UGC should help improve standards

The University Grants Commission has lately proposed to change its name to University Higher Education Development Commission. Sometime ago, MPs, while discussing the UGC report, complained of its ineffectiveness in maintaining high standards of education. Two alibis were employed in its defence. One, education and universities, being a State subject, there were statutory limits to what the UGC could do. And two, the funds were so inadequate that unless the Planning Commission made a more generous provision, the UGC cannot pursue things to their logical conclusion. These explanations left many questions unanswered. However, the UGC has been disseminating new ideas relating to curricula, teaching and examinations.

Universities may be a State subject but the UGC should pull them up for lapses. The power and influence of a university cannot be spelt out exhaustively and exclusively in its statutes. By its decisions and attitudes, a university is expected to build up such moral authority as individuals and institutions would hesitate to defy. The UGC will not be able to build up such authority until it transfers a large part of its attention from the distribution of money to vigilance and effective guardianship over the standards of higher education.

What we need is an authority that would make the policies and practices in higher eduction the subject of serious study, promote experiment and innovation, assist in the evolution of an academic community dedicated to the high tasks of the higher leaning and unhesitatingly pronounce on the quality of the work our universities and colleges are doing. The UGC should develop into an authority acknowledged to be beyond the reach of populist pressures, like the courts of law and the Election Commission.




Of superstitions

This refers to Mr Ravi Dhaliwal’s piece “The superstitious mind” (Dec 19). Many beliefs, opinions and notions of superstitious people are inconsistent with the laws of science and with what is generally considered in a particular society as true and rational. My granny told me in my childhood that if maternal uncle and his nephew remained together at the time of a thunder cloud there was an apprehension of their being struck by lightning. According to her, any iron article brought home on a Saturday was inauspicious.

Over a year ago, I read in “Delhi Durbar” (The Tribune) that in a get-together for mediapersons hosted by him, the then Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Mr Ajit Jogi, gave them gifts of iron artefacts. Many of them did not take the gifts home because it was a Saturday. Sneezing before embarking upon an undertaking and crossing of someone’s path by a cat are not considered good by many superstitious people. According to them, the falling of a white lizard on a person is a good omen, but that of a black one portends a bad event.

The presence of a thorn of “seh” (porcupine) and a flower of “kaner” (oleander) in a house is said to cause a quarrel among the people living there. Even a great poet, Zauq, said:

Jis key sabab laraai ho voh aadmi nahin.

Kaanta hai ghar mein seh ka ya gul kaner ka.



Right initiative

The proposal for reducing the number of Division Benches in the Punjab and Haryana High Court (Jan 2) is welcome. This way the spare judges’ time can be utilised to clear the old property-related cases gathering dust for the last 25 years. This kind of huge case backlog is unheard of in the US and the UK where there are 125 and 100 judicial officers per million citizens respectively as against a strength of 12 in India which is incredibly low.

As the average lifespan in the US and the UK is also a flattering figure of 79 and 75 years respectively, the burden of litigation is hardly reflected in society. But in India with the average life expectancy of 63 years and the property disputes striking almost at mid-age, it is ironical that the files await disposal almost for 25 years in the High Courts leaving a very thin chance for the helpless senior citizens to see justice in their life time. It would be nice if all the vacancies of judges in the Punjab and Haryana High Court are filled up expeditiously.

V.K. KAURA, Panchkula

Weighty argument

The editorial “Loner’s lamentation” (Jan 3) sensibly shares the concern of Professor Amartya Sen about the undemocratic and despotic style of the Modi government in Gujarat. I see a lot of weight in the argument “Little can be expected when the Modis become the toast of those who call the shots in the country”. Mr Narendra Modi has converted Gujarat into a big laboratory of Hindutva forces in which diabolical experiments are being carried out.

Unfortunately, national leaders like Mr L.K. Advani and a few others always stand by him simply because he belongs to the BJP. He has emerged as the Messiah of communal forces in India. He does not seem to have any regard for the Constitution and the law of the land. His irrational pride mocks even at gods. In fact, he is the real face of the BJP which claims to be a nationalist political party. In Gujarat, Mr Modi has come to symbolise undemocratic and reactionary forces. The pertinent question is: Does BJP really feel proud of Mr Modi?

R.B.Y. DEHATI, Fatehabad

Let’s emulate Canada

I am a resident of Chandigarh and was born and brought up there. I have recently migrated to Canada and am staying in Toronto. Everyone says that Canada is the best country in the world to live in. I also agree. But when I sit and think back, I try to know the reasons.

For one thing, everything moves according to a system here. People respect the system and that contributes to the proper maintenace of this system. In terms of environment, I think Chandigarh is much better as far as the green cover and climate are concerned. At times I wonder why we too cannot make India like Canada.

MANPREET NIGAH, Toronto, Canada

Bus fare hike

The recent hike in the fare of Chandigarh Transport Undertaking buses is a heavy burden on the poor and helpless passengers. Only those who are old, sick, students or do not own cars or any other mode of transport generally travel by these buses. When you compare the cost of travelling on motorcycle/scooter with CTU buses, buses are expensive. In metros like Mumbai and Delhi, even those who own cars prefer to travel by buses because they are cheap and safe. If reasonable fare is charged by CTU, Chandigarhians could change their mode of travel. This would also reduce the volume of traffic and ease congestion on the city roads.

It is very sad that though Chandigarh boasts of a high literacy rate as also per capita income in the country, it lacks vision and direction. The poor find it difficult to live in this expensive city.

S.K. KHOSLA, Chandigarh

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