How many top scientists we can identify in Mysore who after having achieved the pinnacle of success will take up the equally important role of questioning the status quo in our society and fight for much needed reform? But for Dr. H. A. B. Parpia, I have not come across any one in Mysore. With his passing on July 9th at 91 years, Mysore has lost a great social worker with many outstanding qualities.
Just two weeks before his demise, he was busy writing letters to different authorities on the justification for awarding high grade to Amity University by NAAC. Since one year he was collecting information on the amount of money spent on different ministers in Karnataka using RTI. He was pushing MGP members to publish an article using the information before the recent assembly election so that voters can elect the right candidates.
He was very much agitated about the corruption in high places despite huge financial benefits our elected representative got for themselves. He had gathered volumes of information through RTI on this issue and was very serious in exposing this malady in our democracy.
As an educationist, he constantly questioned the rote based examination oriented education system. He was involved in the management of People’s Education Trust as its president. PET must have helped several hundred poor students from different parts of Mysore. He took active part in promoting education reform. It was because of his efforts as a member of MGP education committee, today students in Karnataka are able to get their answer sheets.
Dr. Parpia was also instrumental to convince the education department to stop announcing ranks based on public examinations marks as a small step to reduce the importance of public examinations. He never believed that examination marks are the true indicator of one’s capacity. It is unfortunate that private schools/coaching centers are again highlighting “ranks” to promote themselves.
He constantly worried about the worsening traffic situation in Mysore. Whenever there was a new police commissioner he gave a lot of information which he had collected from different countries on on how to improve traffic conditions. Because of his leadership, NIE conducted a traffic study of Mysore.
Soon after Bangalore Agenda Task Force was constituted, he wrote a vision paper for Mysore to convince the then chief minister S M Krishna to have a Mysore Agenda Task Force. He was one of the most active members of MATF constantly pushing the bureaucrats to improve governance.
Having spent one year in Sevagram serving Mahatma Gandhi, he imbibed many qualities at a young age. He never hesitated to stand for principles even if he was the only one in the group and consequences could work against him. During Ayodhya riots in the city, Dr. Parpia took an active part to bring about peace in the city. Fighting for religious harmony and to get rid of casteism in the society remained till the last his cherished goals.
One of his great contributions to promote activism in Mysore was the role he played during the start of Mysore Grahakara Parishat and also later as it took up civic issues. He never hesitated to call a spade a spade. He was never afraid to expose corruption even at the highest levels. This made him an unpopular figure in several government offices and also educational institutions.
Because of the scientific background, Dr. Parpia had the unusual talent of identifying the strategic factors needed for bringing about any reform. As a manthra he used to chant for any activist group (MGP, MATF, PET, etc) he was involved that we need a sound policy and well thought out plan of action to bring about any reform.
In Mysore today there is a new class of untouchables because of their activism. Unfortunately there are very few belonging to this group. Dr. Parpia was one such great person and Mysore will miss him. Years to come Mysore will be recalling the great service he has performed in the area of education, traffic, environmental protection and above all governance.