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Education Policy — A Tribune Debate
Redefining education
Change of mindset will take time, says Jagdeep S. Chhokar
THE shrillness of the national debate on education policy is satisfying. It shows that people are interested in education. But by focussing only on a few issues it seems to be only counting the trees but missing the forest. The forest is too complex to be described in one piece in The Tribune debate, so let us focus on just a couple of aspects.

Combating khap panchayats in Haryana
by Ranbir Singh
THE khap panchayats of rural Haryana are in the news again. Tension gripped Jind district on July 23 following the killing of one Ved Pal. He was lynched by the residents of Singhwal village right in the presence of the police and the court warrant officer for having married a girl of his same clan in March this year.



EARLIER STORIES

Who rules Haryana?
July 25, 2009
Musharraf in the dock
July 24, 2009
A disgraceful act
July 23, 2009
Better than expected
July 22, 2009
Two years for killing six!
July 21, 2009
Sharif’s triumph
July 20, 2009
Bringing out the best
July 19, 2009
No to wheat exports
July 18, 2009
Dealing with terror
July 17, 2009
Letting Hafiz Saeed free
July 16, 2009

OPED

Hooch takes a heavy toll
Modi govt wants a price for its virtues
by Gobind Thukral
T
HE hooch tragedy in Gujarat has claimed 140 lives and over 220 are fighting death in various hospitals in Ahmadabad. The ruling BJP has the dubious distinction as one its leaders is said to be involved in the supply of the deadly illicit brew.

Profile
Dwivedi well-versed in Constitution
by Harihar Swarup
E
VER since Andhra Pradesh Governor Ram Lal dismissed the N.T. Rama Rao Government in 1984, the occupants of Raj Bhavans have earned quite a bad name. Many inept and unworthy occupants since then have reinforced that reputation.

On Record
Politics, a mission to serve people: Iqbal Singh
by Ashok Tuteja
A
veteran Congress-man, Sardar Iqbal Singh, will take over as the new Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. The 64-year-old leader, who belongs to the Doaba region of Punjab, entered politics as far back as 1968. He was the President of the state unit of the National Students’ Union of India.





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Education Policy — A Tribune Debate
Redefining education
Change of mindset will take time, says Jagdeep S. Chhokar

THE shrillness of the national debate on education policy is satisfying. It shows that people are interested in education. But by focussing only on a few issues it seems to be only counting the trees but missing the forest.

The forest is too complex to be described in one piece in The Tribune debate, so let us focus on just a couple of aspects. The most fundamental is the basic purpose of education. The current debate seems to continue to assume that the only purpose of education is to prepare for a good job.

What is missed by this assumption is that education has three main purposes. The first is to make ‘good’ human beings. This is the most fundamental, or primary, purpose of education and could, therefore, be related to what is now called primary education.

The next important purpose of education flows out of our Constitution makers having chosen democracy as the way to govern our society. With effective citizenry being an essential pre-requisite for successful implementation of democracy, the next important purpose of education is to help ‘good’ human beings become effective, alive, enlightened and concerned citizens.

An effective citizen will actually do something to change things rather than merely complain about them. Making effective citizens is thus the second most important purpose of education, and maybe it should be the object of, or at least included in, what is now called secondary education.

It is only after we have ‘good’ human beings who are ‘effective’ citizens that we come to the third purpose of education, which is to make the citizens productive members of society who can look after themselves and their families, and can contribute to the economic and material well-being of society. Obviously, there are many ways of doing so.

The general thinking so far seems to have been confined to what is called higher education. This has resulted in large-scale “educated unemployed”. Vocational education has not got the attention it deserves simply because of the clamour to get degrees. This being the third purpose of education, we could consider it to be tertiary education as several other societies do, or part of what is now called higher education.

No society can afford to ignore any of the three, and each of them must get due attention and resources. They also do not have to follow the above sequence, each can be done at every state but we do need to first recognise and then accept the need for each.

At the same time, particularly in a situation of limited and scarce resources where trade-offs have to be made, it must be remembered that focussing on any one at the cost of the other is counterproductive.

Specifically, giving higher financial outlay to higher education and less to elementary and primary education out of a limited budget, is not likely to yield long-term well-being since it is akin to constructing a fancy and expensive penthouse or top floor of a building on a weak foundation.

The second issue is that of implementation. We, as a country, abound in ideas on what to do. However, there seems to be no attention paid to how to do it, and who will do it. In the present case, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointed the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) headed by Sam Pitroda. After the NKC had made recommendations about higher education, the former HRD Minister Arjun Singh set up a “committee to advise on the renovation and rejuvenation of higher education” and now there is a spirited debate on the nuts and bolts of specific recommendations of that committee.

As one who had a ringside view of this way of functioning as Dean and experienced it personally as the Director in charge of what is considered to be one of the better known institutions, one has seen the dysfunctional outcomes of several well-intentioned initiatives.

The UGC and the AICTE were undoubtedly set up with the noblest of intentions but why has their abolition been recommended? What is the guarantee that the NCHER or the HEC will turn out to be any different from them?

Institutions and institutional structures do not function on their own. As Granville Austin said about constitutions of countries, “Constitutions, however ‘living’, are inert. They do not work, they are worked.”

Similarly, institutions do not work by themselves, they are worked, and by the people who are entrusted to work them. The NCHER or the HEC will work the way people who are appointed to work them, want them to work. Going deeper, it will depend on how these people are appointed…on the processes followed to select these people.

The process of appointment is really insidious and is the bane of all so-called independent regulators and autonomous institutions and commissions in the country. This has most recently been on display in the appointments of Information Commissioners in some of the states and also in the Central Information Commission.

One has earlier witnessed the manipulations of such processes first-hand in the appointments of chairpersons and directors of well-known autonomous institutions. The effect of such manipulations is exacerbated by some academics who are forever willing to toe the line of politicians and bureaucrats in the hope of spoils of office.

So, what does one do? Frankly, there are and cannot be simple answers. Long years of misdirected action cannot be undone and corrected in a hurry dictated either by compulsions of a hundred days or an election after five years. Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal will have to persevere to balance conflicting expectations and work for a change of the mindset.

A telling illustration of change of the mindset, or lack thereof, is the change of name of the Ministry of Education. The reason for creating a Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on September 26, 1985, a day after P.V. Narasimha Rao assumed charge of the ministry, when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister, which included the Department of Education, seems to have been completely forgotten.

That the website of MHRD http://www.education.nic.in/ is possibly an indication of the fact that the change of name of the ministry is only the change of name and not a change in thinking or functioning.

The fact that the development of human resources is a much wider issue of which education is one of the means, albeit an extremely critical one, does not seem to have caught the attention of any one in the government so far. Otherwise, why should the MHRD have only two departments, one for school education and literacy, and the other for higher education?

The writer is a former Professor, Dean and Director in-charge at the IIM, Ahmedabad

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Combating khap panchayats in Haryana
by Ranbir Singh

THE khap panchayats of rural Haryana are in the news again. Tension gripped Jind district on July 23 following the killing of one Ved Pal. He was lynched by the residents of Singhwal village right in the presence of the police and the court warrant officer for having married a girl of his same clan in March this year. The victim was attacked when he had gone to Singhwal to bring back his wife on July 22.

The controversial decision of a khap panchayat of Jhajjar district, Kadian Barah, to eject a family of Gahlot Jats of Dharana village for having married their son to a Kadian girl of Siwah village in Panipat district also hit headlines. This evoked strong reaction in the media and progressive sections of Haryanvi society.

The Tribune (July 21) carried an editorial, “Punish the khaps: Haryana Govt is not acting tough”. It followed up with another hard-hitting editorial, “Who rules Haryana?: The law or the khaps?” (July 25). Before deliberating on the ways and means for taming this anachronistic institution, it is necessary to understand its character and identify the sources of its strength.

It would be wrong to perceive khap panchayats as caste panchayats or multi-village panchayats. However, these are rightly viewed as the traditional panchayats. But these have to be differentiated from the panchayats of the village communities that had been characterised by the then Provisional Governor-General of India, Charles Metcalf (1835-36), as “Little Republics”.

The khap panchayats are, as aptly held by M.C. Pardhan in his Ph.D. Thesis submitted to the University of London and published under the title, Political System of the Jats of Northern India (1967), the clan councils formed by Jat clans (gotras) for regulating social intercourse, performing local government functions, dispensing justice and saving the clans from external aggression. These were based on strong feelings of kinship that existed among the members of various clans on account of their belief that they have ties of blood as they had a common forefather.

A loose confederation of these khap panchayats known as the Sarva Khap Panchayat had also been formed for resolving inter-clan disputes and for fighting against the frequent repression from Delhi rulers owing to their location at its threshold. These khap panchayats are reported to have played a glorious role during the medieval period and the Revolt of 1857. Despite repression, they survived and regulated social relations of the members of their as also other clans and castes living in their domain due to the Jajmani system and their hegemony on the rural power structure.

How have these been able to retain their hold in the present era when we have democratically elected panchayats? It may be argued that their strength lies in the weakness of the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Despite the enactment and implementation of the Haryana Panchayati Raj Act (1994), devolution of powers of 16 departments on the Panchayati Raj Institutions through the Notification of 1995, extension in the powers pertaining to 12 departments through the Instructions of 2000-2001 and the release of Document on Activity Mapping on February 17, 2006 for the devolution of functions, functionaries and finances of 10 departments, the constitution of the District Planning Committee on December 4, 2007 and the grant of enhanced honorarium to the office bearers and members of Panchayati Raj Institutions to institutionalise the 73rd and the 74th Constitutional Amendment (1992), the Panchayati Raj Institutions remain functionally and financially un-empowered. They are in no position to challenge the authority of khap panchayats.

Moreover, the leadership of these institutions of grassroots governance has not at all cared to take up the role of social development and has remained confined to the agenda of construction of streets and drains. This has left the field of control over social intercourse for the khap panchayats. Moreover, the politicisation of khap panchayats in the post-Independence period has made them indispensable vote banks. The caste-based struggle for power that acquired commanding heights after Haryana attained statehood on account of competition for power between political parties, factions, leaders and families has further enhanced their value. This explains why all the political parties with the singular exception of the CPM have not raised their voice against this menace.

It has been argued that the khap panchayats should be dealt with an iron hand by the state government and that a sustained campaign be launched for creating awareness regarding their retrograde character in the rural masses and the Panchayati Raj leadership. But both will prove ineffective unless the root cause of the khap panchayats’ strength and their unreasonable decisions is traced.

And this is the problem of identify crises among a large section of Jats from which they have begun to suffer due to the fragmentation of landholdings owing to the population explosion on account of their failure to adopt family planning and breakdown of the joint family system due to the impact of modernisation. As a result, most landowners from this caste have become such marginal farmers as find agriculture non-profitable. They are pursuing it because they have neither the skill nor capital for switching over to the non-agricultural vocations.

The large-scale indebtedness has further added to their woes. They have begun to apprehend that they will have to sell their land sooner or later. They also fear that the state government may acquire it and they will ultimately become landless. This will not only mean the loss of land but also loss of their status as zamindars (landowners) which will mean joining the ranks of the landless from the backward castes and the scheduled castes and losing their caste identity as Jats of which they are very proud of. It is this psychological state that is being exploited by the traditional leadership of khap panchayats.

Therefore, the problems of marginal farmers will have to be resolved by devising suitable strategies for making agriculture profitable for them. Their skills, too, need to be developed so that they could supplement their income through other activities. Besides, the Panchayati Raj Institutions will have to be genuinely empowered. Otherwise, efforts to tame the khap panchayats may prove futile.

The writer is Consultant, Haryana Institute of Rural Development, Nilokheri (Karnal)

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Hooch takes a heavy toll
Modi govt wants a price for its virtues
by Gobind Thukral

THE hooch tragedy in Gujarat has claimed 140 lives and over 220 are fighting death in various hospitals in Ahmadabad. The ruling BJP has the dubious distinction as one its leaders is said to be involved in the supply of the deadly illicit brew.

In Mahatma Gandhi’s home state, though total prohibition has been in force in homage to him, Gujarat has been a hapless witness to such tragedies. The last was in 1989 when 132 people died in Vadodara.

In Gujarat, even a casual observer will testify that any brand of Indian, foreign, scotch or homemade brew is available for the asking. You should know the right contact and he would make it available the sought brand at your residence. Five-star hotels are allowed to sell liquor to foreigners and on doctor’s prescription one can obtain a permit to buy liquor. This has led to a proliferation of illegal liquor dens.

Since low-income families cannot afford high priced drinks, they mostly consume home-made brew. Danger of such a tragedy striking down is greater. Last week alone, the police conducted over 8,000 raids and booked 6,713 violators of prohibition law. It closed down 1,200 liquor dens. The magnitude of illicit trade should be clear. What exactly the police has been doing until now if the scale of illicit brewing and sale is huge. The illegal trade is worth Rs 15,000 crore. Politicians, police, smugglers and criminals have all formed a nexus. Even now the police are intriguingly silent about the political patronage.

States like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Haryana had experimented with prohibition and found it not impractical. They discovered much to their chagrin that prohibition often led to bootlegging, smuggling and criminalisation. In Haryana, when the late chief minister Bansi Lal introduced prohibition in 1996, he discovered that a strong politician-police-smuggler nexus was emerging that could be ruinous and withdrew it. Supporters of prohibition including women were turning to bootleggers in which distillers and liquor mafia from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh were a party.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi has sought from the Centre Rs 3,000 crore every year for enforcing the liquor ban and “upholding Gandhian values”. Apparently, the state loses this sum by way of excise duty for its prohibition policy. The consumers pay many times more and still consume either substandard or illicit liquor that kills them. The logical question is: Why not scrap prohibition? And the stock reply is, “we shall never go back on prohibition. It is a social cause of great value for Gujarat”. Fixing a price on virtues is not a bad political idea.

The Gujarat government frequently quotes Article 47 of the Constitution to justify prohibition: “The State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purpose of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health...” However, it expediently forgets to quote the first part of the Article that reads: “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties...”

Obviously, the positive command in the Article is about nutrition and health and since liquor and other drugs have an adverse impact on health their prohibition is required.

Gujarati politicians want to monopolise the great Mahatma for the simple reason that he was born in Gujarat. Yet he lived for 21 long years in South Africa and fashioned and practised his basic philosophy of non-violence and in ondon where he studied, Delhi and Mumbai and the rest of India where he stayed often during the freedom struggle. The man reached out to humanity. Why only Gujarat seems to monopolise his values, that too, only in relation to liquor consumption? How about non-violence, his prime concern and cornerstone of his entire worldview? What does Mr Modi and his party think about the Mahatma’s ideals of Satyagraha, non-violence and truth? Was Ahimsa much in evidence during the state-sponsored violence of 2002?

Prohibition has failed all over the world including Britain and the US. It failed because drinking is seen as a personal activity by the drinking population that does believe that drinking in moderation is neither morally guilty nor physically harmful or devastating. In real life, the effect of prohibition is generally damaging as liquor supply goes underground and illicit and poor quality results in loss of life. The poor opt for cheap liquor and suffer the most. In Gujarat, as revealed from the latest arrests, working class women from a certain tribe were involved in the supply of the deadly brew.

There is no rational or moral reason for Gujarat to continue with its prohibition policy. Ever since this policy has been in force, corresponding underground liquor distribution networks have taken roots and thrived. It benefits the politicians, the bureaucrats and the police. In fact, in Gujarat, this writer heard tales about the close proximity of several political leaders with the bootleggers and the huge paybacks involved. There is a vested interest in prohibition.

There is another mindset in India about prohibition. States have adopted a policy that makes liquor costly and out of reach for common people. It fills the state governments’ coffers but deprives the drinking populace of quality liquor at affordable prices. A bottle of an average IMFL that costs the distilleries around Rs 20 to 50 is sold at several times more. The same is true of country made liquor. The distilleries and contractors make huge profits as do the state governments.

There is need for awareness about the biological, social and economic effects of drinking and easier access to cheaper quality liquor which has low alcoholic content. The state could devise policies that encourage drinking of more beer and wine and less of hard high potency alcohol.

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Profile
Dwivedi well-versed in Constitution
by Harihar Swarup

EVER since Andhra Pradesh Governor Ram Lal dismissed the N.T. Rama Rao Government in 1984, the occupants of Raj Bhavans have earned quite a bad name. Many inept and unworthy occupants since then have reinforced that reputation. So much so, it has been debated whether the Governor’s office had become a democratic anachronism. The appointment of Devendra Nath Dwivedi as the Governor of Gujarat has the potential to put an end to that debate.

In the 60th year of our Republic, it is now possible to identify a genre of public men who train themselves to become the ideal constitutional functionaries. Such men and women bring to their constitutional role the richness of their political career and parliamentary innings, the insightful understanding of an administrator and more than an adequate knowledge of the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

In recent years, B.K. Nehru, R.Venkataraman, P.C. Alexander, Shankar Dayal Sharma can be identified as constitutional functionaries in this classic mould. In all probability, Dwivedi will end up earning the full membership of this select club.

He also represents another tribe — perhaps, a fast diminishing tribe — of educated men in public life. ‘Educated’ not in the formal sense of acquiring a formal degree from a reputed university but such public men do educate themselves in the affairs of the state even while keeping themselves fully busy in the humdrum of day-to-day politics. Ashok Mehta, N.D. Tiwari, P.V. Narasimha Rao, Pranab Mukherjee, Jaipal Reddy are some of the names one can include in this select tribe.

Devendra is suspected of being too intelligent a public man for his own good. His friends have tended to dismiss him as too “academic” and his critics as too pretentious. But it is no coincidence that he was picked up by Indira Gandhi for the Rajya Sabha in the early 70s. He was a protégé of Kamalapati Tripathi, who regarded him and loved him as a son.

Coming from a distinguished Banaras family, it was easy for Devendra to ease himself into the classic role of an Uttar Pradesh Congress political leader of an earlier era — educated, articulate, socially concerned and fully informed. As the country’s politics — before and after the Emergency — drifted, public men like Devendra Dwivedi found themselves left behind.

He is expected to bring to the Gandhinagar Raj Bhavan the qualities of a preferred Governor — well-versed in the Constitution, well-tutored in the Gujarat’s recent ideological and political convulsions and well-mannered to please the Gujarati high society.

Having been a Congress Spokesman and ideologue, Devendra can be expected not to allow himself to be taken in by the ruling BJP’s pretensions and he will, certainly, reserve to himself his constitutional prerogative of being a friend and adviser of the Chief Minister.

Devendra was virtually in political wilderness since his term in the Rajya Sabha was over mid-seventies. He served briefly as Additional Solicitor General of India during P.V. Narasimha Rao’s term as Prime Minister. Briefly, more out of dejection, he joined Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party but returned to the Congress before long.

He has reason to be happy at his gubernatorial appointment. His impromptu reaction was, “It is a great honour to be appointed Governor of a state which has given the world great leaders like the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel”.

“Gujarat had contributed immensely to the freedom struggle,” he said, “and I have high respect for the state.” As for his priorities, the Governor said, “he would ensure the development of the state and defend the Constitution whenever required.”

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On Record
Politics, a mission to serve people: Iqbal Singh
by Ashok Tuteja

Sardar Iqbal Singh A veteran Congress-man, Sardar Iqbal Singh, will take over as the new Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. The 64-year-old leader, who belongs to the Doaba region of Punjab, entered politics as far back as 1968. He was the President of the state unit of the National Students’ Union of India.

He also served the Youth Congress and was general secretary of its youth wing in Punjab in early 1970s. He has held various important posts in the All India Congress Committee set-up and was a permanent invitee to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meetings.
Considered a trusted lieutenant of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Iqbal Singh is regularly consulted by the Congress high command on political matters pertaining to different states.

As he prepares to leave for Puducherry to take up his new assignment, Iqbal Singh spoke to The Sunday Tribune at New Delhi’s Punjab Bhavan.

Excerpts:

Q: What role do you envisage for yourself as the Lt-Governor of Puducherry?

A: It will be a fruitful role in which I can do something for the people of Puducherry. I have a passion for public service and commitment to the country. It is my good fortune that I am going to an area where not many people from the North go.

I will be dedicated to serve the people of Puducherry in social, education and cultural sector. It will be a great experience. Lt-Governor has an important constitutional role to play. It will be my endeavour to perform my duties in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

Q: Have you been adequately rewarded for your service and loyalty to the Congress?

A: Lt-Governor is a very important post. He has all the executive powers that a state Governor enjoys. My purpose is to serve the people in whatever capacity possible. Puducherry is a place where the noblest of noble live. It is known for spiritualism. The whole world comes there for good environment and atmosphere.

Q: Do you think active politicians are suitable for gubernatorial assignments?

A: Politics is a mission to serve the people. And whatever post my leader gives me to serve the people is acceptable to me. Indeed, it will be a great honour for me to faithfully obey my leader’s wishes.

Q: When do you propose to take the oath of office and secrecy?

A: I am leaving for Puducherry on Sunday and shall take oath on Monday, July 27, at 10 a.m. The State Chief Minister and other leaders from Puducherry have already met me and felicitated me on my appointment.

Q: You have met Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. What advice did they give you?

A: I met Sonia Gandhiji on July 23. On July 22, I had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and other senior leaders. I thanked Soniaji and the Prime Minister for choosing me for the job. They advised me to serve Puducherry by working for aam admi (common man). I will always remain in touch with the people of Puducherry. Nothing will satisfy me more than solving their problems if I can. 

Q: Will your bonds with Punjab be affected in any manner due to your new assignment?

A: Not at all. Information technology has made the world a close family. Now millions of people interact with us regularly from distant places in Canada and the US. The people of Punjab are very happy and proud that I have become Lt-Governor. My roots are in Punjab and I will always keep in touch with the people of the state.

Q: What sort of relationship would you like to establish with the government in Puducherry?

A: I have toured almost all the states as an office-bearer of the Congress party. Puducherry is the only place left. I will carry my experiences of other states there for its good. I will share my experiences and knowledge with the state government for the betterment of Puducherry. 

Q: How can Puducherry’s tourist potential be promoted in North India?

A: I will do my best to promote Puducherry in a big way in North India. We need to organise more road shows in different parts of the country to promote Puducherry as an attractive tourist destination.

True, people know more about Chennai and Tamil Nadu. Puducherry is so close to Chennai. People going for tourism to Chennai can always make a trip to Puducherry.

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