Wednesday, May 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



PU and academic excellence

PANJAB University has been in the news in the recent past regarding the differences of opinion concerning its budgetary sanctions.

I am an alumnus of the university. I joined this university as a lecturer in 1984, grew over a period of time, and am a witness to the development of this university. During this time I have observed the university from close quarters both as a student and a teacher. And whatever follows below is reflective of the pain and anguish of a student in me who spent the most formative years of his student life in the lap of this university, learnt how to toddle in real life punctuated with short-sightedness, insensitivity and, above all, hypocrisy.

Panjab University is the fourth oldest university on this subcontinent which was established in Lahore in 1882 and continues in its present form under a fresh legislative enactment of October 1, 1947. Stop your thought process here for a moment and try to put yourself in the agony and chaos created by the painful process of Partition in August, 1947. And you will have to appreciate the vision of the political leadership of those times that on October 1, 1947, they enacted the Panjab University Act. So much was the importance attached to Panjab University by those visionaries!


The university is not a white elephant which eats massive resources of this poor nation without any tangible contribution to society. It is a vibrant institution responsive to societal needs. The university is one of the six centres in the country for housing a super computer which can cater to the needs of the entire north-western region of India. It has Internet connectivity on the campus.

The Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, has also identified the university as a special centre to keep a technology watch on global trends and forthcoming preferred technology options for India. Consequently, it has entered into strategic alliances, both domestic and international, with world class institutions for teaching, research and consultancy.

Some of the big business houses have shown keen interest in seeking consultancy and research support from the university. Also, Panjab University is one of the few universities which have recently embarked upon the launching of courses like e-business, microelectronics, polymers, anatomy (to name only a few).

In the light of this, the political leadership of the state and the Centre must exhibit concern and do not allow over a century-old tradition of excellence in higher education to die at the hands those who probably do not understand how difficult it is to establish academic excellence and then to further and honour the same.


Human rights & the police

In Mr H.L. Kapoor’s write-up, “Human rights and the police” (April 25), human rights have been described as those minimal rights that every individual must have by right of his/her being a human being, irrespective of any other consideration. They are based on mankind’s demand for a life in which the inherent dignity of a human being will be respected and protected.

In the midst of controversies and clash of Western and Asian perceptions regarding human rights there is an acknowledgement of the fact that there are some fundamental human rights whose violations will be condemned unequivocally by all major cultures of the world. Torture, rape, racism and anti-semitism are not tolerated by any faith or culture that respects humanity. Nor can they be justified by the demands of economic development and political expediency.

In India, despite stringent laws and court rulings, torture and degrading treatment of citizens continue to flourish. The apex court had to step in a number of times to lay down ground rules for avoiding the humiliating treatment of individuals. The directives of the Supreme Court should have been sufficient to put an end to all abuses of which the enforcement and investigating agencies are often alleged to be guilty.

Despite the setting up of a National Human Rights Commission, the position has not improved much. It is not that the problem is insurmountable. It can be solved by doing a little more than what has been done so far. Apart from changing the old attitude supporting the use of rough and ready methods, a few instances of surprise monitoring of the implementation of the judgements of the Supreme Court and High Courts will do much for the protection of human rights.


CM asserts authority

Effecting a minor reshuffle of portfolios among his ministerial colleagues, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has put an end to the gnawing uncertainty over the matter.

Thus the week-long drama, which had commenced literally with a bang and taken the state with utter surprise, ended virtually with a whimper. The following Urdu couplet sounds exceedingly pertinent:

Bahut shor sunte the pehlu mein dil ka,
Jo cheera to ik qatra khoon bhi na nikla.

To my mind, the only noticeable outcome of the otherwise redundant drama is that, for once, Mr Dhumal has asserted his authority, showing thereby that his ministry no longer requires any “crutches” for its survival and that he can act independent-mindedly if the situation so warrants.

Ambota (Una)


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