Monday, February 7, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Proliferation of universities

THIS is with reference to the letters “Why new universities” by Dr Sukhdev Singh, a former Vice-Chancellor of PAU, Ludhiana, (Jan 18), “Universities in Punjab” by Mr G.S. Sandhu and “Lopsided approach” by Mr M.S. Bhella (Jan 25).

I agree with Dr Sukhdev and Mr Bhella but disagree with Mr Sandhu, who says that “there is the need for a few more” universities of “veterinary science, animal sciences, food technology, etc”.

If Mr Sandhu’s opinion is taken as a right step, then the day is not far off when there will be a one-discipline university system in India — university of biology, university of microbiology, university of chemistry, university of bio-chemistry, university of home science, university of political science, so on and so forth!

  Historically, we find that the British had established the first three universities — at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras — in India in 1857. The number of universities rose to 12 in 1925, 19 when India attained Independence in 1947 and 216 in 1993. The number today is 245, and it is likely to increase considerably in the near future.

Universities in India are established by an Act of Parliament or a state legislature. But state governments are establishing universities so frequently without having in mind the proper infrastructure which would be required for a particular university for a certain period.

For example, to establish a technology university, the UGC guidelines say that “there is an evidence that the existing universities in a state cannot effectively meet the requirements of development of engineering and technological education through its colleges either directly maintained by or affiliated to it.”

Keeping in view the evidence (Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh; Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala; and Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology) of technological education in Punjab, I am of the opinion that there was no necessity of establishing Punjab Technical University at Jalandhar.

In fact, state governments are establishing new universities without keeping in mind the availability of funds proposed to be provided in the first five years for buildings and other developmental activities, academicians of high standing to man senior positions etc.


Neglecting a historical town

Sultanpur Lodhi is a historical town of Punjab. It was built on a very ancient site, but the only architectural remains today are two bridges (one of which is almost extinct), a sarai and an old stupa in a very dilapidated state near the new bus stand. The sarai and one of the bridges is said to have been built by Mughal ruler Jehangir while the other bridge by Aurangzeb. The town also remained the capital of Punjab during the Lodhi period.

Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb, sons of Shahjehan, received their earlier education from this town from their teacher Abdul Latif. The downfall of the town began with the advent of British rule in India as they realigned Grand Trunk Road from Phillaur to Amritsar via Jalandhar. With this, Sultanpur, which was at that time one of the major producers and exporters of hand-knit clothes, durries, etc, began to show its decline. The downward trend continued even after Independence. The Sultanpur constituency has been represented by powerful Akali leaders for the most of time but they failed to build any industrial infrastructure here. No major educational institution could also be shifted to this town and the surrounding areas. These leaders even failed to establish any sugar mill here despite the fact that it is in the sugarcane belt.

The Akali Dal government should declare Sultanpur Lodhi as a district headquarters town on the lines of Shri Fatehgarh Sahib, as this town also finds an important place in Sikh history.

Sultanpur Lodhi

Chinese bunkers

The Tribune report “Chinese bunkers in Ladakh” (February 2) is too shocking for words. What a “chilling tale”, indeed!

The sensational report, if true even partially, merits the most serious notice by the powers that be. In fact, it seems to warrant rolling of several heads, bluntly speaking. The matter can be ignored only at our national peril.

Ambota (Una)


Guess the opposite of “Jo jeeta wohi Sikandar.”

Answer: “Jo haara wohi Tendulkar!”



Penny wise, pound foolish

Interestingly, the reason given by the Himachal Pradesh government for the large-scale felling of trees is the collection of revenue. The government that way is repeating a penny wise, pound foolish story. It has been scientifically concluded that each tree, on an average, during its life-time provides benefits worth Rs 32 lakh (estimated at 1988 value of money).

The latest scientific conclusion is that a tree when cut fetches a price not more than 0.3 per cent of its real value. This reflects the mental bankruptcy of those who took the decision of felling the trees for the collection of revenue. Felling of trees for the collection of revenue is clearly not a wise decision.

The Government of Himachal Pradesh may argue that compensatory afforestation on double the area will take place. However, it is an established fact that compensatory afforestation is a farce and it creates only “paper forests”. The concept of compensatory forestry has outlined its utility to befool the people for felling green forests. Otherwise also natural forests cannot be created out of artificial forestry.

I quote Mr S.L. Bahuguna here: “A forest is a society of living things of which tree is the greatest. There are big and small trees of different species, bushes, grasses, herbs and wild animals. What we are made to take as forests are tree fields — trees of single species and even age, which ultimately serve as timber mine. This is a heinous crime. Forests are the factories of soil manufacture and the mother of rivers while the tree fields or monocultural crops need in the long run artificial manures and moisture in many cases. Who owns and manages the artificial forests is also a crucial factor in the success of a forestry programme and this programme till date has been a story of failure.”

Everywhere, the majority of people want freedom from strife, want to spare nature from destruction. Everywhere it is the narrow vested interests of power hungry politicians, of unscrupulous businessmen and corrupt bureaucrats that want to thrust destruction of nature upon unwilling citizenry.

Various dailies of national and international repute through their editorial columns, news items and special reports (The Tribune, December 30) have criticised this decision of the state government. Environmentalists, including Mr Bahuguna, have warned the government of a CHIPKO movement in case it does not reverse its decision. But the powers that be are still unconcerned. This is because the top decision-makers are continuously drinking from the cup of power and that has made them in sensitive.

Environmental activists, non-government organisations and the residents of the country need to lobby against this decision of the government. We should not suffer the fate of being mute spectators to this decision which amounts to digging our own graves.


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