They have hearts like soft flowers, limitless innocence, clear  minds and wonderful expressions on their beautiful faces.

          I told them that children are the same anywhere and everywhere. Our children are just like you.

          If you come to our country they   they will also ask  questions similar to yours. The children are the same worldwide.

          They clapped joyfully and made me share their blissfulness. They too are like our children. Not different at all. All children have a world of their own.

          I saw similar schools in Chicago, Milwaukee, Minnesota ,San Francisco  and Los Angeles. The children are unsurpassingly beautiful. They have well disciplined schools. Their teachers are dedicated to their work, satisfied with their service. Even the parents like their childrens` schools very much.

Local administrative bodies

Next to the educational institutes the local bodies are  very important to them for promoting democracy in America.                 

          They divided their 50 states into 3050  counties. Each county has its towns, cities and villages. There are 14, 424 administrative districts. In India we have been considering local bodies as self governing  centers. Rippon started them in our country. When there were discussions about self-governance and good government we preferred self- governance.

          During the British rule Panchayats and local self governing bodies were established . Our people expanded them gradually establishing decentralized panchayat rule.

          America does`nt have very old system like us. Only after their independence in 1776 their local bodies took shape. Though they differ in their local body system from State to State, the major unit forming is in their  election system.  The people`s opinion is highly regarded locally.

          Theirs is a very big country with over 36 lakh mile area. Our country has 12 lakh mile area. Population wise ours is a big country. US is small  population wise.

          We adopted Panchayat rule. We passed panchayat raj law. Panchayats  in the villages have to follow that law. Panchayat cannot be far and above its rules and regulations.

          American system is different. They don`t have  law of panchayat in their states. One may ask how they can rule  the villages without village panchayat law.

          In America , each village decide  upon a particular system of administration. Those rulels and regulations are fixed by voting method. The village voters participate in it and  establish their system of administration. It is called their ` charter`. Those voters only have the right to change their laws.

          Just as bye-laws in our cooperative bodies they too have specific bye-laws. Taking them into consideration each village can adopt administrative rules suitable to them. Village has to nominally permit their laws. They check whether their village  or municipal charters are appropriate with their constitution and then give permission.

          They should follow the rules in the Charter in day to day administration. Their rules are regulated in the charters and they have weight  even if they are opposed to the state rules.

          City council elects a mayor and its councilors. One member can submit his nomination papers to one ward only when it falls vacant. One who gets more votes is elected. A councilors term is of 4 years. The competing member should be a voter for 3 years.They have the recall right if they don`t like a particular councilor they had elected earlier.

          Mayor is the president of the council . He is head for all functions. He is a paid member.  If he goes to other places on council work he gets his expenses too. Similarly each counselor has his salary. He too gets allowances if he is given additional work.

          The council meets once in a week. Sometimes more times as per the need. Council meetings are open for public, anybody can attend them. The council has the quorum system.

          In their meetings any citizen can expose his needs, he can take the help of a lawyer to represent his  requirement. He has that special right.

          The matters by the council are called resolutions and ordinances.

          Council appoints a manager over chief administrator. This manager appoints the office staff except the financial secretary. In some places only council appoints all the staff. In majority places the manager does the work. The mayor or the councilors donot interfere with manager`s duties. If they have to do anything they get it done through council resolution.

          Like us they appoint a lawyer as advisor to the council. Apart from taking care of legal matters this lawyer drafts resolutions and ordinances.

          The head of a department appoints the staff in his department. He manages them.

          The salaries and allowances of the council staff are registered in the charters themselves. The places where such registration is not done the council takes decisions.

          The whole staff members work for 5 days in a week and eight hours a day. The staff cannot work for any body of council elections.

          The council appoints different committees like -planning commission, civil service board, tax board,parks committee, police, fire department,zonal board, appeals committee,administration advisors, boards in charge of roadside trees, civil center committee, housing board and such other committees.

          Council can permit voting right to any one basing on eligibility.

          Police and fire department are under council`s authority. Law and order is in council`s hand. Mayor can work as the city commander if situation demands.

          All the voters participate in all elections to the council including the mayor. We divide into wards and elect one member to each ward. They  don’t follow this system. Once upon a time even our panchayat president was elected by all citizens. Of late we changed that and introduced the system of election of the president by its members.

          In some towns and villages there are mayors, councilors elected by all their voters. It depends on their charters.

          Along with the councilors the voters elect  a judge to the municipal court and another to higher court. Municipal courts take up civil cases involving rupees 15000, violation of municipal ordinances, small claims, minor crimes. Superior court take up civil cases involving more than one lakh rupee value, crimes of minor children, robberies and other major crimes. The lawyers elected should have  law degree. For rest of the councilors there is no education prescribed. They get elected once in 6 years.

          The salary of municipal court judge is fixed basing on the income of that council. In Eaton he gets rupees 18,000 annually. In Fresno the judge gets an annual salary of 1,30,000,  city clerk gets rupees 52,000  and the lawyer gets  rupees 80,000 annually. finance director and police chief get rupees 70,000, fire department chief gets 70,000 rupees, public work director gets 84,000 rupees. all their salaries are fixed depending upon the income of expenditure and the standard of  living there.

Their system of administration :

Federal government levies some taxes  and state government some.

          Education boards  fixes their taxes. Municipal city and village administration decide their taxes. State assemblies look into certain taxes like taxes fixed by local bodies, wealth tax, licenses, permits, service charges, water tax, bus permits, business licenses for animals, motors, gun licenses, vehicle tax, gas permit, electricity permits, bicycle license, dividends, work exercise permits, civil defence rebates, zoo taxes, leave and toll gate taxes etc.

          Their tax system is different from ours.  Some if our taxes are resolved  by the council government. Hence in America if the taxes are to be raised  in comparison with the previous year,they should prepare estimates giving reasons for them and submit the report for voters  ‘referendum’. If the voters approve those taxes their resolution becomes law. If they refuse it is not treated as  ` no confidence motion. The voters opinion counts there as basic principle of democracy. Their opinion is the practical solution.                        

          The information of all the taxes levied is sent to the counties. The tax collection come under county administration. They don’t have separate tax collectors for town, cities and villages. County staff collects all sorts of taxes and deposit them to council department.

          In India municipality levies cinema tax. It is collected by sales tax department. They deduct their commission amount and send the rest to the municipality. Tax collection system is convenient to the citizens. They got information about all the different taxes they have to pay and they pay it all together.

          Local  bodies donot spend any thing on education.It is the Education Boards responsibility only they collect wealth tax as education tax.

          If the population  is over 5000 it becomes a city. If it is low it comes under the village. City administration is called municipal administration. The village administration is also similar to it. They have special taxes, separate police, fire department, sanitary and water works, a mayor and a manager.

          There is county commissioners board in the county administration. They elect their president, they appoint the staff they needed. They too can levy taxes which will also also have effective city and village councils.

          Fresno population is 2.50 laks but their income  is 11 crore rupees. Little Rocks income is 2.50 crore rupees. Fresno is very rich area.

          Even we have decentralized administration. Hence we have to observe the American system. We can see how important  their people`s opinion is and how they get their demands achieved. We should consider how much their way could  be adopted to our needs.

          We have yet to do much research in the field of local bodies. Local administration is the basic principle in democracy. Our decentralization is great in theory  but it is failing in practice. We have to device ways to strengthen our decentralization. We can notice the American way with no expenditure involved. We can adapt suitably to our administration of local bodies and make the system worthwhile.


(to be continued…)

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