|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Thursday, February 18, 1999
IN INDIAN SOCIETY
of moral values a teacher speaks
in a Moradabad village
PRIME MINISTER Atal Behari Vajpayee
must have by now got used to the routine tantrums of his
allies. There is hardly a day when one alliance partner
or the other does not issue the threat of withdrawing
support. It is now Mr Om Prakash Chautalas turn to
be in the news. It can not be the exclusive privilege of
Ms Jayalalitha and Ms Mamata Banerjee to hog the
limelight by raking up real or imaginary issues for
keeping the Vajpayee Government on the tenterhooks. Mr
Chautalas decision to withdraw support to the
Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition may not pose any
immediate threat to the Government. The possibility of
Union Defence Minister and Samata Party chief George
Fernandes persuading the leader of the Indian National
Lok Dal to revise his stand cannot be ruled out. That the
Haryana leader expects to be pampered is part of the
script. Otherwise he would not have set the deadline of
February 19 for informing President K.R. Narayanan about
his partys decision to withdraw support to the
BJP-led coalition. The not entirely unexpected
development has once again exposed the fragile nature of
the arrangement. The Left parties analysis appears
to be based on sound political logic compared to the
over-reaction of the Congress. The Congress sees in the
development the beginning of the end of the
Vajpayee Government. The Congress sense of
glee over the discomfiture of the Government is not
shared by the Left parties. The Leftists assessment
of the development is more balanced. They point out that
the Vajpayee Government has been subjected to blackmail
by its alliance partners from day one and feel that
the last word on the drama centred around the INLD
is yet to be heard. Mr Chautalas threat has
merely confirmed the opportunistic nature of the present
arrangement. The CPM was not being original when it said
that with each constituent pursuing its own agenda
conflicts were inevitable and instability was inherent in
such a situation. It is indeed correct that the
coalition is riddled with internal contradictions and Mr
Chautalas move reflects the clash of interests
among the alliance partners. The only parties which have
more or less identified themselves with the BJP
and are, therefore, less demanding are the Biju
Janata Dal of Mr Navin Patnaik and the Samata Party of Mr
Fernandes. As far as the other parties in the
Government or extending outside support are
concerned, pursuit of power appears to be the only common
factor which is keeping them together. If Mr Chautala
carries out his threat and completes the formality of
informing Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President may not
necessarily ask Mr Vajpayee to seek a fresh vote of
confidence when the Budget session begins on February 22.
Logically, it should be left to the combined Opposition
to move a motion of no confidence in the Vajpayee
Government which, as of today, still enjoys a thin
majority of 274 MPs in a House of 543, even after the
resignation of a BJP member from Bhopal and the
withdrawal of support of the four INLD MPs. What can be
said at this juncture without fear of contradiction is
that the coming Budget session is likely to be more noisy
than usual, not because of Mr Chautala but because of the
incidents of communal violence in Orissa and Gujarat.
Save PGI & precious lives
THE Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI), Chandigarh, is going through one of the worst crises of its existence. Conceived as a premier institute meant for teaching and research, it was partly made into a hospital also where talented doctors treat difficult diseases and use their experience thus obtained to broaden the horizon of medical sciences. The PGI is no more the institute which was conceived by Sardar Partap Singh Kairon and blessed by Jawaharlal Nehru. However, its faculty has at no point of time been less competent or illustrious than the staff of any other teaching and research organism of its kind. When there is any interruption in the working of the PGI, hundreds of patients, many of whom go there for "miracles to happen", suffer between a gloomy dusk and a hopeful dawn. Hospitals of the region refer their serious cases to this institution because it has a reputation for excellence in disease-management and research. The All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, commands similar respect among the general public and medical scientists. The Union Health Ministry, by its apparent intransigence, has forced the faculty of the AIIMS to go on indefinite strike. Patients dependent for their survival on life support systems are being made to return home or to go to private nursing homes. A suggestion to this effect amounts to inviting premature death. We cannot accuse the specialists in Delhi of callousness or indifference to public health. They have waited long enough for the redress of their grievances. And, as they say, even a worm turns! The Delhi doctors have put their case cogently before the Health Ministry. The Prime Minister and the President are aware of the seriousness of the situation. But their enigmatic silence is making the atmosphere more and more murky with each passing day.
The committee set up to
give doctors a fair deal has done some homework and has
come to a certain conclusion, but enough should be enough
in a case made chronically complicated. The Fifth Pay
Commission announced a dispensation which did not come up
to the expectations of the doctors. At the PGI,
conciliation can be brought about by implementing the
Baksi Committee recommendations instantaneously and
leaving the plethora of other grievances to the wisdom of
a new committee consisting of technocrats and jurists.
Bureaucrats have played havoc with the status of the
doctors, which depends primarily on the remuneration they
get. Politicians have been callous. It is not possible
for the doctors to fulfil their commitments at the
institute and then to go to Delhi almost daily to garner
support for their legitimate demands. A senior clinician
and teacher wrote in The Tribune on Wednesday: "The
PGI faculty is agitated. It is experiencing grief and
pain at the threatened survival of the institution and at
the grim prospect of the death of excellence in the area
of human suffering.... We leave the matter to the
judgement of the people and policy-makers." Can
there be a more constructive attitude than this? Is it
necessary to have empty wards at the PGI? Is it desirable
to allow seriously ill but curable patients to suffer
and to die. Every moment is precious. The doctors
have chosen the path of agitation and already gone on a
one-day token strike. They have fasted for a day in the
Gandhian way. The next step, predictably, is a total and
indefinite strike. This eventuality must necessarily be
avoided. The governments of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal
Pradesh should do some plainspeaking in Delhi on behalf
of the PGI doctors to whom patients from their towns and
villages flock every hour. The PGI doctors, we are
convinced, are not asking for the moon. They are doing
their duty even when pressure is mounting from across the
Delhi border on them to take up a total agitational
course. There is no time to lose. Wednesday's fast by
senior faculty members should send a positive signal to
the authorities concerned. Dithering should be viewed as
Hero as a terrorist
THE world has suddenly been forced to redefine freedom fighter and terrorist. Mr Abdulla Oclan, the charismatic leader of the Kurdish minority, has been condemned as a terrorist and hunted down by the Turkish Government. The USA has enthusiastically endorsed the view and its ambassador in Ankara has hailed his arrest on Tuesday. The Kurds, on the other hand, lionise him and thousands of young men and women have joined his party and are waging an armed struggle to win basic political and civil rights. The spontaneous protests in more than two dozen cities across the world on Tuesday attest to the passionate following he has among his people. Turkey links Mr Oclans name with the killing of nearly 30,000 people during the past 15 years of guerrilla war, but conveniently forgets to mention that almost of all them were Kurds and almost all of them had been killed by the Turkish army in the name of suppressing terrorism. Mr Oclan has been on the run for some years and late last year successfully fought a court case in Rome for his extradition to Turkey. He fled to Kenya and sought shelter in the Greek embassy, but was trapped by the Turkish police in collaboration with the local force. Turkey treats his capture as a major national triumph, but the fallout will be to bring the Kurdish struggle, and the brutal methods the government employs to crush it, under renewed international focus.
The Kurds live in the
southern part of the country, dotted with enchanting
hills. Their villages have a picture postcard quality.
But many of the settlements have been systematically
destroyed in the name of flushing out terrorists and
denying them a safe haven. This is the method the USA
adopted to counter the increasing fighting power of the
Vietnamese freedom fighters in the late sixties and the
early seventies. Often the Turkish army enters the
contiguous Kurdish area in neighbouring Iraq to continue
its murderous assault. It has deployed the jets and
helicopters the USA had gifted to it as a fellow NATO
member in the anti-Kurdish war. And has used the airbase
which the Americans maintain for launching air raids on
the so-called no-fly zone in Iraq. Therein lies a cruel
paradox. The US war jets take to the air to protect the
Kurds from attack by the Iraqi forces. From the same
runway the Turkish war jets take off to kill and maim the
Kurds who have fled Turkey. The Kurds are both protected
and killed from the air by planes coming from the same
base. And the USA finds nothing odd in showing undue
concern for the Kurds belonging to Iraq and showing
heartless indifference to the Kurds belonging to Turkey.
More than the Turkish attempts at the liquidation of the
Kurds, it is the USAs two-faced policy on Kurds
that cries out for an international debate. If Mr
Oclans arrest spurs such a debate, he would be
entitled to the last laugh, even if Turkey were to send
him to the gallows.
CRISIS IN INDIAN SOCIETY
THE Dharma Sansad held recently at Ahmedabad witnessed several acharyas and swamis of Vishwa Hindu Parishad discussing several important issues, which are staring the Hindu society in the face. There was hardly any restraint in their utterances and there was a lot of heat in the discussions. Acharya Dharmendra of the VHP and a member of the Margdarshak Mandal, the top decision making body, ridiculed Prime Minister Vajpayees decision to be on the first bus going to Lahore on February 20. The Acharya asked the Prime Minister to declare a war on Pakistan and use the nuclear weapons. If a visit to Pakistan was to be undertaken, the Prime Minister should rather go in a tank instead of a bus, the Acharya added. The Acharya asked for declaration of war against Pakistan and for a final match on the battlefield.
The speech of Acharya Dharmendra alone is enough to illustrate the make-believe world in which the VHP stalwarts seem to live. Not for them the nuances of nuclear debate, the unwinnability of a nuclear war and the effectiveness of a nuclear weapon only for deterrence and not for actual use. The balance of military power, and the geo-political factors involving China, the USA and West Asia do not seem to count in their thinking. The 40-point agenda which was announced at the end of the session spoke of plans to mobilise and create a Hindu vote bank so as to enable the BJP to be free from its allies. VHPs Vice-President, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, asserted that if the 40-point Hindu agenda was implemented the country would automatically become a Hindu nation.
The attack on Christian missionaries was a constant theme throughout the Sansad and VHPs General Secretary Praveen Togadia characterised the Christian missionaries as traitors. The attacks on Christian missionaries, their schools and even Christians began almost from the beginning of BJP rule at the Centre and the attacks have continued without any letup. They are taking place all over the country, which clearly signifies that there is an orchestrated campaign from above. The BJP leaders in the Central government including, Prime Minister Vajpayee and Home Minister Advani, seem unable to stop this campaign with strong measures.
Vinay Katiyar, an important functionary of the VHP and former chief of Bajrang Dal, had spelt out sometime back that the struggle against foreign agencies trying to convert vulnerable sections of Indian society would proceed vigorously. Significantly enough, he also asserted that VHPs enquiries and assessment revealed that an important factor behind the intensification of the activities of Christian missionaries was due to the emergence of Sonia Gandhi as the most important leader of the Congress. The allegation that the efforts of Christian missionaries have intensified after the emergence of Sonia Gandhi as a threat to Prime Minister Vajpayee lacks substantiation.
The Dharma Sansad decided to open schools among the dalits and intensify their efforts at reconversion. The acharyas who met at the Dharma Sansad, however, failed to discuss the sociological factors which pushed the dalits and the tribals towards conversion to Christianity or Islam. The continued social oppression and the denial of employment even as daily labour if the dalits or the tribals did not behave as lower forms of society, subservient to the upper class, is the primary factor working in favour of conversions. Until the Sangh Parivar grasps this crucial factor, they would continue to grope in the dark and commit mistakes after mistakes.
RSS chief M.S. Golewalkar had defended the caste system and even at present some of the VHP stalwarts are votaries of the caste system. Ambedkar opted for mass conversion of dalits to Buddhism as he believed that the dalits, though Hindus, were not considered a part of the Hindu religious practices. Ambedkar decided that the untouchables should opt for protection from their British masters when the government of India Act of 1935 created the legal entity of Scheduled Castes. Has anything happened in these 50 years since independence to show that Ambedkars reasoning was wrong?
Ambedkar led large sections of dalits for conversion to Buddhism, an Indian religion to the core, and which did not believe in caste distinctions or rituals. Buddha himself was an agnostic. As for conversion of Hindus to Islam, Swami Vivekananda had remarked that the Mohammedan conquest of India came as a salvation to the downtrodden and to the poor and that was why one fifth of the people of India had become Mohammedan. It is the misfortune of Hindu society that while the evils afflicting it have been identified by social reformists there have been no consistent efforts towards the abolition of the caste system and the integration of Hindu society. Even Mahatma Gandhi did not come out strongly against caste discrimination though he advocated and worked for Harijan entry into temples. While the Harijans could enter the temples they could not, and even now cannot, enter the houses of Brahmins or upper castes as equals.
It is apparent that the attacks on Christian missions would continue so long as the Sangh Parivar and VHP in particular, believes that it would enable the BJP to emerge with a comfortable vote bank among the Hindus, which would even enable the BJP government at the Centre to jettison its allies. The VHP is gravely wrong in this calculation and it betrays the lack of elementary understanding of the social structure and the voting pattern in the country. A look at the electoral outcome of the 1998 Lok Sabha elections and the elections held in November, 1998, in the three States would throw light on this: The 1998 Lok Sabha elections marked the high watermark of BJPs electoral success in terms of seats, with 179 seats versus 141 of the Congress. The Congress party had secured 25.88 per cent of the votes polled while the figure for the BJP was 25.47 per cent. Uttar Pradesh alone gave the BJP 57 Lok Sabha seats with a 36.44 per cent of votes, primarily because of lack of unity between the Mandal parties like the SP and the BSP. If only the Congress, the SP and the BSP had combined, the electoral outcome of the Lok Sabha poll would have been very different.
Indias social and political spectrum is bewilderingly complex and the realities have to be accepted. The 12 per cent Muslim population is almost the same as the ratio of African-Americans in USA and by any measure this 12 per cent constitutes a significant voting factor. Arnold Toynbee may have spoken eloquently about Indias tolerance in letting mosques build on the sites of Hindu temples continue undisturbed unlike in Spain, but that should not have given inspirational thrust for demolishing Babri Masjid. What was possible in Spain 400 years ago could not be replicated in India in 1992. It totally alienated the Muslim minority throughout the country, which by itself brought in its train a series of violent reactions such as the serial bomb explosions in Mumbai in March, 1993, and the increasing militancy of Muslim youth with the active instigation and support from the ISI of Pakistan throughout the country.
Apart from the Muslim minority, it is becoming increasingly clear that the dalits and large sections of backward classes have moved close to the Congress Party, the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the RJD of Laloo Yadav. There is a turf war between the Yadav leaders and their political parties on one side and the Congress on the other, for the votes of Muslims, BCs and OBCs, but that is a different matter. The Christian vote is now alienated en masse from the BJP and its allies. The Congress is making concerted efforts towards winning the Caste Hindus, including the upper castes, most of whom had moved over to the BJP in the past. In this complicated social spectrum the thinking on the part of the VHP that their anti-conversion drive against Christians and even the reiterated move for construction of Ram Mandir by 2001 AD would consolidate the Hindu vote for the BJP seems totally misplaced.
India finds itself at a
crucial phase of history on the eve of the millennium. If
the Sangh Parivar persists in its attacks on minorities
it would lead to serious disruption of peace with
extraordinary consequences, both nationally and
internationally. We can only hope that better counsel
Terrible burden of population
THIS article comes to you from the Hague, which is in the Netherlands (more familiar to some as Holland, the country which mostly lies under sea level). The Hague is famous for its International Court of Justice. But a UN conference is trying to mete out justice of another kind. It relates to a subject which has long been dear to my heart and which I have often written about over the years: Population.
About two decades back, I became convinced that one of the most urgent problems facing the developing world was the exploding population growth rate. I was not the only one, needless to say. Thomas Malthus, an English economist, had a long time back painted a gloomy picture of what might happen. He had pointed out that food production was growing at an arithmetical rate, whereas population was growing at geometrically. If this continued, he warned, the world would run out of food.
His alarmist prediction did not materialise. Modern science produced miracle grains and the Green Revolution took place in various parts of the developing world, including India. Food production more than kept pace with population growth. The world did not really starve on a big scale, except in certain pockets. In India, for instance, since independence food production has grown from 55 million tonnes to over 200 million tonnes, a four-fold increase.
During the same period, the Indian population has grown from 350 million to about 950 million, less than three times. But though there is more food to go round, the fact of the matter is that if the population had not grown so high, Indians would have been much better-off. Economic and social development has been crippled by the population explosion, certainly in India.
Sanjay Gandhi, with the approval of his mother, Indira Gandhi, tried ham-handedly to tackle the population problem by coercion. It backfired. We were set back by at least two decades. Every subsequent government was scared to take up the issue. Even the phrase family planning had to be changed to family welfare, so mortally afraid were the authorities of anything to do with the planning of small families.
The international community, led by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), realised the magnitude of the problem early on. In the 1970s and 1980s two important conferences on population were held at Bucharest and Mexico. Then, in 1994 came the most important conference of all, at Cairo. There a programme of action was drawn up.
Its main emphasis was on what is called reproductive health, which essentially means linking family planning with health, particularly the health and well-being of the girl child. The feminists also put their firm stamp on the Cairo conference. Gender equity became an essential part of the programme of action that was outlined at this conference.
I wrote a book on family planning for the Cairo conference. It was on eight developing countries that had been fairly successful in the population stabilisation programmes (India, unfortunately, was not one of them). Two of these countries were Islamic: Indonesia and Tunisia, showing that there was nothing inherent in Islam which opposed family planning and modern contraception.
While writing this book, I came to the conclusion that there were two absolutely essential elements in a successful family planning programme: A high literacy rate, particularly of women, and good primary health care. All the eight developing countries that I wrote about had these two social factors in place.
India has not, which is why our population increases by almost two per cent a year, which is 18 million extra people to feed, house and find jobs for every year. That is a terrible burden, which cuts into whatever little progress we make. In May, 2000, which is a little over a year away, India will have the dubious distinction of hitting a population mark of one billion persons.
The Hague conference is looking back at the almost five years since the Cairo conference. How much has been achieved and to what extent has the Cairo programme of action been achieved? The good news is that there is much greater awareness of the urgency of the problem and even those countries which had earlier not paid it much attention are doing so now.
The bad news is that about 90 million people are being added to the worlds population every year and almost all of this increase comes from the developing world. Later this year, the earths population will touch the six billion mark. The economic crisis in East Asia has made matters worse and quite a few gains, spread over two or three decades, have been nullified. That is terrible news.
Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram led the Indian parliamentary delegation (actress and Rajya Sabha member, Shabana Azmi,was also a part of it). He made a speech which went downvery well with the other parliamentary delegates. He emphasised that during such an economic crisis, the temptation for beleaguered governments is to cut funding and expenditure on the social sector, such as education and health. Instead, they should cut down on defence spending and the salaries of the bureaucracy.
He gave the example of the
Singapore government, which, in anticipation of a
possible downturn in its economy, ordered drastic pay
cuts in the salaries of its civil servants. My question
is, were he the Finance Minister, would he have the
courage to do this?
PETRIFIED in my khaki drill shorts at the National Defence Academy, I looked my squadron commander in the eyes and blurted something about the drill boots issued to me being wrong size. Outraged, and with his moustache twitching vigorously, he announced three extra drills for me as punishment for talking back.
He had been inspecting us first-termers and had apparently found me to be immaculately turned out. We were expected to shave even if it was to eliminate a fuzzy whisker. No twisted laces. Thirteen hobnails and a horseshoe heel on each drill boot. Just as squadron commander was passing on to the next cadet, he turned back and with a glint in his eye pointed out that the two flaps of my boots from which the laces ran were not fully joined, exposing the tongue.
Thats when I said something about the physiology of the shoe issued to me not being right and caused hurt to the old man who passed on those extra drills to rectify my military thinking.
Might I say that I thoroughly enjoyed the testing times at the NDA. After my services selection board, the medical examination pronounced me to be under-weight. Not much of a physical or an outdoors man, the idiosyncrasies of life here were welcome. Riding, swimming, running the obstacle course and, of course, those drill sessions where you werent as much as expected to roll your eyeballs or twitch your lips to divert a stream of gravitating sweat. Now I knew that we werent even expected to think.
Still I liked it. Why? A double promotion in school and another six months gained due to change of session during dads posting he was in the Air Force had the obvious effect. I failed in the next class. Now mortally scared of studies, I was determined to get to the NDA before my senior Cambridge. It was better to slog at these extra drills than to struggle with those elusive logarithms and valences.
Years later I took my wife to a NDA passing out parade reviewed by Admiral Ronnie Pereira. You may not have enough money in your banks, he cautioned the prospective officers, but I can assure you that you will never fall short of respect.
A recent opinion poll shows that the most respected profession is the armed forces while the politician is the least respected and most corrupt. A politician raked in the most money while the armed forces, scientists and teachers/lecturers were least paid. Most agreed that the man in uniform deserved better recognition and incentives. Admiral Pereira was right in prophesising so accurately in his address to the cadets.
Now in an attempt to improve its image and attract the youths to its fold, the Army is interacting with school and college students. A recent visit by an Army team to a girls college in Chandigarh created the desired impact!
Those who feel that in the services it is goodbye to studies are mistaken, like I was when I joined NDA. Two Master degrees I owe to the Army. For professional studies we have kept late night pouring over books and pamphlets. Sometimes the whole night. I once spied my room-mate with a bucket of water under his study table, with one leg immersed inside to keep him awake.
You will notice how
its an all-rounded life, including adequate doses
of humour. So, if those pretty girls havent been
adequately motivated to join the Army, go tie the knot
with any of those subalterns who can substitute his bank
balance with everything else that really counts for life.
Erosion of moral values a
PLEASANTLY plumpish, Daman Duggal is a school teacher who has the students (of all age groups) eating out of her hand. Be it primary class students or difficult teenagers, she invites a sunny ear-to-ear smile from all and equally spontaneously returns it. The respect that she commands from students has not come her way overnight. She has worked hard and with dedication for the past nearly 25 years. Consistency, dignity and unfailing accessibility are her major assets built through a career of teaching.
"Duggal Madam" (as she is popularly addressed). "Is like having 'Mom' at school," defines a 12th class serious-looking student readily agrees with charming sincerity. "But you can't take liberties with her if she catches you on the wrong foot," adds a chirpy classmate of his. "But surely anyone can approach her with any problem from not having done homework to sudden advent of menstruation in an unsuspecting girl or problems at home or even when someone feels hungry. Full of warmth and understanding, she is always there to solve any student's problem," adds another student. "And she is a very good teacher too. One never wants her class to be over. She has an extremely interesting way of teaching," says a former student.
Daman Duggal created a record of sorts by graduating from Sacred Heart, Dalhousie, and getting married both when she was 18. "I was lucky to have a mother-in-law who was a very efficient lady with a brilliant brain. I learnt all my cooking, baking and house-keeping from her. Besides it was she who encouraged me to improve my qualifications. She enrolled me into a one-year beauty culture course which was followed by a one-year course in interior decoration. She also inspired me to model in the first ever Femina fashion show with Persis Khambata in Chandigarh in 1966, because she knew that I used to model for Helen Curtis, a famous cosmetics house, in the sixties. She would willingly take care of my two children, freeing me to try my hand at a variety of things. I joined my father-in-law in his designer furniture business. I began designing as well as interior decoration. The Pipli guest-house of Haryana was my first assignment. My first teaching job came my way through Miss Doongaji, the then Principal of the Home Science College, Chandigarh. I held three courses of three months each in Beauty Culture in 1969-70 for her students. However the experience of teaching school students began at A.P.J. School, Jalandhar, in 1972 after which I realised I wanted to try nothing else," thus began a sprightly and charming conversation.
Q: It is rare to come across a woman who admires her mother-in-law. When will more women end this bitterness between the two and learn to love and respect each other?
Daman: I think the trend is already setting in at least among working women in urban India. Educated and enlightened mothers today do not fiercely cling to their sons anymore. In fact they don't have to since their lives don't revolve around their sons only. They have their careers and hobbies to pursue. They have begun to love their sons as well as their daughters equally. Of course we still have a long way to go. Nevertheless a class of modern mothers-in-law (using the term in a very positive manner) is surely emerging today. She has her own circle of friends of the same age-group. She is on to playing bridge, golf, attending kitty parties, listening to religious discourses, etc. She is non-interfering yet warm and caring or at best quiet as long as the younger couple at home is happy. In any case the bitterness between the two is centuries old which will not disappear in one day.
Q: You are not a trained teacher, yet children love you. What is the secret?
Daman: Oh my God, (her exclamation is followed by a shy smile; gathering herself, she begins to ponder ----) After a two-year stint at A.P.J. School at Jalandhar I enjoyed rearing my children. By 1978 both of them were school-going when Mrs Swift, the then Principal of Vivek Nursery School, offered me the job of a teacher. I think it was my perhaps hidden aptitude for teaching and I loved being with children. As for grooming me as a teacher, I would give the entire credit to Mrs Sharda Dutt. She literally opened the gates of joy of teaching children. Subsequently I have always felt that in each class that I took, I felt there was something of her that I was imparting to students. She taught me to be creative in teaching.
Q: Having spent nearly 25 years in teaching, how do you now view the education system in India?
Daman: We have terribly failed to balance a crucial national task like education in India. School children are burdened with a heavy syllabus and forced to pursue schooling with over-seriousness. This is followed by a degree of casualness at the college level, which is like a sudden flush of freedom which most children are not equipped to handle. Then all policies related to education are by and large handled by bureaucrats and politicians. Involvement of teachers at that level is either missing or negligible. What is sad is that nothing is being done about it even today.
Q: How do you say teachers are not involved and nothing is being done about changing the present system?
Daman: I will give a simple example to substantiate my point. You see, we teach from prescribed NCERT books. Every year we come across factual errors in maps, write-ups, essays, etc. Each year the CBSE sends us a circular stating that if teachers find any errors in these books, they must inform it and point out. Every year we religiously point out and refer them back to the CBSE. But one does not know where our letters disappear for with each passing year, we continue to receive books with printing and factual errors. Who is running the show? Certainly not the teachers.
Q: What have you to say about the tuition racket that has started all over the country, especially for class XI and XII?
Daman: It is really fortunate. But there are a couple of factors which have promoted this unhealthy practice. I personally feel that the state, schools and parents have to join hands if they wish to eradicate this menace.
Q: Do you think that today the teachers are failing to cultivate moral values among the children, which was the practice some decades ago?
Daman: You cannot blame the teachers alone in this respect. The erosion of moral values is on account of many factors. Today a teacher is left with no time to impart or inculcate any moral values among students. Besides the heavy load of syllabus, the teacher is expected to guide students in a variety of extra-curricular activities. Then social projects have to be done. We are hardly left for any time for sports which should be an integral part of schooling. Moral education deserves far more importance than what the time allows us. As if these factors were not enough, our children today are faced with unending distractions. The electronic media, films, lack of time with parents, video parlours and the rather negative influence of western culture are only a few of them. I personally think that given the present trends, it is the parents who have to undertake greater responsibility in imparting moral values. They need to spend quality time with their children.
Q: Don't you think that schools today are terribly lacking in making any conscientious effort at inculcating patriotism among students?
Daman: Well, I agree that
pride in one's nation can be cultivated among children
only when they are at the school. And today schools are
not making any concrete efforts in this direction. But
let us face it. Parents too are failing on this front.
There is a degree of cynicism that has seeped in, about
India and everything Indian. Why do parents let this
trickle down to their children who are at an
impressionable age. Why do they pamper them with
everything imported? The effort in this direction has to
be done both by parents as well as schools.
Riot in a Moradabad village
LUCKNOW: A minor-post-Muharram riot occurred in Dhanaura, a small town in Moradabad district. It appears that during the Muharram procession on Friday a stone was thrown by the village headmans son at the tazia. The matter was patched up at the time, but ill-feeling remained.
On Monday, the market day, certain Hindu shopkeepers tried to eject Muslem pedlars from near their shops.
Later on, in the cause of social uplift, the Hindus brought round chamars to draw water from all wells in the town, including a mosque well, where Mussalmans perform ablutions before prayer.
This infuriated the Musslamans, and a fight occurred in which about ten people were hurt, none seriously.
| Punjab | Haryana | Himachal Pradesh | Jammu & Kashmir |
| Chandigarh | Business | Sport |
| Mailbag | Spotlight | World | 50 years of Independence | Weather |
| Search | Subscribe | Archive | Suggestion | Home | E-mail |