|Saturday, February 19, 2000,
not for reconciliation
as the Italians do....
Wrong emphasis on education system
allocates $ 200 m for submarine project
SINCE the Bharatiya Janata Party has a problem of plenty as far as mouthpieces are concerned, it has to constantly deny what one or the other of them says. After the inglorious going-back on such subjects as RSS membership for government servants and the construction of a temple at Ayodhya, it has now had to deny the move to tax agricultural income. But since the claim was made by none other than the vice-president of the party, Mr Jana Krishnamurthy, the disowning has not convinced many who see it as a trial balloon. In fact, considerable damage seems to have already been done by this statement in states like Haryana which are going to the polls soon. These are the Budget days when every leader tends to become an economic expert. Perhaps that is why Mr Krishnamurthy did not even realise that at present, tax on agriculture is under the state government jurisdiction. Apparently he rushed to the Press without consulting the other constituents of the government, who are now up in arms. The move has already led to accusations that the BJP is a party of urban traders out of sync with the realities of rural India. Actually, the ire of Mr Krishnamurthy and city-based economists is directed against non-agriculturists who blatantly take advantage of the tax facility extended to agricultural income. Since the government is not able to rein in these evaders, it tries to pin down genuine farmers who are already in dire straits. The growing suicides by those who lead a harsh life in unhygienic conditions to eke out a living are a stark reminder that the fantastic returns allegedly shown by those who use their farmhouses to hide their black money are only a figment of imagination. As far as the term "big farmers" is concerned, it is again a misnomer, because the Land Ceiling Act is already in operation. If at all the government is serious about curbing black money, it should start a drive against those who hold land in benami instead of harassing the entire farming community.
Those who have first-hand knowledge of agriculture know that within the limits of land ceiling, it is barely possible to make both ends meet. Agriculture in India is dependent on the vagaries of weather. The tax move will be all the more cruel at this time when the prices of various inputs like seed, fertiliser, electricity and water are rising skyhigh and subsidies are sought to be abolished. All these difficulties must be taken into account through socio-economic studies before bringing about any drastic change in the tax structure. Even while calculating an equitable price for farm produce, the cost of labour that the entire family of the farmer puts in is not fully taken into account. Nor is the minimum return that should come to a farmer on the current market price of his agricultural holding properly calculated. If all these imponderable are taken into account, the tax holiday for a farmer is not a charity but a necessity. Its need will increase further once import curbs are lifted. Even at present, the kisan is neither free to sell his produce anywhere in the country nor at the open market price. So, actually, the tax relief is not provided to him but to the consumers as a whole, just because it is necessary to keep the price of the farm produce at the bare minimum.
Just look at the
ferocity of the agitations which start in various cities
when prices of a loaf of bread or a packet of milk are
increased by as little as 10 paise! It is acknowledged
even in the developed countries that of all the various
ways of losing money, farming is the most dependable.
Still, if millions of illiterate farmers continue to
cling to their patches of land, it is only because of
their love for dharati mata. Just think of the chaos that
can erupt if most of them decide to sell their land and
decide to march towards the city. That is not exactly an
imaginary situation. The current market price of land in
many areas is as high as Rs 5 lakh an acre. Since it does
not provide a return of even 10 per cent per annum at
times, there is already growing disenchantment with
farming and the youth are opting out of the
"wretched profession". This exodus needs to be
curbed rather than hastened. The country should not
forget that it was importing foodgrains until a few
decades ago. Those illiterate but hardy farmers who
brought about the green revolution should not be asked to
keep detailed accounts of how much they spent by way of
seed purchase, electricity bill, labour and sundry other
expenses while calculating what "fantastic"
income they enjoyed in a particular year (followed by
distress sale in the next three years). If he is driven
to the wall, he might very well decide that he would be
better off in a city slum than a godforsaken village
where he does not have even the basic amenities.
Why be clever by half?
THE US President, Mr Bill Clinton, and his Secretary of State, Ms Madeleine Albright, have spoken almost simultaneously in Washington on matters concerning India and Pakistan. Mr Clintons visit to India is scheduled to take place in March. Bangladesh is already on his itinerary. Pakistan has kept him undecided for the present. But nobody who knows even the basics of the Pakistan policy of America needs to indulge in guesswork. The USA has a very important relationship with Pakistan, Ms Albright has said, although she, of necessity, has hastened to mention the unfortunate interruption by the nuclear tests and the action of General (Pervez) Musharraf. She has spoken about terrorism too and called Pakistan a transit point of terrorists. On the face of it, the statement appears to be positive and noteworthy. But is it factually so? Pakistan, she and her President know, is not a transit point for the hotheads. It, indeed, is the recruiting, training and deployment place for them. From Afghanistan to Sudan, ISI-trained terrorists have shown pervasive proliferation. Ms Albright knows the difference between the transitoriness of transit and the organised and perpetuated importance of the creation of destructionists. She also knows much about Pakistans terrorist culpability, with a long history, in Jammu and Kashmir. She has obtained first-hand reports on the Kargil aggression by Islamabad. She and Mr Clinton have, separately but in a consistent manner, condemned the hijacking of an Indian plane to Kandahar by Pakistanis with the connivance of the Taliban who are harbouring and sustaining the anti-American outfit of Osama-bin-Laden.
President laments the negation of democracy by General
Musharraf. Congressman Sam Gadjenson has advised Mr
Clinton not to spoil the chance of cementing a new
relationship between India and the USA the first
of its kind after the end of the Cold War by
visiting Pakistan. The visit would send a wrong
signal. He has gone on to explain that the
military ruler in Pakistan is removing the court system
and trying the elected premier. There is no reason
for rejoicing over the compliments paid to the people of
India and Pakistan by Mr Clinton and Ms Albright. Listen
to Mr Clinton: You are talking about people who are
basically immensely talented, have a strong work ethic, a
deep devotion to their faith and to their families.... It
is heartbreaking to me to see how much they hold each
other back by being trapped in yesterdays
conflict.... Thank you, Mr President and Madam
Secretary of State, for your symmetrical sentiments! But
why dont you call a spade a spade, that is, a
terrorist state a terrorist state? Why do you condone the
evil fountainhead of global terrorism? Why do you prefer
to remain obsessed with the idea of achieving vainglory
by extending your perceived suzerainty over the sovereign
nations of West Asia? As External Affairs Minister
Jaswant Singh has said to French dignitaries, there is no
mediatory slot vacant for any country here. Terrorism and
the Pakistani aggression are the major issues. Address
them if you can. Otherwise, there is much to see in India
from caparisoned elephants carrying caricatures of
royalty to the scars on Kashmiri chests made by Pakistani
bullets. Put your good faith beyond doubt. You cant
be clever by half now.
Delhi slums: out, out!
SLUMS are a sore sight in any urban area, and totally unacceptable in the nations Capital. They are extremely dirty, contribute mightily to the overall squalor and stink. No human being should be allowed to live in such sub-human conditions. But the cure does not lie in a court-ordered forcible eviction of slum-dwellers and the razing of their pitiable hovels. That is precisely what the Supreme Court ordained on Thursday. A three-Judge Bench has instructed all government authorities having anything to do with slums to get cracking and clear every encroachment within eight weeks. Ironically the court was disposing of a petition seeking its intervention to make living slightly better in these hell-holes. Instead of getting a few more water taps, electric poles and such grand civic amenities of the new millennium, the slums have now received a death warrant. True, the order might wipe out hundreds of repulsive clusters of plastic sheet and cardboard huts and make Delhi look a little less decrepit. But the city will not metamorphose into a vast replica of Lutyens Delhi tree-lined boulevards, lush green parks, gothic style houses and happy, polite residents. Even if this miracle were to happen, the lucky people will still need slums to house an army of servants and other service providers. It is because slums continue to supply cheap labour for the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors.
A family man earning under Rs 3000 a month cannot rent accommodation and also eat a single square meal a day. Slums provide relief. Another immutable rule about slums is that they are always on public land and only a vote-hating politician will drive them to the wall. The emergency era Turkman Gate demolition is now a metaphor for losing friends and igniting voters. The third law of slums is that they are permanent and the tiny patch of land is lost for ever to the government or the local body. Finally, every slum-dweller starts as an unemployed new comer with an equal measure of fear and hope in his heart. A job removes a bit of fear and hope and long years remove the last vestige of dignity he had as a poor villager. Yes, one has to compromise with his or her ideas of human identity to live in those wretched, stinking and disease-breeding places. They know they are condemned and even their awesome numbers hold no promise of redemption. Nearly 30 per cent of Delhi residents are slum-dwellers and the figure is 50 per cent in Mumbai.
Many studies have shown
that increasing poverty and hopelessness in the rural
areas push them out and the desperate dream of eking out
a living pulls them to cities. (This is the so-called
push-and-pull factor behind the ceaseless human inflow
into all cities.) In a manner of speaking, slums and
those who call them homes are the most visible floatsam
of the skewed socio-economic development over the
decades. The situation cannot change for years and the
majesty of the judiciary cannot compress this into eight
weeks! This is the sad and shocking reality: slums should
not be there but cannot be uprooted overnight either.
PROBLEM OF NEGATIVITY
THERE was an interesting news item about Haryana a few months ago. It related to the Haryana Governments decision to construct five more jails in the state within the next three years as the existing 15 jails have failed to accommodate the rising number of prisoners. Some days later the Chief Minister on his hurricane tour as a part of his campaign Sarkar aap ke dawar (government at your doorstep) visited a big village which has contributed several dozen prisoners. On being asked to spell out their demands, the villagers, half jokingly and half seriously, demanded a sub-jail in their village so that they could be spared the trouble of frequently visiting the district jail to meet the jail inmates from their village. The story has a moral.
The crime scenario has acquired grim dimensions in Haryana society. The law and order situation is an important issue in the current electoral battle in the state. While the ruling party is trying to evade the issue, the Opposition is trying to nail it down on this point. The calamitous situation cannot be tackled by constructing more jails or making regular periodic additions to the police force. The law and order machinery needs to be strengthened and streamlined but this alone will not take the State very far. The fast growing crime in the state has social roots. It is a spillover of a grave crisis in Haryana agriculture.
Haryana is primarily an agricultural state, with about 80 per cent of its population being, directly or indirectly, dependent on agriculture. Most of the land holdings are small. It is the overwhelming number of marginal, small and middle peasants in the state who made the Green Revolution a grand success. But the same has reached its plateau, with hardly any scope of further growth. Besides other constraints, water, the most important input in the new farm technology, is proving to be an insurmountable hurdle. The estimated demand of water for various uses in the State is 33.65 MAF while the current water use both from surface and sub-surface is only 13.81 MAF. The mindless mining of subsoil water has posed another hazard. In as many as 56 blocks out of the States 108 blocks the water table is declining at a fast pace. There has been no plan of recharging water. A large quantity of rain-water and the overflow from rice fields go waste into rivers via a network of drains. Recharging stations can be constructed on all these drains and they can work round the clock during the rainy season without consuming any energy. Water recharging is technically feasible and cost-efficient as pointed out by a retired Engineer-in-Chief of Haryana through the columns of the Tribune umpteen times but there is no taker in the state.
To make small-scale farming viable is the major challenge in Haryanas agrarian structure today. But no attempt has been made to meet this challenge by way of diversifying the agriculture and promoting subsidiary occupations like cattle breeding, dairying, food processing etc. The small land-holdings could have proved ideal in this respect and full advantage could be taken of Delhi, a big market in the vicinity of the State. But nothing of this kind has been done and, as a consequence, small-scale farming has reached a dead end. This has thrown up a large number of unemployed youth in the countryside. There is no industrialisation worth the name in the State to generate employment and the government sector is already saturated. The land cannot absorb them nor are there alternate avenues. There is a great dearth of offers of matrimonial alliances for this surplus human material. Since they come from dominant farming castes with a lot of social pride, they do not want to take up lowly tasks like rickshaw pulling, road building etc. Which are left for bhaiyas from Eastern UP and Bihar. Thus, faced with the double agony of forced idleness and sexual frustration, they find escape in crime, which, besides easy cash, provides them with adventure and romance. Some of them have graduated to become dons having nexus with the crime mafia in western UP and Delhi.
A top-heavy administrative structure is another drag on Haryana society. The state has about 300 administrative units ranging from block level to the division. Most of the State revenue is spent on pension, salaries and allowances of a vast army of government functionaries, ministers, legislators, chairpersons of boards, corporations etc. The total revenue receipt for 1997-98 was Rs 4337.13 crore. After meeting its financial obligations the government was left with only Rs 225.89 crore to undertake developmental work. The situation has worsened since then. In the year 1999-2000 the revenue receipts were estimated at Rs 6901.52 crore while the expenditure mounted to Rs 7519.82 crore, leaving a deficit of Rs 618.30 crore. Now the state has to depend on borrowings to meet its day-to-day expenses. Debt services amount increased from Rs 37 crore in the year 1980-81 to Rs 1349.68 crore in the year 1999-2000. A fresh dose of populism in the form of enhanced old age pension, wedding gifts, abolition of octroi, reduction in market fee etc has dealt another blow to the fragile economy of the state. Recently the Madhya Pradesh government decided to downsize the administrative structure by 30 per cent in the next five years and curtailed facilities like STD, air travel etc for senior officers. But in Haryana every new Chief Minister adds a couple of tehsils, subdivisions and districts to the already burgeoning administrative apparatus, making Haryana an ever-expanding heaven for bureaucrats. The neighbouring state of Punjab, once known for its prosperity and dynamism, is now virtually bankrupt. Haryana does not lag behind much. But no major political party in the state is seized with the problem and this is no issue in the electoral battle.
Corruption is invariably a hot issue in electioneering. But corruption of a specific variety in Haryana is the real menace. There are no big industrial houses and business magnates in Haryana to generate funds for politicians, especially at the time of elections. Mining and colonisation in Haryana areas neighbouring Delhi are two medium range sources of slush money but they are monopolised by a few at the top, leaving a horde of political operators at lower levels to fend for themselves. They have hit at another source to make money. Transfers and postings of government functionaries, especially in some lucrative departments, constitute the only flourishing industry in Haryana today with an impressive turnover every year. Transfers take place in the state round the year without any letup. Every season is the transfer season. In turn, the citizens who have any dealing with the government departments are openly fleeced. To facilitate the task, an army of touts has sprung up who act as a conduit between the corrupt politicians and officers on the one hand and the public on the other. This has dehumanised the Haryana society beyond words, rendering the State a carcass to feed a swarm of political vultures. This evil cannot be eliminated in the given circumstances but it can be mitigated by rationalising the transfer procedures in consultation with employees. But for obvious reasons, no party is serious about it.
The policy of liberalisation and privatisation in the wake of globalisation is a development of momentous importance. Among other things, it gives a free play to the market forces, which are not neutral and value free. There are winners and losers in the game. This was seen in Haryana recently when the paddy prices crashed and the paddy growers failed to get even the minimum support price. The state government, a self-proclaimed benefactor of peasantry, was a mute spectator. The damage was a little less severe in case of cotton growers in the State. It is not for nothing that powerful farm lobbies from some European countries staged a vehement protest against the World Trade Organisation in its conference at Seattle in USA recently. The fields of school education and medical services already stand substantially privatised in Haryana with a mushroom growth of the so called public schools, private clinics and nursing homes. The social infrastructure will come under increasing strains in future. But strangely enough no major party is aware of the nature of the problem and this is no issue in the current electoral battle in the state. The question of protecting the interests of cultivators and weaker sections under the coming onslaught of market forces bothers none in the political arena.
A serious crisis in Haryana agriculture with its symbiotic link with the growing crime, a stage of near financial bankruptcy in Haryana government, a particular form of corruption eating into the vitals of the body politic of the State and the possible adverse impact of the economic reforms on Haryanas small cultivators and other weaker sections are the four major issues confronting the State today. But these are not the issues in the current electioneering in the state.
Different parties talk of stability, law and order, clean administration, adequate power and water supply, sops to weaker sections and so on. But they constitute a string of cliches and voters no longer take them seriously. The question of completion of SYL canal, Chandigarh, and territorial dispute with Punjab were once highly emotive issues in the State. But the utter cynicism with which the three concerned parties Centre, Punjab and Haryana have dealt with them have left the people entirely cold and they no longer agitate the public mind, howsoever loudly the parties may talk about them during electioneering.
To conclude, the issue
before the Haryana electorate in the current assembly
election is that there are no issues. This explains the
indifference and apathy of the voters at large. The major
protagonists in the fray have nothing positive to offer
and they are trying to cash on the follies and
shortcoming of the opponents. Negativity is the locus of
Haryana politics today. Earlier elections in Haryana used
to have an element of the dramatic. It s no more so. It
is not even a burlesque, nor a farce. It is a mere
charade and the people are condemned to participate in
it. Haryana today stands on a precipice. One more push
and it would slide into an abyss of anarchy. It can still
be saved if a ruling setup with requisite vision and
sufficient commitment comes into being. But this is in
the womb of future.
Musharraf not for reconciliation
THE Pakistan Chief Executive, Gen Pervez Musharraf, has been more concerned about improving relations with the USA than India. At times, he sends positive signals to Washington in respect of containing militancy and restoring internal order. If he talks about defusing tension in bilateral relations with India, he seems to have no desire for that but he wishes to convey a message to Washington that he is for establishing friendly relations with India. In reality, his policy towards India is governed by domestic considerations and compulsion. He has no intention of adopting soft postures for improving bilateral relations with India.
General Musharraf claims to have withdrawn two divisions of his army along with the Indian borders with an intention to reduce tension but in reality it would have been costly for Pakistan to maintain the divisions during the winter. Moreover, recently Pakistan has deployed the army along the border. Further, the Musharraf Government has not taken any measures to check infiltration of terrorists into India.
Perhaps, the General believes that whatever he claims, everyone will accept it even if his statements are entirely incorrect. He maintains that not a single Pakistani armed personnel had crossed the Line of Control (LoC) during the Kargil crisis. According to him, Pakistani soldiers were killed within Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK) during the armed conflict in the summer last year. In fact, he blamed Indian armed forces for causing casualties inside the PoK. In reality the Indian Army handed over bodies of Pakistani regulars and captured the Pakistani officers diary inside the Indian territory. In other words, India provided enough evidence about Pakistani regulars intrusions into Indian territory but Islamabad officially refused to admit its complicity in its Kargil fiasco.
Islamabad admits that it gives moral and political support to jehadi groups who have been fighting for liberation of Kashmir from the occupation of India. In fact, Pakistan has been training terrorists and sending them to India for their nefarious activities not only in Kashmir but in many other parts of India. A large number of Pakistani regulars as well as retired army personnel have been actively cooperating and participating in the terrorist activities. They have also been training terrorists. In this respect the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been the main promoter and patron of so-called jehadi organisations or groups.
In fact, jehadis and mujahideen have been trained in the madrassas or religious schools. Some of them are registered but many are unauthorised and have been training terrorists. The terrorists have been enlisted at a tender age and trained as well as indoctrinated for fighting a religious war against infidels. The trained terrorists have not only engaged in nefarious activities in India and some other countries but have also been indulging in sectarian violence in Pakistan. But now Islamabad finds itself helpless in containing them. However, the Pakistani military regime can check their activities if it wishes to do so. In fact the so-called jehadi groups have been implementing the Pakistan Armys Bleed India Policy.
Since General Musharraf has taken over power in Pakistan, he has been harping on the Kashmir dispute. He maintains that Kashmir is the core dispute between India and Pakistan. He does not want to discuss any bilateral issues until the Indian Government agreed to discuss and resolve the Kashmir issue. Time and again he raises the Kashmir dispute and tries to project that the dispute can escalate into an armed conflict between the two countries finally leading to a nuclear holocaust. His objective to present such a scenario is to attract attention of international community to a flashpoint and put pressure on India to resolve it on the line Pakistan wishes.
In fact, he has been successful in his objective. The USA and many countries have expressed their concern on growing tension in the subcontinent and fear a possibility of escalation of war there. The scenario assumes seriousness especially in view of the nuclearisation of the subcontinent. Consequently, Islamabad makes a serious effort to internationalise the Kashmir dispute. It has been persuading Washington to mediate in the resolution of Kashmir crisis. But New Delhi has been opposed to any third party involvement in the resolution of Indo-Pak bilateral disputes. It may be recalled that the leaders of both countries have time and again declared their commitment on the policy of bilateralism. However at times Pakistani leaders make effort to internationalise the Kashmir issue but India vehemently opposes such course.
Now India does not want to resume any bilateral dialogue until Pakistan takes steps to stop cross-border terrorism. Pakistan initiated low intensity war in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. It has caused enormous damage to human lives and properties. In the recent past Pakistan has intensified the terrorist activities. In fact, General Musharraf has not taken any positive steps to stop the prove that he is interested in improving bilateral relations with India.
Apart from escalation of Pakistani-sponsored terrorist activities in India, Islamabad has been supplying fake Indian currency causing serious economic crisis in the country. In case Islamabad does not take any step to stop the circulation of fake currency in India, New Delhi may have to take stringent measures to check movement of Pakistani citizens into India.
The Pakistani nefarious
activities for weakening Indian economic, social,
cultural and security structure have caused enormous
damage. The tension between the two countries have been
mounting and if no measures are taken to defuse the
situation, there is likely to be confrontation between
them soon. While Indian leadership has been opposing any
dealings with the Musharraf Government until it takes
steps to stop transborder terrorism, General Musharraf
has reluctantly expressed his desire to meet the Indian
Prime Minister. In reality he is not interested in
establishing good neighbourly relations with India.
Do as the Italians do....
THE astounding amount of bribery and corruption which seemed to be a regular part of the life disconcerted me deeply. It appeared that you could do almost anything if you know who to speak to and absolutely nothing if you did not.
Guess which country the writer is speaking of; no, not ours. Dirk Bogarde thought of settling in Italy at the age of 50, leaving England for good (as he thought at the time.) Theres more to come from his pen in Snakes and Ladders to show why he gave up the idea of Italy which may be of some interest to us, obsessed as we are at present with a certain lady born in that country.
Every transaction (he continues), from registering ones car, leasing a villa, applying for a permit to stay, receiving a parking ticket or obtaining a table in a restaurant was accompanied always by a flurry of paper money, or surrogate contracts. Nothing was above board, nothing ever seemed to be exactly what it was. This, coupled with the agonising poverty crushed against quite nauseating and overt richness, made me miserably apprehensive and aware that this, apparently, smiling, sunny, extrovert country was marking time before catastrophe.
There are other charming similarities with our own country and people. They are a noisy lot, inconsiderate of others; friendly and anything but cold like their northern neighbours. Some months ago a columnist I forget the ladys name; she was English wrote of finding a notice outside a cathedral, I think it was Milan, forbidding entry to babes in arms. She and her husband were in a quandary, and showed it.
Her dilemma was solved by half a dozen mamas sitting on the wall outside sunning themselves. They held out their arms to take the baby, and assured the couple in voluble Italian that they could rest assured all would be well. She could hardly refuse their overwhelming offer, just as she could not help herself wondering while taking in the sights within whether her baby would still be there when they had done. It was given back with much oohing and kissing which the infant seemed to be enjoying greatly.
I was once struggling with a plateful of spaghetti in a famed restaurant in Verona, The Twelve Apostles. A woman at the next table decided to put me out of my misery. With a Prego, senor, she came across, took my fork and showed me how to twist the slippery strands round the tines see what I mean. (Would I be right in saying that most of us would not do likewise? I reckon that giggling would be the more likely response.)
Two more bonds between our country and theirs: totally corrupt politicians; a thriving gang-land; and a change of government every so often.
I have seen most of
their wondrous cities from Venice in the north to Naples
and Capri in the south with Florence and Rome in between.
Yet, if told that I could choose one country for a final
visit abroad, I would have no hesitation in making my
Wrong emphasis on education
ON a dark, balmy evening in Varanasi some months ago I found myself wandering about Benares Hindu University. Let me describe what I saw. The buildings of the University were decrepit, dirty and looked as if they were in an advanced state of decay. There were cobwebs and broken furniture in the corridors of classroom buildings and the classrooms themselves had the gloomy, spartan atmosphere of prison cells. Windowpanes looked as if they had not been cleaned in months and walls as if they had not been painted in decades. This is supposedly one of Indias great universities and yet if the lamp of learning had ever burned bright here it had clearly dimmed years ago.
Later, I stopped for tea at the house of a professor. He was a man of great learning and infinite wisdom, the sort of man who should have been lecturing at Harvard or Yale. With a lucidity that was truly impressive he explained the finer points of Indian civilisation and the Sanskrit language but it was evident from the smallness of his house and the spartan quality of its interiors that he had spent a lifetime working on a pittance. In the same university I met a former teacher whose knowledge of miniature painting and its intricate details was astounding but he lived in retirement in almost dire poverty.
What I saw in Benares Hindu University you will be able to see in any of Indias universities and the main reason for this decline is that in the name of socialism we have refused to allow fees to be raised for nearly fifty years. So, Murli Manohar Joshis decision to appoint a committee to examine how the situation can be rectified should be applauded instead, if initial reactions are an indication, he is likely to be reviled.
The committee to review fees is now almost ready with its recommendations and a Delhi based newspaper last week, decided that this was important enough for it to carry news of the proposed changes as its front page lead story. But, the headline it chose to give the report would have been enough to alarm most Indian university students. Big college fee hike it said may end cheap education era. Yet, those who bothered to read the report fully would have discovered that from the absurdly low tuition fee of Rs 15 a month for undergraduates at Delhi University the committee had suggested a change between Rs 55 and Rs 150 depending on the courses. This means that university students would continue to be provided higher learning at a hugely subsidised rate and that it would continue to be taxpayers who paid for this subsidy.
The truth is that our system of education already discriminates against the poor because of its emphasis on higher learning and abysmal neglect of primary education. It is mainly middle class children who manage to go to college and if the Ministry of Human Resource Development conducted a survey it would probably discover that a very large number of those who get to college come from private schools which charge a lot more than Rs 15 a month.
The uniquely Indian feature of the discrimination inherent in our education system is also the fact that the 50 per cent of India that remains illiterate is mainly lower caste and Muslim. As for women we cannot even begin to talk about them going to college as long as the four Hindi-belt state have literacy rates for women that are still less than 30 per cent. So, if taxpayers money needs to be spent on subsidising education it should go entirely to primary schools. In our villages what pass for schools are, in fact, not schools at all by modern standards as anyone who has visited any village school anywhere in India can confirm. To bring them up to even the standard of urban Indian schools is going to be an immense task.
As for our universities if the HRD Minister has the courage to really make changes, and if he gets enough public support, he should encourage them to raise their fees enough for them to be able to pay their own subsidies to students who cannot afford to pay. Not many Indians are aware that even in a country like the United States more than 60 per cent of college students cannot afford to pay full fees. This is taken care of by student loans, scholarships and other financing schemes that the universities themselves arrange. We in India should be working towards a system of this kind or our universities will end up being as irrelevant to modern education as our village schools already are.
There was a time, barely twenty years ago, when our universities were so good that students from several East Asian countries came to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta in pursuit of higher learning. It is a tragedy that the situation is now so much in reverse that it is Indian students who are desperate to go abroad because not only are our own institutions of higher learning (barring the IITs) hopelessly inadequate but getting into them is a nightmare. Every summer, at admission time, I am inundated by calls from desperate mothers urging me to write something about the system of admissions.
Our better universities are so hard to get into that even students with 90 per cent can find themselves disqualified. This is a ridiculous situation and it has resulted mainly from the mistaken notion that only government should be allowed to run institutions of higher learning. Government itself seems to think it has a monopoly in this area so if someone dares set up a private institution it faces relentless harassment.
On the borders of Delhi
I visited one such institution, the Institute of
Technology and Management. It has been set up by a group
of private citizens and aspires to the highest levels of
excellence but Haryana officials appear to spend an
inordinate amount of their time dragging it off to court
for one reason or another. Sometimes it is because they
do not reserve seats on a caste basis and sometimes
because they insist on merit being the criteria for
admission and not family connections. It is a fine
example of what can be achieved if we can get the
government completely out of higher education so go ahead
Dr Joshi and at much fuller speed.
India allocates $ 200 m for submarine project
WASHINGTON: India has allocated $ 200 million to launch the SSK-class submarine project in August, Defence News reported.
Navy Chief Admiral Sushil Kumar told the weekly that the government had given clearance to the service to build two SSK-class submarines at Mazagon docks in Mumbai.
The project has been in limbo since 1992.
Several proposals, he added, were under evaluation and a formal contract would be awarded later this year, and added the Rubin Central Design Bureau at St Petersburg had submitted bids to provide sonar, torpedoes and a propulsion system.
The SSK-class submarine would be 66 metres long with a surface displacement of 1,000 tonnes. It would be capable of carrying a crew of up to 40, and are slated to enter service during 2004-2005.
Another senior Navy official said the two industrial consortia, HDW and an alliance of Thomson-CSF and DCN International, had been shortlisted to provide the basic design, the report said.
Jurger Rohweder, HDW spokesman, said his firm made an offer to India several years ago.
However, we have not heard anything from the customer for over two years.
The HDW submarines that are presently in service with the Indian Navy are a modified 200-class and were delivered 10 or 12 years ago, he said.
Currently, Indias submarine fleet comprises 10 kilo-class submarines, seven Foxtrot-class submarines and four HDW-class submarines. Another two kilo-class submarines will enter service this year.
The official said the Indian Navy was eight submarines short of what was required to meet its needs.
Rear Admiral (Retired)
Rajgopal Karat Menon, an independent submarine expert,
said the SSK-class submarines would carry exocet
(sea-skimming, anti-ship) missiles. PTI
MR Nalini Ranjan Sarkars proposed amendments to the official resolution regarding provision being made in the Budget for the salaries of Ministers are a distinct improvement upon Mr Senguptas amendments. With one exception, all the several conditions insisted upon by Mr Sarkar are perfectly valid, the exception being the demand that all prisoners arrested in October last and detained, whether under Regulation III or the new Ordinance, be either released or given a chance of open trial in a court of law.
As we have said already,
this particular demand is perfectly legitimate in itself,
and ought to be pressed upon the attention of the
Government by every means in the power of the Council and
the Provinces. Only the satisfaction of this demand
should not, in our opinion, be made a condition precedent
to the acceptance of a ministry.
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